What to Do When Your Child Leaves the Church

This week, we remember the great faith of the saints, recalling their example of virtue and  desire to fully live the Gospel message. 

By: Therese Bermpohl, Director of the Office for Family Life

At her wits end after her son abandoned both the faith and the family, a mother was given the following advice from a priest:

“Get the formula of Baptism, the whole baptismal ceremony. Go through it, renew the promises in your son’s name. Renew the promises to renounce Satan and all his evil works. Do that for your son every time you pray for him. Claim the power of the Sacrament of his Baptism. As Christ, who sees your son wherever he is in the world to stir up within him the grace of his Baptism” (Power of the Sacraments, Sr. Briege McKenna, OSC).

The heartbroken mother did as the priest had asked and three weeks later she received a phone call from her son. He said to her:

 “I don’t know how to describe what happened to me. Then he related that he had met someone in a store who had invited him to a prayer meeting. In that atmosphere he had rediscovered his faith. She realized that this had happened when she claimed him into the family of God again” (Power of the Sacraments).

This testimony of a mother’s love and the strength of the sacraments brought to mind the example of Saint Monica who waited a long, suffering 17 years before the conversion of her son, Saint Augustine. Thanks to her charitable witness, fervent prayers and sacrifices, she helped to bring about the conversion of one of the great doctors of the Church and has become a model for those seeking conversion of children who have strayed from the faith.

She told Saint Augustine shortly after his Baptism:

“Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight, I do not know what there is left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled. All I wished for was that I might see you a Catholic and a child of Heaven.”

On Thursday, we celebrate the Memorial of Saint Monica – devoted wife, mother and great saint of the Church. If you are a parent who is tempted to despair because your son or daughter no longer practices the faith, take heart in the words a holy Bishop used to remind Saint Monica of the efficacy of her suffering:

“Go now, I beg you; it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish” (The Confessions, Ch XIII, 21).

If you are experiencing difficulties in your marriage or with your in-laws, know that Saint Monica, too, experienced these crosses and through many years of prayer and patience witnessed the conversion of her husband and mother-in-law.

Saint Monica, patroness of mothers and difficult marriages, we beg you to intercede especially on behalf of all those who have strayed from the Church!

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