May 6, 2015
My child has left the Church, what should I do? Why does it seem like my prayers are not answered? Those two questions are heavy on the hearts of many faithful Catholics.
Fr. Thomas Grafsgaard, pastor of St. Wenceslaus of Dickinson, made them the topic of his two talks at the women’s Lenten retreat held at St. Joseph in Mandan this year.
“It’s a common theme in families that children have left the church,” he said. “Parents are worried that their kids are not going to church and their grandkids are not getting baptized.” Although the situations differ from family to family, he said, the concern and worry are the same.
Too many, according to him, have not grasped the significance of the Eucharist—Jesus’s body, blood, soul and divinity As a result, he said, we hear the complaint, “I don’t get anything out of Mass.” Fr. Grafsgaard poses this question in response, “What did you expect to get out of it?”
He pointed out that when John and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the two other Mary’s stood at the foot of the cross, they were not there to get anything out of it. The apostles did not follow Jesus to get something out of it either. “Only Judas was looking for what he could get out of it,” Fr. Grafsgaard said.
Once children have rejected the faith their parents tried to hand down, he made seven suggestions.
1. Keep praying. Just as St. Monica never stopped praying and having faith in her son Augustine’s conversion, so too must we persevere.
2. Back off. “Don’t beat them over the head with a Bible or whip them with a rosary,” Fr. Tom said. “If the person is not in a position to receive the message, ease off the gasoline.”
3. Make daily sacrifices. “There are countless windows of opportunities to offer up hidden sacrifices for conversions,” Fr. Grafsgaard said. Examples he gave included leaving cream out of your coffee or turning off the TV and using the time to volunteer.
4. Learn more about your faith. You will be in a better position to explain and defend it the better you know it. “You are not expected to know all the answers, but you can say, ‘I don’t know, but I’ll find out.’”
5. Live your faith with joy. “I’ve never heard anyone say they’ve returned to the Church because their mother harassed them,” he said. “Pope Francis was not chosen by
Time magazine as Man of the Year because he solved all the world’s problems,” Fr. Grafsgaard noted. “People are attracted to him for his joy. They want that joy that the world cannot give.”
6. Realize that love and freedom go hand in hand. Just as God did not stop Eve from listening to the devil and eating the apple, Fr. Grafsgaard explained that we cannot make our children’s decisions for them. He said to pray, “Lord, my children and my grandchildren are yours. I’m going to bed now. I trust you have a plan for them.”
7. Pray and trust that God can reach them on their journey. There are many roads that can lead to God. Never doubt that God can meet them on theirs.
During the second part of his talk, Fr. Grafsgaard acknowledged that after years of praying for conversions or for other crosses to be lifted, we are tempted to become frustrated or even lose faith. Directing his comments to his female audience, he pointed out that men tend to be problem solvers while women, as nurturers, often spend more time worrying. He took a moment to consider the female viewpoint in terms of our worries and prayers.
Quoting John Paul II’s encyclical on the Dignity of Women, he said, “The dignity of women is to love beyond measure,” which leads us to worry about our loved ones. He explained that Eve, the first woman, represented the pinnacle of creation having been created after Adam. “The devil went to the woman,” he said. “If he can get to the women, he can get to humanity. As the mother goes, so goes the family.”
Fr. Grafsgaard then brought up contraception as one way that the devil gets to women, convincing them to discard their God-given gift of sexuality for what is being pushed as a societal right. “But in reality, it is a war on women that began with Eve,” he said. This was not a change of subject, but rather a demonstration how crucial it is that we stay faithful to Catholic teachings and thus, Our Lord.
Getting back to the question of why God seems absent during our prayers, he pointed out that Mary, the Blessed Mother is the new Eve. “God conquered the world through the obedience of a woman.” And if we look to her example, we come to understand suffering better. “Just as Jesus accepted ‘thy will, not my will,’ so too did Mary,” he explained. “While her son was crucified, Mary did not run and hide like Eve did. She stood there and trusted that God knew what he was doing.”
Likewise, he said, when our son or daughter goes astray, we pray to God, but then must trust that God loves them more than we do. His plan is better than ours. “What He has to say to us is more important that what we have to say to Him,” Fr. Grafsgaard explained. “It will be handled by His own design and we must never forget that we are never alone. God is working for our best interest, even in our darkest hours."