Using the spiritual treasure of the Church to resist a “post-religious” age
Currently, there is a serious hemorrhage among Church members, with large numbers abandoning the practice of the faith. Such a struggle is not unique to the Catholic Church. The dominant religions all experience this. Such a phenomenon has led to the rather brutal observation that we are entering a “post-religious” civilization.
As the Church strives to deal with such an exodus, many outreach programs, evangelistic efforts, and catechetical resources are being provided to local parishes and dioceses. Unfortunately, such efforts lack a solid spiritual response.
This is a surprise because many of those who have left traditional religious traditions still claim to believe in God and want to learn how to pray.
So it would seem that we should offer a strong spiritual response. First, because it is what the Church does best and it is one of the reasons the Church was founded by the Lord Jesus. And, second, because it seems to be what will resonate the most with the very people we’re trying to reach and bring back.
And so, as we work to bring loved ones back to the Church, let us explore the spiritual treasure of the Church and offer some suggestions. Each of the suggestions has been proven reliable by the lived tradition of the Church. These are great resources we can use in the slow and often painful process of bringing loved ones back to the Lord Jesus and His Church.
Here are some suggestions:
- Mass intentions. We can have a mass offered for our loved ones. These can be given any day, but birthdays and anniversaries are often a good option. Depending on how open your loved one is, you can send them a mass card or invite them to come with you to mass.
- Worship. The prayers offered before the Lord Jesus who is really present in the Blessed Sacrament are particularly powerful. Saints throughout the Christian tradition have praised the supplication and intercession offered before the Blessed Sacrament. You could spend time in worship praying for the return of your loved ones, as this can be a tremendous source of grace. Also, depending on how open your loved ones are, you might consider inviting them to join you in worship (which they might consider “silent prayer”). For many who have left the Church, an invitation to worship is easier to accept than an invitation to return to Mass. For some, the idea of Mass may be overwhelming, but worship may seem less daunting as a first step back. Depending on your loved one, consider extending an invitation to worship and see what happens.
- Rosary. Pray a decade of the rosary – or even a full rosary – for your loved one. This can be done daily or on a specific day of the week. It can also be done before a conversation or interaction with the loved one. Any of the Joyful, Sorrowful, Bright, or Glorious Mysteries could be prayed, but the Sorrowful Mysteries might resonate more with the suffering of the situation. As your loved one might receive such news, let them know that you prayed the Rosary for them, or invite them to pray it with you, or give them a Rosary as a gift. Even those who have strayed completely from the faith seem comforted by the presence of a rosary.
- Novenas to Certain Saints. The Church offers a multitude of novenas to various saints. Each of these nine day prayer devotions can be of spiritual help, especially for saints who have a connection with our beloved. You might consider finding out about their namesake, confirmation saint, birthday saint, or patron of their profession. By choosing a saint who is somehow connected to your loved one, you might find more of a spiritual connection and greater consolation by doing the novena.
- Green scapular. The green scapular of the Immaculate Heart of Mary has always been associated with the graces of conversion. In particular, we seek these graces for those who have left the Faith. You can wear the Green Scapular for the conversion of a loved one and/or place the scapular over (or behind) their photo.
The above are just a few options from the vast spiritual treasury of the Church. Whatever practice or devotion we might use, our efforts should always be focused on prayer and God’s work among us. It is our spiritual response that is our best theological and pastoral response.
Portions of today’s column are taken from my recent book, Stations of the Cross for loved ones who have abandoned the faith (Our Sunday visitor).