When Adult Children Fall Away From the Faith

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Copyright Josh Hrkach Used with Permission

My latest Catholic Mom column: We recently spoke with four older couples about the challenges of parenting adult children, especially those who have fallen away from the faith. One mother shared her sorrow that her son not only has left the Church, but is actively antagonistic towards the Catholic faith and to her. A father of four adult sons talked about the frustration of finding out that his older son (who spent years serving as an altar boy and who had once considered a vocation to the priesthood) has stopped attending Mass. One couple shared the sad situation of their daughter’s same-sex relationship. Another couple was heartbroken that their daughter now considers herself “transgender.” All four of these parents, faithfully practicing Catholics, asked “What do we do now?” and “Where did we go wrong?”

I’m not an expert, but I do have some experience with parenting adult children who have abandoned their faith. Regarding blame: Recognize that our world has gone astray. Our adult children are being bombarded with messages contrary to the faith. Unless we have kept our children in a box their entire lives, they will come to know many more people who are living a hedonistic lifestyle than living a virtuous one.

Here are some suggestions that my husband and I have come up in dealing with adult children who have abandoned their faith.

  1. Unconditional Love: Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin

This might seem like an obvious one, but I know some parents who’ve shunned adult children because they’ve stopped going to Mass or are engaging in immoral lifestyle choices.

My gut reaction to that is, “How are they ever going to learn to change if they don’t have your example to follow?” Also, how are they going to experience God’s unconditional love without a parent’s unconditional love? You can love without encouraging immoral lifestyles. If a son or daughter is cohabiting and they visit your home, separate sleeping arrangements should be in order. If you have younger children, this shows them that you don’t agree with their lifestyle choices, but still love them and welcome them into your home … a home that does not condone cohabitation.

  1. Pray for Your Children Every Day

This is also obvious, but a parent’s prayer for his or her child is a powerful one. Our Lady is a powerful intercessor. St. Monica (whose son, St. Augustine, made immoral choices) prayed for her son’s conversion (and it eventually happened!). My husband and I recite the Rosary for our adult sons every day (one decade for each son). Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive.” Storm heaven for them. It is God’s will that our children spend eternity in heaven. We may not live to see their conversion, but we’ll be able to rejoice in heaven with them.

  1. Fast and Sacrifice for Your Children

Fast and sacrifice for your children. When you’re going through a difficulty, offer it up for your adult children, especially those who have fallen away from the faith. Fast on Wednesdays and Fridays (I do the Ash Wednesday-Good Friday fast of eating two small meals, no meat, and the third meal not larger than the two smaller ones combined.) I’ve seen amazing results with fasting because it’s like lighting a fire underneath our prayers.

  1. Look for Opportunities to Dialogue (But Don’t Nag or Preach!)

This can often be awkward. Most adult children of faithful Catholics know what their parents are going to say, but sometimes it still needs to be said. Take the opportunity whenever you can to reiterate your unconditional love for them and your disagreement with their choices to live a life contrary to the Catholic faith. However, avoid engaging in conversation if you know they might be antagonistic, especially in front of other family members. And don’t nag or preach.

  1. Be a Virtuous Example 

You can teach your kids all about the faith, especially in the areas of marital sexuality, but if you are not living that faith, these truths may be lost or ignored. This also goes for even more basic virtues like patience, fortitude and hope.

  1. Find Supportive Parents Who Are Going Through The Same Thing

Find a support network. I’m a member of a Facebook group called “St. Monica’s Moms.” A support network can give us consolation, especially when we remember that we’re not alone in our struggles. We can also pray for other parents going through this and ask for advice or suggestions on how to handle a specific situation.

  1. Be Hopeful

 I know adult children who converted very late in life; I’ve witnessed imperceptibly slow conversion resulting from an adult child’s experience with steadfast parents. Be hopeful. Never underestimate the value of our prayers.

Parenting adult children who have fallen away from their faith is challenging.  Love them unconditionally, pray and fast for them, look for opportunities to dialogue, be a good example, have a support network and remain hopeful that they will return to the faith.

This video is also helpful for parenting young adults who have fallen away from the faith:

If My Child Has Fallen Away From the Faith…

Copyright 2019 Ellen Gable Hrkach

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#FREE on #Kindle Emily’s Hope #NFPWeek

My first book, Emily’s Hope, is free on Kindle until Friday!

Emily's Hope

 

Amazon Synopsis: Emily’s Hope is the gripping story of one young woman’s physical, emotional, spiritual journey from high school to adulthood. Interspersed throughout the story are flashbacks to Emily’s great-grandmother’s troubled life, with a climax culminating in the surprising revelation that Emily and her great-grandmother are connected more deeply than by ancestral ties alone.  Based on a true story.

Reviews:

“I would encourage everyone to read this book, certainly young women.” David Beresford, Catholic Insight Magazine

“While this book is definitely about Natural Family Planning, it is also about the love of husbands and wives, the love of parents for their children and the agonizing moral choices we sometimes face. It is also about real people…and about being witnesses to a culture of life in a world overshadowed by the culture of death.” Kristie Wellman, One More Soul Magazine

“There is so much to love about Emily’s Hope: the innocence of young love, the beautiful, miraculous, healing power of love and the beauty of sacrificial married love and its life-giving splendor. This story is not a fantasy, but is a tender and sensitive portrayal of what makes love real and lasting.” Jean M. Heimann, blogger, Catholic Fire and author

To download Emily’s Hope for FREE on Kindle, click here:

NFP Week July 21-July 27, 2019

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National NFP Awareness Week – JULY 21 – JULY 27, 2019

Love, Naturally!

Natural Family Planning

Cooperating with God’s design for married love

“Celebrate and reverence God’s vision of human sexuality.”

NFP Articles:

Rebuilding a Culture of Life 

NFP and Resolutions for the New Year

Humanae Vitae and the Benefits of NFP

Responsible Parenthood and NFP

 

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Rebuilding a Culture of Life #prolife


In John Paul II’s encyclical, Familiaris Consortio, (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World), he states (p. 45) “The Church is called upon to manifest anew to everyone, with clear and stronger conviction, her will to promote human life by every means and to defend it against all attacks, in whatever condition or state of development it is found.

Our society has become a culture of death. This is most obvious now that several states in the USA allow for abortion up to the moment of delivery.  In January, Gov. Cuomo signed into law the Reproductive Health Act, which expands abortion rights and essentially allows abortion up to the moment of delivery.  In the photo of the signing, every person is smiling joyfully. Crowds cheered when the news came that New York would allow abortion up to the moment of birth. World Trade Center 1 was lit in pink to “celebrate.”

I’ve been pregnant eleven times with twelve babies (five living sons), and I just cannot comprehend how anyone could be elated and happy that a baby can be killed up to the moment of delivery.   Just 20 years ago, President Bill Clinton said that abortion should be, “safe, legal and rare.”   What happened to that attitude?

Since 1969, Canada has had no restrictions or law regarding abortion. Killing an unborn child is legal right up to the moment of delivery.

Until recently, the movie “Unplanned,” was banned in Canada. Based on Abby Johnson’s compelling book , theaters here in Canada initially “claimed” that it was too controversial. However, these same theaters also regularly show movies with graphic sexuality, language and violence. Thankfully, Landmark and others have overturned this decision and we will be seeing Unplanned at theaters in Canada beginning July 12.

Our own grandchild is currently weeks away from being born and yet here in Canada, my daughter-in-law could legally walk into any clinic or hospital and kill her baby. Thankfully, she and my son are staunchly pro-life.  But thinking about the innocence and defenselessness of a small baby being murdered at any point in pregnancy breaks my heart.  How has our world gotten to this point where such an evil act can be considered a good thing and something to rejoice about?  And can anything be done to turn the tide back to embracing all life from conception to natural death?

“The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless. If you want equal justice for all and true freedom and lasting peace, then defend life.” St. John Paul II

What about cases of rape?  That’s what my husband and I are always asked when we talk to high school students about the evil of abortion.  First, pregnancy from rape is rare.  Yes, it happens, but it’s less than one percent of all abortions. Second, seventy percent of women who are raped and become pregnant decide to continue the pregnancy. Some keep their babies; others give their babies up for adoption.  The innocent baby does not deserve the death penalty for the sin of his father.  For a compelling story, watch this beautiful testimony from Jennifer Christie.

We must do more to fight against the culture of death by rebuilding a culture of life. Here are a few ways to do so:

Prayer and Fasting
Never underestimate the power of prayer and fasting. Daily Mass, the daily Rosary, a weekly fast (especially on Fridays) and other forms of prayer have more effect than we can possibly realize. Spiritually adopting a baby in danger of abortion is a beautiful way we can build the culture of life. Try to recite the Litany of the Saints daily. We can never know the effect that our prayers have had (until we die), but be assured this is one of the most important ways to rebuild a culture of life.

Chastity, NFP and Openness to Life
All Christians (not just Catholics) are called to practice chastity and be open to life. Being chaste before marriage and practicing marital chastity (faithfulness) is essential for building a culture of life. Contraception is “intrinsically evil,” (CCC 2370) it harms marriages and separates couples physically and spiritually. Natural Family Planning (www.ccli.org) is a safe, moral and effective way to avoid and plan pregnancies.

Some contraceptives are actually abortifacient (cause early abortions), rather than preventing conception. In certain parts of the world, abortion is used as a contraceptive and pre-born baby girls are being killed by the thousands simply because they are female.

This also includes treating children as blessings rather than burdens.  Children are a gift from God.  Is parenthood hard work?  You bet it is.  But these little human beings deserve our attention, love and respect.

Vote Pro-Life
Make sure that your voice heard. Register to vote and vote often and whenever the opportunity arises. This can be no more evident than in our upcoming presidential election. Although I have been living in Canada for 37 years, I remain a US citizen and I have continued to vote in US Federal Elections.

Corporal/Spiritual Works of Mercy
Performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy will also help to rebuild a culture of life because these works will help build spiritual character. When we are closer to Christ, we are closer to a culture of life.

The corporal works of mercy, based on Matthew 25:31-36, are: 1. feed the hungry 2. give drink to the thirsty 3. clothe the naked 4. shelter the homeless 5. visit the imprisoned 6. care for the sick 7. bury the dead.

Being pro-life doesn’t mean that we stop support for women with unplanned pregnancies when they have their babies. Donating clothes and food to crisis pregnancy centers and spiritual support are essential in rebuilding a culture of life.

And being pro-life also doesn’t just mean being against abortion; it also means respecting and defending life at all stages. Donating blood (if you’re able to), visiting the elderly, the sick and those who are confined to their homes are all wonderful ways to rebuild the culture of life.

The spiritual works of mercy, commanded or encouraged in many places Scripture, are: 1. admonish the sinner 2. instruct the ignorant 3. counsel the doubtful 4. comfort the afflicted 5. bear wrongs patiently 6. forgive all injuries 7. pray for the living and dead.

Peaceful Pro-Life Events
Attend peaceful pro-life events like the National March for Life (in the USA it is held every January; in Canada, it is held every May around Mother’s Day), the Hike for Life and other Pro-Life rallies.

Patience and Charity
It’s important to be patient and charitable when speaking to, interacting with, or debating with, those who are pro-abortion. Many of these fiercely pro-choice women have had abortions.

St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “If you judge someone, you have no time to love them.” Try not to be judgmental of the person (always separate the person from the sin). In some cases, these women were coerced by their partners or parents (those who should’ve been protecting them) into having an abortion.

Be a Good Example
Being a good example of Christian virtue is another great way to rebuild a culture of life. Volunteer at or support a pro-life crisis pregnancy center, embrace faithful Catholicism and donate money to causes that will rebuild the culture a life.

Helpful Pro-Life Resources:

Familiaris Consortio by John Paul II

Persuasive Pro-Life: How to Talk About Our Culture’s Toughest Issue by Trent Horn and Fr. Frank Pavone (foreword)

Abolishing Abortion: How You Can Play a Part in Ending the Greatest Evil of Our Day by Fr. Frank Pavone

Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Questions by Randy Alcorn 

Pregnant from Rape: Jennifer Christie

EWTN Pro-Life Weekly

Unplanned by Abby Johnson

If each of us does our own part, we can rebuild a culture of life, one in which every life is respected and valued from conception to natural death.

Copyright 2019 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Intimate Preparations #ValentinesDay

candlelightSmallFebruary is the month of Valentine’s Day, so below is a reprint of an article I originally wrote for Catholic Mom and Amazing Catechists years ago.

“And so I take (my wife) not for any lustful motive, but I do it in singleness of heart. Be kind enough to…bring us to old age together.” Tobit 8:7

“..Now, gird up your loins and arise…”  Jer: 1:17

Which scripture verse more accurately describes how a couple should prepare for the conjugal embrace?   Praying for a singleness of heart, without lustful motive…or girding up one’s loins for “war”?

Yet many couples prepare for intimacy by “girding up their loins:” wearing condoms, inserting diaphragms, taking a pill, putting on a patch, having an IUD inserted, undergoing an operation. It seems to me that these couples are preparing more for “war” than for the marital embrace, “protecting” themselves against unwanted pregnancy, “protecting” themselves against their spouse’s fertility.

Compare that to the couples who do not use contraceptives.  They are generous in opening their marriage to children, and when necessary, they use Natural Family Planning and abstain in the fertile time.  They’re not girding up their loins; they’re not “protecting” each other from an unwanted pregnancy.  When they give of themselves in the marital act, it is a total gift, not a partial one.

The question is: How do you prepare for intimacy?

Some might answer, “We watch porn.”  Others may say, “I make sure my diaphragm is in place,” or “We keep a packet of condoms by the bed.”

And yet…are these really appropriate ways for a couple to prepare for the most intimate act between husband and wife?

Obviously not.

So how can a couple prepare? Here is a short list of helpful ways:

1. Pray Together

Marital prayer is an ideal way to prepare for intimacy. When marital prayer is frequent, praying before relations becomes a logical extension.  The conjugal embrace is itself a prayer.  Let’s review what makes this act so holy and meaningful.  In the marital embrace, with their bodies, husband and wife renew their wedding vows.  Becoming one with our beloved spouse is the ultimate spiritual, physical and emotional experience. We become one flesh…so much so that sometimes, nine months later, we must give the representation of that oneness a name.

2. Throw Away the Contraception

No, I’m not asking couples to have as many children as possible.  But what I am saying is that for the conjugal embrace to be honest and life-giving, it must be free, total, faithful and fruitful.  Natural Family Planning allows a couple to love each other as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.  NFP couples chart the wife’s fertility signs and, if avoiding pregnancy, abstain in the fertile time. They are not using devices; they are giving themselves fully and they are open to children with each and every act of marital relations.  See my previous post on the Theology of the Body in a Nutshell.  For more information on NFP, check out my previous post on NFP.

3. Healthy Relationship

I know a few couples who fight constantly. These same couples brag that they have a great sex life.  Well, they may have a lot of “good feelings” but when a couple is not getting along in their day-to-day life, sex, even ‘good’ sex, is not going to fix that.  What about the husband who treats his wife in a condescending, critical manner, then expects her to be ready and willing to engage in the marital embrace…or a wife who constantly nags her husband, then wants him to be affectionate to her?  Communicate with one another; treat each other with kindness, respect and love.

4. No Pornography

Some secular marriage counselors recommend that a couple use porn to “spice up their sex life.”  Instead of “enhancing” a marital sex life, viewing sexually explicit videos has the potential of destroying a marriage. Blessed John Paul II said: “…the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.” Porn trains people to be selfish about their sexuality, not selfless. It teaches them to think about sex as something they take, not something they give. Any behavior that causes a person to be self-centered or selfish is never good for marriage. And…pornography can be highly addictive.  Mary Anne Layden, co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of PA’s Center for Cognitive Therapy, called porn the “most concerning thing to psychological health that I know of existing today….pornography addicts have a more difficult time recovering from their addiction than cocaine addicts, since coke users can get the drug out of their system, but pornographic images stay in the brain forever.” 

5. Single Candle Light

I enjoy romantic, candlelit dinners with my husband.  Well, why not a candlelit conjugal embrace? In the 15th century, it was common for painters to place one solitary lit candle in their paintings to symbolize the presence of Christ. If you have small children or might fall asleep too quickly afterwards, perhaps you can use an electric candle/light…or set an alarm…but be prudent. A simple, solitary light can bring more symbolism to your intimacy.  And…it can help put you both in the “mood.”

6. Focus on Your Spouse

“Intense love does not measure; it just gives.” This quote from Blessed Mother Teresa is an ideal quote for marriage. Marriage isn’t all about “me.”  It’s about “us.”  What are your spouse’s needs?  Think of his/her needs in all facets of your relationship. Intimate ‘memos’ bring a couple closer.  Notes in your spouse’s lunch, special messages left on his workbench or on her desk, daily texts are all ways to intimately connect during the day and let your spouse know you are thinking of him/her.   The important thing is to focus on the other in all things and when it comes time for the marital embrace, this selflessness will follow naturally.

7. We Can Work It Out

When you consider all the day-to-day challenges like children, work, fatigue, family bed, stress and sickness, it’s often a miracle that a couple has the time to engage in marital intimacy at all.  The spontaneity of early marriage eventually gives way to planning for intimacy.  “Family bed?”  Consider another location for the marital embrace.  Mom too tired?  Perhaps Dad can take the kids out to the park while Mom gets a well-deserved rest after dinner. Dad too stressed?  Mom can have a hot relaxing bath waiting for Dad when he arrives home.

Do you want to prepare for the holiest, most satisfying intimate experience possible?  Treat your spouse with respect, pray together, focus on your spouse, don’t use porn and be creative in finding time for intimacy.

I’ve made the Kindle edition of my book, Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship only .99 for the entire month of February. To download your copy, click here.