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Inviting Others to Come Home

Church InteriorOne day last summer, I received an email message from Nick, a man who works for the same company as me. I know him a little. I knew his wife, Michelle, better since she trained me in my job before she had her first baby and chose to be a stay-at-home mom.

Nick had great news.

“I wanted to let you know that at the Easter Vigil this year, Michelle and I entered the Catholic Church. And we had our two children baptized at the same time.”

I was so thrilled — an entire family, a young family, becoming a part of the Catholic Church I love so much and entering this exciting faith journey. They have no idea of the joys awaiting them. They will come to have an abiding love for Mass and the Eucharist. They will learn of the special feeling in finding forgiveness in the confessional. They will find inspiration in Scripture and in the lives of the saints. They will discover love both in their parish community and in the universal Church.

Those have become part of my prayers for them. It already has been my prayer for many years for other young families.

I wish I saw more. So many people in their 20s and 30s who either attended Catholic grade schools and high schools or went each Sunday to their parish school of religion classes as youngsters now are absent. I don’t know what else they are doing with their Sunday mornings. Sleeping in late, perhaps, or watching their kids play soccer games. Working in the yard or hitting the gym. I don’t know.

Maybe they are attending church services elsewhere. I know that has happened to many former Catholics in their 40s and 50s, people who attended grade school and high school at the same time that I did.

That weighs heavy on my heart. So many Catholic men and women stay home on Sundays rather than worshiping at Mass. That is a tragedy, that those people may not have just fallen away from the Church but may have reasons ranging from apathy to anti-Catholic sentiments to even questioning the existence of God. Those people lack prayer and community and grace.

Sadly, I have family members — including children — and close friends who fall into that bunch. I pray for them every day. Will you please pray for them as well?

I also have many friends and family members who grew up Catholic but now are present in other churches on Sundays. Perhaps I should be glad that they still are practicing Christians.

I hurt for those people just as much, though. I miss them very much. The Church misses them, too.

I hear that at many Protestant services on Sundays, as much as half the congregation consists of “former” Catholics (as if there is such a thing). There probably are thousands of reasons why they left the Church and went looking for something else. And there are many other reasons why they landed in their current churches: attracted by a certain preacher, feeling welcomed by a community, dynamic music and worship, politics, the sexual abuse scandal, or perhaps thinking their new faith is more grounded in Scripture than what they perceive in Catholicism.

What rips at my heart is that so many people I love felt alienated or shut out by my Church and didn’t find those things in the Catholic Church, the faith that I love.

Just like Nick and Michelle, as adults they can discover Jesus Christ’s real presence in the Catholic Church. They can find the fire of grace here. It’s not about the charismatic preacher (although we have those) or the inspiring music (although we have that) or the Bible studies and prayer groups (although we have those) or the loving community (although we have that).

The question is: How do we get them to consider returning?

I loved the “Catholics Come Home” commercials that were used on St. Louis TV stations during the last year. I’m sure they were effective for many people. But I think the greatest impact can come from each of us reaching out to our family and friends in love and then sharing our faith with them. Remind them of what they are lacking. Tell them that we miss them. We need to summon our courage and have a real heart-to-heart conversation with them. Then pray.

With whom do you need to talk?

Father God, send us your words so that we can lovingly help your children find their way back.


Mike Eisenbath has been married to Donna for 30 years; they have four adult children and two grandsons. He was an award-winning sportswriter for 23 years, including 18 at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch with duties that included covering the St. Louis Cardinals and Major League Baseball. Severe depression forced him out of that career. He continues to write, with a monthly column in the St. Louis Review and his www.eisenbath.com website featuring reflections on topics such as his Catholic faith and mental illness. Mike is a frequent speaker and radio guest involving those subjects. Among his three books is Hence My Eyes Are Turned Toward You: Confronting Depression With Faith and the Prayer of Jehoshaphat. You can find Mike on Twitter @mikeeisenbath
Mike Eisenbath has been married to Donna for 30 years; they have four adult children and two grandsons. He was an award-winning sportswriter for 23 years, including 18 at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch with duties that included covering the St. Louis Cardinals and Major League Baseball. Severe depression forced him out of that career. He continues to write, with a monthly column in the St. Louis Review and his www.eisenbath.com website featuring reflections on topics such as his Catholic faith and mental illness. Mike is a frequent speaker and radio guest involving those subjects. Among his three books is Hence My Eyes Are Turned Toward You: Confronting Depression With Faith and the Prayer of Jehoshaphat. - See more at: http://www.catholiclane.com/author/meisenbath/#sthash.qfMxk2sL.dpuf

  • noel fitzpatrick

    Mike,

    This is brilliant. Thanks.

    I read here that former Catholics may go elsewhere to worship where they feel “welcomed by a community”.

    As Catholics we should feel more joyful. The Pope encourages us to feel good about the Church and our religion, as does St Paul – “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Phil 4:4).

    However I do note that CL recently has more positive uplifting articles. The dreary negative ones about the failings of Catholics is not building up the Church, so I am pleased with the optimistic views recently in CL.

  • Deacon Joe Pasquella

    What attracts many Catholics to leave the Church? Ambiguity in Catholic teaching is one of the major reasons, and for this reason, many priests contradict each other and the faithful are confused. Liturgical abuses are also part of the reason, as Cardinal Burke recently stated the relationship between poor liturgies and bad morals. The best thing that the Church can do it start teaching the authentic truths of the faith,cease false style ecumenism ( all churches are equal and all road lead to heaven) start preaching on hell and sin and the need for conversion and confession again. Form the clergy to understand that they are servants of God’s people and must sacrifice their own time to minister to the people of God and spend time with them.
    I know, I was a baptized catholic who left the church for many years and returned after being a Pentecostal minister, Antiochian Orthodox deacon, and now a Catholic Deacon.