When Your Family Thinks Your Faith is a Phase

I am what many would call a cradle Catholic. Growing up, I was brought to Mass every Sunday, sent to a Catholic private school, received my First Communion and First Reconciliation, and learned prayers such as the Our Father and Hail Mary. But outside of those school days learning about religion and the obligatory hour on Sunday, I had no desire to dive deeper into my faith. My teachers talked about how Jesus was the Savior of the world and His importance, but everything went through one ear and out the other. As any other kid growing up, I was more concerned with playing that new video game, running outside with my friends, watching Sunday cartoons in my PJ’s — practically anything except forming a relationship with God.

But God obviously had different plans.

In my freshman year of high school, a friend invited me to attend Mass and Life Night with him. With the promise of getting out of the house and free food, I eagerly agreed. Little did I know that would be the night that my life would change forever. I entered the doors to the church believing that I was only going to be physically fed, but when I left week after week, I found myself becoming filled with the grace of God’s never-ending love. I began to hunger for more than the weekly slices of pizza — I wanted a relationship with God and I wanted it to last forever.

Coming home for the first year, my family was genuinely happy for me. They asked how the night went, what I learned, and it seemed they were truly overjoyed by the fact that I was diving deeper into my faith. I could see the pride in their faces, read about their love for me in parent letters I received during retreat sessions and felt like God had not only entered my heart but everyone else in my household.

After that first year, however, as I began to place my relationship with God as one of my top priorities, my family seemed to understand less and less on why this was so important to me. I felt like I could no longer talk about God with them, believing that they wouldn’t care. I slowly started to close myself off from my family and instead of sharing what I had learned, I immediately retreated into my room after coming home from youth nights. I felt frustrated that I could no longer talk about my faith journey with the people I love the most when it had become such a huge part in my life.

Never Really Alone

Although I had a growing church community and young adults I could look up to, I always felt something was missing. There was an empty space left behind by my family that couldn’t be filled no matter what I did. Seeing other families attend Mass together made me feel envious and disappointed that my family could not be the same. It really did feel as if I was walking alone in my faith journey, despite the brothers and sisters in Christ around me. That’s when I realized one thing: all I really wanted was to experience God’s mercy and love with my family.

All these feelings that I held onto reached a tipping point during one session of a retreat I attended. The session leader asked us to close our eyes and began to read a letter as if it were from our parents themselves. Then at the end of the session, we received actual letters from our family and although we’ve received letters on retreats prior, it hit differently from before. By the end of it all, I had tears streaming down my face and the walls to my heart came crumbling down.

My expectations of what my family should be were replaced by the reality of who they are — a family that supports me and continues to walk by my side through the ups and downs. Even if my family did not attend Mass with me or share the same desire for a relationship with God, they still loved me with their whole heart.

Taking the Hard Road

Not every family is the same. Each one comes with a different set of dynamics, rules, and a combination of people with varying personalities. That includes a variety of beliefs, both shared and different to each person.

This can lead to arguments and obstacles that might seem impossible to overcome. Maybe some of you, like me, feel as if you’re walking alone in your faith journey. Maybe your parents have prevented you from attending youth nights or retreats because they believe “you go too much”. Maybe you feel discouraged to share anything about your faith in fear of a lukewarm response or no response at all. In moments like these, it can be so easy to decide to push away your family and keep your feelings piled up inside.

However, think about the following verse: “So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God” (2 Timothy 1:9). We are reminded that although our faith journey will not be easy, we are still called to be a living testimony of God’s goodness and to share His Word with others. And He will not let us do this with our strength alone but will provide us with exactly what we need in order to fulfill His will here on earth. When we are struggling the most, God wants us to call out to Him, so that He can help us to keep going.

Bridging the Gap

A friend of mine once said something along the lines of “You could be the only example of Christ someone meets in their entire life.” Whether or not your family understands why you prioritize your faith, Jesus still calls us to spread His word to all of those here on this earth. And that includes our family too. It will not be easy, but that does not mean you need to journey alone. Christ, along with your church community, will be walking with you every step of the way. So do not be afraid to rely on others when things become hard and remember that with Christ, nothing is impossible.

I still have trouble talking about my faith with my family and they continue to question why I serve so much, why I can’t let someone else do it instead. However, I realize that God has given me an opportunity to become an example of His grace and His love to the very people that I hold dear to my heart. With every passing day, my family gets to know a little bit more about Christ through my actions and words. And I know He’s calling you to do the same. So be courageous, take up your cross, and show your family just who Christ is today.