It’s the middle of the week and you’re sitting at the table with your family eating dinner, you and your siblings are talking about school, extracurricular activities like sports and clubs, and maybe one of you just joined student government and are in the middle of preparing for the next big event like homecoming or looking to book a venue for prom.
Then you start talking about your faith.
You mention what you’ve been learning at Life Nights, a skit that the core members recently acted out, and even how you’re starting to pray more before going to bed. But the conversation doesn’t go any further than that. You receive some approving smiles and a “That’s great to hear” every now and then, but nothing deeper than a surface level introduction of how much you love growing in your faith.
You want to share these experiences with your family and you even pray that they’ll be able to experience God’s never-ending love and grace for themselves. But some way and somehow, you find yourself attending Mass without your family, breaking open the Word in the confines of your room, and becoming more and more afraid to ask another family member to pray with you. All of a sudden, trying to share God’s message with your family has become more difficult than praying a nine-day novena.
The Black Sheep
There is certainly this feeling of confusion and bewilderment when you come to the realization that all of a sudden, you’ve become the odd one out in the family, the black sheep that just wants to stay in Jesus’ flock. And you want your family there too, standing right there next to you, walking through the aisles of the church and the grounds of your parish together. And they walked alongside you, once upon a time ago.
If your experience is anything like my own, growing up, Sundays were spent dedicated to church, even if a football game or two were missed. Parents would make sure that everyone was dressed up in their Sunday best and came ten minutes early to fill in the seats of the church pews. But as a child, things were different. As a child, we don’t really understand that what we consume in the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ and this lack of knowledge may have prevented us from seeking a deeper, more personal relationship with Jesus. And now that we know more about our Catholic faith, there seems to be no one in our family that feels the same way.
Different Communities, Different Families
The more I grew in my faith and the more I wanted to develop and nurture my relationship with God, the more I felt distance grow between my family members and me. There is nothing more disheartening than being on fire with the Holy Spirit and wanting to share it with the people that you love the most; but upon sharing, being greeted with indifference and a lack of enthusiasm that you can’t relate to.
We start to spend more hours at the church, whether it be through the Mass, Life Nights, or fellowship, and these slowly become the weekly supplement of our faith formation. Sometimes we can be tempted to let the people that we meet during youth nights and events replace our parents and siblings.
Although there was something special walking in faith with the people I met at church and during Life Nights, I always prayed that one day I could grow closer to God with my family. I would look at other families attending Mass together and become a little jealous that my own family was not like that.
The family household is supposed to be the first place where we learn about our faith, the first group of people that we are able to grow in faith with. So it becomes infinitely more difficult to enter into that experience when it feels as if we are the only member of our family that’s eager to grow in love with Jesus. But the reality is that, if we’re the only member of our family actively living in relationship with Jesus, we have to do everything that we can to invite others into that same relationship. Because God did not intend for us to keep our faith to ourselves.
Called to Love
As a follower of Christ, and according to our missionary mandate, we are called to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19) and that includes our family members, even if it’s hard or takes a little bit of time. God is just calling us to be the one to start that spark of faith or reignite it once again. You see, even if it seems like God is not present in our families on a day to day basis, He is already working and present through you and He is enough. He trusts you to carry the light of Christ that you’ve received and share it with the rest of your family.
However, we can be tempted to overthink and overcomplicate things. We may have this desire to bring our family to the foot of the cross, to worship and praise God with them, but we act like there’s this invisible problem that we can’t seem to solve. But I believe that God’s answer to our problems is actually very simple. If we are having trouble sharing our faith with our family, we have to remember that we are called to do one thing and one thing only: to love — genuinely and wholeheartedly (Romans 12:9).
Your parents might not understand the beauty of adoration, even after explaining it time and time again; and maybe your siblings won’t be able to wrap their heads around skipping a school dance for a retreat, but hopefully, they will understand your love. As it says in 1 Corinthians 16:14, “Your every act should be in love.” By putting genuine and authentic love into the things that we do for our family, we are making Christ present in our relationships with them and inviting them daily to walk in faith.
If you are the only practicing Catholic in your household, do not be afraid. Be excited and courageous; excited that God chose you to be that example of His love, grace, and forgiveness and courageous enough to live by His example every single day. Your family deserves to know the goodness of God’s love and He calls you to share that with everyone you encounter, including your family. You may feel like the black sheep now, the Good Shepherd will use you to draw all His sheep back to His heart if you let Him.