By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Office of Formation in Discipleship
Have you ever been in a conversation and heard the other person say something that you want to respond to, but given the circumstances, you keep quiet and do not let your true feelings out? For example, your dear sweet grandparent at Christmas says, “I bought this sweater for you knowing you would love it” but you are thinking “I am never going to wear this.”
Maybe you were in a conversation when people started to talk about politics, Viking football, or Ford versus Chevy, and – for all sorts of reasons – you decide to not get involved.
There is one topic that, depending on how it is brought up around me, I pause before responding because my retort can come on pretty strong. Want to know what the topic is? It is when someone says to me, “Oh the Mass is so boring, I don’t get anything out of it and so I don’t bother going.”
When I hear something like this my blood pressure shoots up 50 points and my impulse is to say: “That is ridiculous, for the Mass is your opportunity be in the presence of the living God!!!!!” (To the editor: Yes, I do want to include five exclamation points).
As I continue this series of columns about helping our loved ones come back to the Church, you may remember that last time I said that we should first listen to their reasons for leaving the Church. It is tough to not reply right away, but we need to hear their story and how they came to the point of leaving the Church and moving away from God. In the previous column, I wrote about the person who told me that they did not get anything out of the Mass. It is a good thing I did not reply with my five-exclamation point response because that would have just driven the person away from any conversation.
What comments do people make about God or the Church that evoke your five-exclamation point response? What are the things you hear about the Church that are tough to listen to without becoming upset?
To be sure, we need to be ready with a response (I will write about this in future columns), but we also have to be ready to hear some things about God, Jesus, and/or the Catholic Church that are upsetting. We listen with compassion knowing that often the statements about the faith that others say are not meant to be malicious and are often said out of ignorance (i.e. are based on a false understanding of Jesus and His Church).
Other than people not wanting to go to Mass, here are some other reasons that people give for leaving the Church:
“I don’t believe in God.”
“Prove to me that there is a God.”
“I think Jesus was just a really good human being but not actually God” (that one has been around since the beginning of the Church).
“I believe that science has proven that there is no God.”
“Ancient people did not have a scientific understanding of the world and so they made up the idea of God but now we have scientific answers.”
“There is no proof that Jesus rose from the dead.”
“OK, I believe in God, but what makes the Catholic Church better than any other?”
“Sure, I believe in God but I do not need to be Catholic in order to believe in God, in fact you do not even need a church in order to be religious.”
“Who can belong to the Catholic Church when there is all of this scandal going on?”
“The Bible is so inconsistent and so it is really open to the interpretation of the individual believer.”
“Why should I listen to a bunch of old men in Rome, including the pope, to tell me what is right and wrong – what do they know about real life anyway?”
“There are so many rules in the Catholic Church, I just want to pray to God and worship Him.”
“The Church has rules against (now fill in the blank: female clergy, pre-marital sex, birth control, abortion, same-sex unions, cohabitation, eating meat on Friday, etc.) and I don’t agree with that rule and so I don’t want to be part of a Church that believes such things.”
“I had a bad experience with (another fill-in-the-blank: a priest, religious sister, Catholic classmate in school, Catholic parent, RE teacher etc.) so I left the Church and will never return.”
WOW – what a list, and I have just named a few of the many reasons people bring up. Yet, with all of these objections to God and the Church, do you want to know the most common reason why people leave the Church? They just drift away.
Over the course of the next few columns I will address how you might encourage someone who has drifted away to return to the Church and I will also address some the other statements I have listed in this column.
For now, remember that when you hear one of these reasons, try to first ask them about their statement. Explore their thinking as you LISTEN to them.