Column: Prayer has to be at the heart of bringing loved ones back

Rick Cheek
Rick Cheek is the archdiocesan Consultant for Evangelization and Catholic Formation for Youth. He can be reached at youth2@archkck.org.

by Rick Cheek

I was in the grocery store a couple weeks ago early in the morning, around seven.

I’m always the friendly type, so as people approached I would say, “Good morning.” It was after about the tenth person that I finally got a response.

Now for me, this was an evangelization moment. How do we reach those who constantly walk with their head down, their face in an iPhone and have an attitude of “I don’t want to listen to anything you have to say”? Well, the truth is, you can’t reach them — at least not by yourself.

I was listening to a homily by Father John Hollowell about bringing family back into the Catholic Church. He was preaching on the reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah where the author says, “Behold, I will bring them back. . . .  I will gather them from the ends of the world. . . . They shall return as an immense throng. . . . I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble.”

While this was intended for the Jewish exiles, the desire of Christ is to bring everyone back under the same roof.

I know we all have friends, family members or even our own children who, for whatever reason, have quit practicing their faith or have become lackadaisical in practicing their faith. Maybe what we’ve said or done in the past to engage them hasn’t worked for one reason or another.

Prayer has to be at the heart of bringing them home. Our Holy Father Pope Francis has asked us to go out and repropose the Catholic Church to those who have fallen away, but in a way that is inviting and engaging them to live a life filled with much beauty and grace.

Let them know that, as a parent, I wasn’t perfect, but whatever strength I had as a parent came from my Catholic faith.

I say this often to adults, parents and teens: “The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith.” Without it, we have nothing — we do not have retreats, rallies, conferences or camps to attend.

We as parents, youth ministers, directors of religious education and teachers should always be motivated by the Eucharist, the real presence of Jesus in the Catholic Church. Living our faith by example will go a long way in bringing our friends and family home.

St. Monica prayed for years that her son would come back to the fullness of the faith. After 17 persistent years, Augustine’s conversion came at last.

One thing we have to remember is to persevere in prayer, just like St. Monica did, and remember what Jeremiah the prophet said, “Behold, I will bring them back. . . . I will gather them from the ends of the world. . . . They shall return as an immense throng.”

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