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Don’t Pull Your Sister’s Hair This Christmas

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My husband and I are recent converts to the Catholic Faith.  We are passionate, we are excited, and we are the only Catholics in our family.

Coming to the Church was somewhat like having our eyes opened to all of the holes in our previous belief systems.  We are continually seeing ways that our former beliefs didn’t make sense and Church Truth has deepened our understanding on even simple matters of faith.

As our eyes continue to be opened, we are eager to share these new-to-us discoveries, especially with our closest family and friends.   We are also sometimes filled with a variety of emotions ranging from passionate excitement to urgency, and even sometimes to fear, frustration and anger.

Aidan

    Why don’t they get it?

    Don’t they want to know the fullness of Truth?

    Don’t they want to grow closer to God?

 

 

During the Advent and Christmas seasons, our differing beliefs come quickly to the forefront as we strive to live our faith more fully.  As we have company during our evening Advent devotionals or extra bodies at our dinner table, we are sometimes faced with the difficult task of balancing our love of our faith and our love of our family.  If you (like me) struggle this time of year, here are three ideas to keep peace in your heart and in your home this Advent and Christmas season, all while keeping the door open for future conversations.

Practice your faith unapologetically, but respectfully.  Don’t apologize for your Catholic beliefs and customs, but look for ways to practice them while still respecting long held family traditions.  Can you sacrifice a preferred mass time in order to participate in your family’s traditional Christmas Eve activities?  Can you complete your evening devotionals after you return to your hotel or in another room if it makes the in laws uncomfortable?  Whatever you do, don’t skip out on important practices of your Catholic faith!  Skipping things altogether is (a) wrong and (b) sends the wrong message to friends and family who are watching your actions… maybe even looking for a reason to discount your beliefs.

Be inviting.  Be sure that your extended family and friends know that they are welcome to participate in your traditions and that you are more than willing to answer any questions they might have.  They may not accept your offer to join, but an offer made cheerfully and a decision accepted without judgment is more likely to leave both parties with a feeling of peace with the other’s choices.

Stay positive and patient- show your love for the Church through your love for family.  It is easy to get trapped in the idea that somehow we will be responsible for the conversion of our family.   Ultimately it is the Holy Spirit, however, who will work through us (and likely others) and in the hearts of our family to institute change.   That change will happen in His timing and in His way.  Beyond that, as human relationships are deeply flawed and often complicated, we may be the last to know that our family members are ready to reach deeper into the faith.  It is difficult to admit we were wrong.  We need to have empathy and compassion and know that sometimes the most hurtful of words may come from a heart that is just about to be changed forever by the imprint of the Holy Spirit.

All of us with non Catholic, or fallen away Catholic family face added challenges during holiday festivities.  Spend some extra time during the Advent season taking full advantage of the graces available through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and spend time with Our Lord through Adoration and prayer.  Open your hearts to the ways that the Holy Spirit can mold you and prepare you for the challenges that you may face, while continuing to offer your trials and suffering for the continued conversion of the entire body of Christ.

About Heidi

Heidi is a convert to Catholicism, confirmed with her husband in August of 2011. She is a teacher turned homeschooling mom to five children on earth and a beautiful baby girl named Kenna who was stillborn in 2007. You can read more about Heidi and her family at Work and Play Day by Day.

  • Cindy - Great article, and excellent advice, thank you Heidi. What of the situation with family members who are living in sin (shacking up). Defintely not going to give a “mutual” gift for them to share, but will give seperate personal gift/s. The relative in this situation knows it is wrong, but doesn’t care. How do others handle this situation? I’m curious.

    God bless!December 13, 2011 – 11:10 amReplyCancel

  • Heidi - Great Question Cindy! I think the no couple gifts is a great idea. This is one of those situations that probably varies a lot from person to person, situation to situation based on the type of relationship involved.

    One thing for us is that we don’t invite couples who are cohabitating outside of marriage to stay with us and we don’t stay with them, even if it means we have to spend more on a hotel or they can’t come. I’ve never had someone specifically ask so I”m not sure how we would handle that. I would probably take (and this is the biggest reason I don’t invite them to stay in the first place) the inappropriate example for the kids line of defense!December 13, 2011 – 2:19 pmReplyCancel

  • Megan - It is so nice to hear that there is another person out there who is a recent convert to the Catholic Church with zero Catholic family members. When I join the Church at Easter I will be the ONLY Catholic in my entire family including immediate and extended. I haven’t told anyone in my family other than my husband. I have his support, but it is lonely and I don’t look forward to hearing my family’s viewpoints on why joining the Church may be the wrong thing to do because for ONCE in my life I know my choice in my faith and Church is correct!
    Any advice on telling and discussing with family?December 13, 2011 – 5:16 pmReplyCancel

  • Heidi - Megan, welcome!!

    It was hard to tell our family of our decision, but in some ways I built it up to be worse than it actually ended up being! My parents were actually quite accepting, although I sometimes wonder if they still will be when they realize this is not just a temporary phase! My husband’s mom has tolerated our decision. She will come to Mass with us if she is in town on a Sunday, but she will also verbally reject the Church which is very difficult for us.

    I think living as a Catholic is harder than telling them we were going to join the Church was.December 13, 2011 – 6:56 pmReplyCancel

  • Cindy - Hi Heidi… I agree with you that this (all too common problem) can cause some awkward moments, and that it’s prudent that we act accordingly to each particular situation. So true about the children – it saddens me that adults put their own selfish needs above setting a good example to children. Hardly anyone bats an eye at this anymore.

    We have the same rule for our house regarding co-habitating couples. We don’t invite them to stay the night, nor do we stay the night at their places. The particular couple I mentioned will only be visiting for Christmas dinner. Sorry, I didn’t mean to hijack this thread!

    It’s good to know there are other like-minded people out there…thank you again, Heidi. God bless you and your family.

    CindyDecember 13, 2011 – 7:22 pmReplyCancel

  • Megan - Heidi – Thanks! I imagine living as a Catholic will be harder especially since my family really doesn’t practice their faith. In fact, I’ve already started working my weekend plans of traveling to visit family to make sure I’m back home for Sunday morning Mass no matter what. Not sure if they’ve noticed or if it has just seemed like coincidence, but I’ve planned it that way. Not to mention the view on birth control and being open to life. They don’t know I’ve chosen this and discontinued use of birth control (which I didn’t realize caused abortions…I talk about this in my journal..entry noted here.)
    I’m not perfect, but I hope I can be an example. I want to be a light of Christ’s love and that is going to take some work on my part!December 13, 2011 – 8:16 pmReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth Warynick - Although I don’t have any children I came to the Catholic Faith 4 years ago at the age of 50. I had been raised in the Baptist Faith and then as an adult attended a non-denominational church. I too am very passionate about my faith and don’t have any other Catholics in my family. My sister who is 6 years younger became a Pentacostal and my brother is lost in drugs and drinking.(From one end of the spectrum to the other!) I know what you mean about trying to balance standing up for your faith and trying not to offend people out of love but I don’t know if Jesus ever hid his faith and even though he crafted the way he approaced things with people often (like the woman at the well) he in the end was pretty blunt. I think the one thing that we can always use as a guide in life is to do things in LOVE.December 16, 2011 – 8:02 pmReplyCancel

  • Megan - Elizabeth – when you joined the faith what the largest difference or biggest adjustment for you between the Baptist Church and the Catholic Church? A certain belief/way of worship/etc? Thanks for sharing!December 17, 2011 – 7:53 amReplyCancel

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