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Recovering Catholics

In the past 50 years, the Catholic Church has struggled to properly catechize and evangelize many of its own members. I have met far too many former Catholics, who self identify themselves as “recovering Catholics.” Recovering Catholics often cite a lack of encounter with Christ, hollow spirituality, or disagreement with the moral teachings of the Church as their reasons for leaving. Most will also tell you that they were approached by a member of a Christian church and that is where they fell in love with Christ and embraced their Christian faith. When Christ is encountered and the love of God is presented in a real, personal way, your life will never be the same. Often, adult faith formation classes focus on secondary elements assuming that the faithful have already been evangelized and received the Good News, but quite often this assumption is not correct.

Saints Evangelize, not programs

Based on my personal experience, we need to do a better job evangelizing our members, many of which were born Catholic and received the sacraments of Baptism, Holy Communion, Confirmation and sometimes Matrimony and the associated sacramental preparation. Receiving the sacraments has a supernatural reality, but it needs to be complemented with the practical VBS 2012 (1)aspect of growing in holiness to be fully effective within the life of the Christian. While each sacrament imparts many supernatural graces, if the individual Christian is not open to receiving that grace due to a life of sin or a lukewarm faith (i.e., a dead spiritual life), no visible change will take place after receiving a sacrament. The graces lie dormant until the individual makes a conscious decision to respond to the love of God.

The Catholic Church has educated many many people in the faith. Countless Catholics have memorized prayers, prayed rosaries, attended Mass every Sunday, and learned the moral teachings of the Church through religious education, but despite all of this knowledge and the practice of pious activities, there are still many who have not been evangelized and encountered the Father, Son and Holy spirit in a real and personal way.

I received the sacraments of initiation, attended Catholic Schools all my life, took part in the weekly Mass, but it wasn’t until I was 27 that I was evangelized. Admittedly, this was in large part due to my own personal failings. I wasn’t evangelized through my parish, rather it was a combination of a

holy deacon and a series of novels written by a lay Catholic evangelist. After this sequence of events, I saw the Church in a new light and I would never be the same. The Mass, the Eucharist, the Sacraments, all made sense now. I better understood all the pious practices performed by my grandmother and how effective her prayers for me had been.

At one point in the history of Christianity, the responsibility and duty to pass on the Faith to young Catholics resided within the family. Mom and Dad rightly felt a responsibility and duty to pass on their beloved faith. The Faith is transmitted by people, not institutions or catechetical programs. If you encountered Christ in the Catholic Church it was probably not through religious education classes or even attendance at Mass on Sunday. It was through your family, a holy priest, religious sister or RE teacher. But despite the presence of holy priests, religious sisters or RE teachers in a parish, if someone is not open to God’s love (either due to being in a state of serious sin or just an apathetic relationship with God), they may not even notice these holy people and respond to God’s call being transmitted through them.

The Year of Faith

Thanks be to God, many cultural Catholics have been evangelized by members of other Christian communities. The Lord is the hound of heaven and ardently desires to show each person His love and gather all peoples to himself and He will use any means necessary to do so.

Pope Benedict XVI has declared a year of faith beginning in October of this year. In his apostolic letter, “Porta Fidei”, he writes, “The Year of Faith…is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord”. The Pope calls the faithful to renew themselves in the faith, by prayer and study aided by the Church. Each Catholic who has the gift of faith and leads an active life within the Church is called to share that faith with their fellow Church members.

This could be as easy as meeting someone after Mass who you have not yet met, attending an activity at church during the week to serve the poor, faith formation for youth or other adults. It could also be to meet your neighbors and get to know them and share reason for your hope (1 Peter 3:15), you might encounter a lapsed or former Catholic who was not evangelized and may even be angry with the Church for its failings. We are called to share our faith with others, it is not a private matter, Jesus told us to go out into the whole world and share the good news (Matt 28:19).

If you are a “recovering Catholic”, I personally apologize that you were not given the fullness of truth and I ask for your forgiveness. Consider taking an objective look at the claims of the Catholic Church. It is the Church that Jesus founded on the rock of St. Peter and despite all its flawed members, the teachings of Jesus Christ has been preserved for 2,000 years and Jesus himself is waiting for you in the Holy Eucharist in the tabernacle of every Catholic Church.

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About Allen Hebert

Allen Hébert works in the Information Technology field. Allen and his wife Denae, have been married for over 25 years and they have been blessed with nine children. In 2013, Allen and his wife Denae, founded Your Holy Family ministries to promote God's plan for family life through family retreats, workshops and family fun days. More information on their ministry can be found at www.YourHolyFamily.com

  • Karyn - I would love to know the name of the series of novels by a lay Catholic that you read – I’m always looking for a good read.June 27, 2012 – 7:16 amReplyCancel

  • Martina - Glad you tackled this topic! I always cringe when people laughingly refer to themselves as “recovering Catholics” – um, there is nothing funny about it and if they thought about it for even a minute or two, they would know that the term recovering in any other scenario denotes they are coming off a bad experience – recovering alcoholic, porn addict, drug user, etc.

    And I know they think they are funny, but what it is, ultimately, is just the height of ignorance of the Faith.

    If they truly knew what they have “left” they would also understand the gift of faith they have given up in the process.June 27, 2012 – 8:51 amReplyCancel

  • Brittany - Thanks for addressing this issue Allen! I also read the “Pierced by a Sword” series when I was in college and they had the same effect on my faith 🙂 I recommend them! I often feel sad and sometimes even hopeless as I watch my brothers and sisters leave the Church for one or more of the reasons you addressed. I often wonder what I can say or do that would help. As I have several young children at home in my care at this time in my life, I can’t volunteer for any programs in our parish, but I will continue to pray and to share my faith whenever and wherever possible. Thank you for the motivation to renew and be aware of my personal efforts Allen!June 27, 2012 – 9:51 amReplyCancel

  • Augustine - I’ve recently read Bud Macfarlane’s novels and I enjoyed them a lot, though they didn’t affect me in the same manner. But I too was jolted into my baptismal faith by a book, St. Augustine’s “Confessions”.

    Reading the lives of the saints was a common practice through the centuries and wisely so. Which perhaps goes to show the importance of wholesome and spiritual books.June 27, 2012 – 10:12 amReplyCancel

  • Margaret B - Thank you for the wonderful topic, Allen. I am deeply saddened that a lot of people don’t know what they left. I was one of those people. Though I never completely left the church, I didn’t fully come back until someone took the time to explain what I was missing. I’m glad they did.June 27, 2012 – 10:26 amReplyCancel

  • Robyn - I got the jolt by attending a CRHP retreat at my local 4-parish cluster… and even though that is a very “touchy feely” and slightly liberal program (and I lean heavily to the traditional side) it was a great awakening. I felt a lot of forgiveness and relief, and it made me start seeking. I also was very inspired by Fr. Larry Richard’s “TRUTH” cd, which got us both on the road to a lot of spiritual reading and cd’s. Now we’re both attending Tridentine Latin masses, praying rosaries daily, and just getting way more in touch with the awesome Catholic church. It embarrasses our 4 teenage kids to no end.June 27, 2012 – 4:45 pmReplyCancel

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