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.
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.