What a wonderful idea of this blog! And what a great opportunity for me to ask you for your words of wisdom and experience in a family matter.
Even though I have a catholic childhood, I just recently, three years ago, returned to the Catholic Church. This summer I am going to host my teenage cousin, she is 16, for a couple of weeks at our house. She is a "proud atheist" even though she has also a catholic family background. I am not quite sure how to approach her in this matter. Insisting to going with us to mass or to pray with us won´t do good. Do you have any ideas how to ignite her catholic heart again?
Thank you so much!
Greetings from Germany,
Thank you for writing and your kind words about this new blog. It's wonderful to hear that you have returned to the Church. God bless you! I bet you'll have an interesting summer! I have a feeling that it will most likely be filled with blessings you would never have anticipated. God works in mysterious ways. It's interesting that you recently returned to the Church and now you will be hosting a "proud atheist" relative. God has a good sense of humor too. :)
I certainly would not force your teen-aged cousin to go to Mass or to pray with you all. But, you should invite her at least at the beginning of her visit to go to Mass with you. So, that way you are not just assuming that she doesn't want to go. Tell her that she is welcome to join you for Mass. If she reacts in a negative way, remain calm and loving and just let her know that if she happens to change her mind, she is more than welcome to join you. Then, leave it at that. Don't preach or harp. However, try to be very attentive to times that she may seem to be open and may want to talk with you about anything.
I would carry on as you normally do as a family. Go about your normal routine with regards to going to Mass and saying family prayers. Hopefully, you'll say Grace Before Meals at the dinner table, possibly even followed by a short prayer (a Hail Mary or an Our Father). Even if she may feel a bit uncomfortable sitting through it, it's not unreasonable to expect her to sit at the table with you all when you say your Grace before eating. Then you can move into a nice conversation at the table.
Your example of prayer and your commitment to going to Mass on Sundays and holy days (as well as daily Mass, if that's what you are accustomed to) will speak volumes. Nothing needs to be said, with the exception that you'll be leaving to go to Mass at "such and such a time" and will return at "such and such a time."
I believe that love is very powerful. There is no need to preach to an atheistic teenager. It may just turn her away even further. But the love shown to her during her stay with you will be special and will make an impression on her heart. That, along with the many prayers I'm sure you'll be praying for her. You may want to think about even fasting or making sacrifices for the intention of saving her soul if you feel inspired to do so.
Your young cousin may think she's an atheist, but deep down, she still has that foundation of the Catholic faith she was raised with. I am assuming she was also baptized. Perhaps you can ask some trusted prayer warrior friends you know to join you in prayer for your cousin. I'll pray too. Whatever happens, you will have planted the seeds in her heart. It's up to God and your cousin as to when the seeds will blossom and grow.
Have a fun time with her and give her a memorable happy stay with your family. Let her see that Catholics can certainly be fun and interesting people!
Trust in God. He has a plan to ignite your young cousin's Catholic heart!