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Q: I am a revert back to the faith. When I met my wife, she had been raised with no faith. She went to Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes because I thought it was important, and she became Catholic before our son was born. My son was baptized and that was it, due to my falling away from the church again. Fast-forward to now. I’ve started to go back to church and confession and daily prayer, but my wife wants no part of religion. She says she can’t get behind certain teachings such as confessing to a priest. She wonders who needs religion to know God, etc. My son who is 15 now agrees with her, and neither really has even a basic knowledge of the Catholic faith. I believe the underlying reason in addition to those arguments is laziness. They both have an unhealthy attachment to their phones and social media. What’s a husband and father to do?
—Devoted and distressed
A: The best piece of advice that I have ever been given came from a mom who struggled to support the mental health of her adult daughter while she also tried to come to peace with the implications of her daughter’s independence and choices. “You can’t want something more for someone than they want it for themselves,” she said. While this mom’s “something” was referring to well-being, I cannot begin to count the number of times I have applied her words to other situations in my life. They are what’s coming to mind now as I consider your quandary.
You can’t want the Catholic faith more for your wife and son than they want it for themselves. Since they are not toddlers whom you can drag into the pews against their will (and can we even do that without disturbing an entire congregation and making ourselves miserable?), their desire is a necessary precondition for spiritual growth. I could be wrong, but I suspect that so long as they feel judged by you for their “laziness” and “unhealthy attachments” (be them as they may), they aren’t going to feel a particular desire to join you at church. Maybe the best approach right now is to keep strengthening your faith, deepening your connections to your parish community, and growing in your relationship with God. As your wife and son see the fruits of earnest faith in your life, perhaps seeds of curiosity will be planted in theirs.