“I really get bored when I go to Mass… I don’t’ like the choir and the music… the preaching puts me to sleep… there are so many scandals in the Church… I am so busy that I simply do not have time for Mass… Going to Mass is for the old people; Later on in my life, I may drift back to the Church in better days…”
All of the above negative comments are leveled against returning to the Church and receiving the life-saving graces that flow most abundantly through the Sacraments, especially through the greatest of all Sacraments: the most Holy Eucharist.
Most Catholics throughout the world do not attend Holy Mass. In many predominantly Catholic countries, the second largest religion is non-practicing Catholics. While the huge majority of the people in these countries would state that they are Catholic, they rarely attend Holy Mass.
There has been a radical change in the past decades. In the USA in the 50s and even into the early 60s, statistically close to 75% of Catholics would regularly attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, almost every Sunday. Personally, I remember missing Holy Mass only once as a child and it was because of a violent snow-storm which stranded our family! Now, the numbers and statistics have done a total u-turn. Perhaps 20% or less attend Holy Mass every Sunday.
As Catholics and followers of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, we should truly love what He loves. The great love of Jesus, the Savior, is the human-person, created in the image and likeness of God, and the salvation of his immortal soul. Jesus stated this truth unequivocally and with great emphasis: “What would it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul. What can a man exchange for his soul?” (Mt. 16: 26) Jesus hungers and thirsts for the salvation of a multitude of souls! Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in his classic, The Call of the Temporal King, challenges us not to be deaf to the call of the King. The earthly King is bent upon conquering the world and its possessions for himself. The Eternal King, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, has no interest in temporal conquering and dominion, but rather in the conquering and the salvation of immortal souls.
With this knowledge of the desire, the thrust, and the purpose of Jesus’ life—hungering and thirsting for the salvation of souls—let us beg for the grace to collaborate with Jesus in this most noble of all endeavors: the salvation of immortal souls!
Let us set up a game-plan or a strategy on starting right now how we can bring back these lost sheep, Prodigal sons and daughters, straying flocks back to the loving arms of the Good Shepherd, back to the loving and tender embrace of the Father of the Prodigal son.
Strategy To Bring the Stray Sheep Home
1. Prayer and the Sacraments
Without the grace that abundantly flows through prayer and the Sacraments, conversions or reversions to the Catholic faith will come about far and few between. It will be like building an edifice upon sand. Rain and tempest beating and battering against a structure built on sand will cause collapse and disaster. (Mt 7:24-27).
Starting now, let us pray, offer our Masses and Holy Communions, and as many Rosaries as we can to bring back the Catholics who have abandoned the practice of the faith.
Jesus stated with utmost clarity: “Some devils can be cast out only by prayer and fasting (penance). (Mt. 17:21) Our Lady of Fatima reiterated the same truth: “Pray and offer sacrifices because many souls are lost because not enough people pray and offer sacrifices for them.”
Let us choose and impose upon ourselves some concrete form of penance for the purpose of fostering the return of the forlorn and confused Catholics to the fold!
3. Holiness of Life
Magnetism emanates from the sanctity of life. Why was it that so many people scurried on foot to the Jordan River? Not so much due to the waters in that river, but rather because of the holiness of the man who was baptizing in those waters: Saint John the Baptist.
If we can work on our own personal sanctification, then this sanctity will serve as a magnet to attract others back to Christ in His Mystical Body, which is the Church! Saint John Vianney attracted thousands to the remote, out of the way village of Ars. His holiness attracted even the hardest of sinners to conversion and to return to the practice of the faith, in the wake of the devastation wrought by the French Revolution when churches were closed and priests forbidden to preach.
Andrew invited Peter to meet Jesus, as well as Philip and the Greeks, many of whom accepted the invitation. Why not simply invite a wandering Catholic to return home, to the Church to attend and participate in Holy Mass. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain!
Every non-practicing Catholic is a potential practicing Catholic. Maybe the catalyst is a simple invitation!
5. Major Feasts
Take advantage of the Major Solemnities or Liturgical Feast days to invite the lost sheep to return to the fold: Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Ash Wednesday, All Souls, All Saints, Marian Solemnities, such as the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. These Glorious Liturgical celebrations offer graces for conversion.
Using spiritual astuteness, why not invite some relatives to attend Mass for key celebrations. Birthdays, Wedding Anniversaries, Graduation ceremonies, Anniversaries of the death of a relative—all of these can be means and motives to invite the lax Catholics to return home!
7. Church Bulletins and Confession Schedule
Perhaps many wandering Catholics are ready if they simply knew the when and where of Confession. Simply point out the day, the hour, the place and the Confessional so that the fish can be caught in the net.
Better yet, give them an Examination of Conscience pamphlet or booklet as a guide. Then you can go with your friend at the time and place to the Confessional. You go first to confession and exit with a big smile, then say, “Your turn!” This is really imitating Saint John the Baptist and preparing the way to meet Jesus, the Divine Savior and Divine Physician.
8. Retreat Experience
Many powerful conversions thunder into the lives of mediocre Catholics and even hardened sinners because of a powerful retreat experience. Exposure to dynamic talks and personal witnesses, silence for examination of conscience and deep prayer, and the ability to receive the Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist result in radical, life-changing experiences!
Check around for the next retreat and attend with some of your confused-catholic friends! The net result? Conversion, commitment, and Catholic rebirth!
Experience gives eloquent witness to the reality of many reversions to the faith because of a weekend or even one-day retreats. One good source for weekend retreats that comes immediately to mind is the Sacred Heart Retreat House in Alhambra, run by the Carmelite Sisters.
9. Good Reading, Viewing, Social Media
The eyes, the ears, the mind, the imagination are all captivated by the image. Today, the image manifests itself in various forms. Following our theme: God can enter the heart of the individual. Why not use these tools, these nets, these bridges to bring the wandering Catholic sheep back to the fold?
Suggest and expose these lapse Catholics to the following: T.V. (EWTN), Catholic Radio (Relevant Radio), Catholic websites (including my website, fatherbroom.com) with good Catholic articles, and, of course, good books on the saints or other Catholic topics. Many of these sources can serve as a catalyst and bridge to bring the revert back to the practice of the faith.
10. Church Movements and Groups
Apostolates and ministries within the context of the Catholic Church undoubtedly can serve as bait and fishnet to lure the wandering fish into the boat. Once a wandering and forlorn Catholic experiences the love, the warmth and the sense of belonging to a specific group within the Church, then they will experience the Church as a warm and loving family and long to come back and belong!
Conclusion: Bring Them Back
In conclusion, friends of Jesus, Mary and our Catholic family, many have wandered from home. Baptized Catholics who made their First Communion and Confirmation, and even married sacramentally—even with all this support, no longer practice the faith. It is truly incumbent upon all of us, if we truly love Jesus the Good Shepherd, to strive to bring as many lost sheep back to the fold as we can!
The harvest is rich, but the laborers are all too few. Right now, you are called to be a spiritual Fisherman, a loving brother or sister to become a bridge to cross them back over to the ultimate source of grace and Truth—the Catholic Church.
Let us use all the tools, the nets, the instruments at our disposal to bring as many as possible back to the loving arms of the Father and the loving embrace of Jesus, our Savior and true Friend who will never abandon us, neither in time nor for all eternity!