Always be charitable - even if the other party does not act
charitably. Be sure all means used are all appropriate and charitable. Charity
is indispensable! Remember that one can put forth the most
reasoned arguments, the most eloquent defenses, the most logical case
for the faith, but "unless they see love, they won't convert".
Be sure to consider the other person as a unique individual.
One's approach should depend on the specific person they are addressing.
Each person is different, has a different outlook on things, has
different demands on them, etc. One should tailor their discussions specifically
to the other person, with different approaches being used for different
persons. It is helpful to try to understand the other person's frame of
mind as well as their emotional state, past experiences, pressing
concerns, misunderstandings, worldview, life goals, etc. Try to see
things from their position. Be sure you are not viewing things as you
think they are, but as they really are. Be certain to ask questions as appropriate
- and always, always be a good listener. Really make
an effort to understand them and their position.
Be sure you a proper motive (love of God and love of neighbor).
Your objective should not be to "win", but rather to help
the other person. Remember that "converts aren't trophies". You
must really care about the people as much as you care about truth. You
must really do it for them, and not for you.
"Love is patient, love is kind..."
(1 Cor. 13:4)
Recognize that faith is a gift from God. One must not be prideful
about being Catholic as if it was a personal achievement.
Realize that logic alone won't convince people. Psychology enters
the picture (as does grace). No matter how perfect your arguments may
be, the other person has to be properly disposed to receive your message.
Even if you could prove your point to the other person's satisfaction,
it may not be good enough for them to convert. They may not be willing
to live as a Catholic, they may have been hurt by a Catholic, they may
not care about truth, etc. Unfortunately, many things can get in the way
of one's conversion which you can do nothing about.
There is no guarantee of another's conversion, no matter how great or
perfect your efforts. Faith is a gift of God - it is guaranteed to
no one. Even if they have received the grace of God, they can choose not
to cooperate with it.
Communication is subject to frequent misunderstanding. Often what
one says seems clear, but it may be taken to mean something completely
different by the other person. One should try to ensure that the other
party correctly receives their message and that it is not misunderstood.
As the saying goes "to hear and to understand are completely
different". Be sure you speak clearly.
Remember that the other person's reasons for falling away may be
hidden - or they may not be what you think. For example, people
sometimes fall away as a means of "striking back" against
those who hurt them. In such a case, if you assume they have left the
Church because they don't believe in the truths of the faith, you may
take the wrong approach when trying to lead them back into the fold. Even
though a person seems to have left the Church (or has even stated that
they have left the Church) due to a certain reason, the true reason (or
reasons) may be hidden and difficult to discover. Obviously, knowing
the real reason (or reasons) is important for knowing which
approach to take to help lead them back. This poses a great challenge
since a person may be very unwilling to disclose hidden reasons (in some
cases, persons may even be unconscious of the true reasons).
People may be prideful, obstinate, indifferent, unreasonable, etc. They
may not care about truth. They may be inflated with pride. They may
write you off as a "religious person" (or even a
"religious fanatic"). They may think there is no objective
truth. They may assign no importance to what you say. They may focus on
your words rather than your message. They may slander you. They may
resent your trying to "convert" them. Etc...
Remember that you cannot force people to believe.
You can present
truth, but it is their responsibility to accept or reject it. You cannot
make them believe, even if it would be good for them. God gave them free
will and he respects their free will. So must you.
Be sure you are fully accurate and truthful. Be certain that you are
presenting truths of the faith and not your own opinions. When you don't
know something, find out - but don't lie or assert something as true when you
are not sure. Once you lose your credibility, it may be impossible to
ever gain it back! If you have said something that is untrue, admit your
error and apologize.
Be certain that what you are explaining is actual Church teaching and not
what you think actual Church teaching is.
The truth of a position is not necessarily proportional to the amount
of zeal expelled in promoting it. People can be very zealous, but
People may say things in good faith - but despite that, they can still be
Even the very learned can err.
Remember that an 'opponent', even though in error, may be more
intelligent and knowledgeable, etc. than you are in many areas.
simply assume that they are ignorant because they have fallen away form
the true faith. They
may have very reasoned arguments backed up by events in history that
make their position appear to be correct (at least in their eyes). Give
them credit for their knowledge and intelligence, but show them why they
are wrong. Don't be surprised if they have been persuaded by those who
twist actual historical events or dogmas into unimaginable /
unrecognizable conclusions. Remember that the great Doctor St. Augustine
was once held fast by errors - and he certainly was "no
No matter what, you must continue to love the other person.
they worship a false God, you must love them - hate their error, but
love them. Even if they persecute you, you must love them. "[P]ray for those
who persecute you" (Mt. 5:44). Even if they are completely
unreasonable and obstinate, you must still love them. Even if they act uncharitably
towards you, you must have charity towards them. Even if
they try to hurt you, you must still love them.
"This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love
for one another." (Jn. 13:35)
Remember that religion is often a very passionate topic which requires
due care and discretion. Apologetics can be dangerous to your
relationships with loved ones. In some cases, the discussion of religion
can even become dangerous to one's bodily health. It can also bring
about rejection, scorn, ridicule, insults, etc.
Engage in apologetics / defending the faith at your own risk. We are not
liable for any occurrence which may result from using this site.]
Apologetics (especially when not handled right) can actually lead others
farther from the faith.
Recognize that some differences may be larger or smaller than they
first seem. Do not attempt to minimize or diminish any these
differences. The faith must always be taught in its fullness. As Pope Pius XII has said, "[L]et them not think, indulging in a false
the dissident and the erring can happily be brought back to the bosom of
the Church, if the whole truth found in the Church is not sincerely
taught to all without corruption or diminution." (Pope Pius XII,
"Humani Generis", 1950 A.D.)
Learn as much as you can. "Whoever sets before himself his own sanctification and that of other
people must be equipped with solid learning." It is important especially
to be well-versed in Scripture. As St. Jerome says, "A man who is well grounded in the testimonies of the Scripture is the
bulwark of the Church." One must at least know enough of Scripture
to defend the main tenets of the faith (including the Trinity, the
Sacraments, etc.). One should also be able to use Scripture to counter arguments
commonly employed by non-Catholics against the Church (e.g. salvation by faith alone, not calling any man father,
one mediator between God and man, etc.). Courses (or books) on beginning apologetics often answer many of
these standard questions with biblically based arguments (also try the Non-Catholics section
of this site). Especially helpful for apologetics is a knowledge of the New Testament and the Gospels. It may also be
helpful to become familiar with the teachings of the early Church Fathers.
They learned from the Apostles and their direct successors; and their
writings show that
the doctrines of the Church were always held by the Church. (However, it should be
noted that some doctrinal matters may have been unsettled at the time
so some writings may contain some theological errors.)
Don't make every encounter with a person about religion. Even if
you are truly only concerned with the good of their soul, they may feel
that all you care about is convincing them that you are
"right". They need to be able to come to you even when you do
not agree on matters of religion without feeling they will be
"pounced on". If you become "obsessed" with their conversion,
it may end up doing more harm than good. You must remember
that their conversion is not guaranteed. It depends both on God's grace
and their free will. You cannot force it, no matter how hard you
Realize that your 'opponent' may have gotten his false information
about the Church from a Catholic - even a Catholic priest or theologian or bishop! These are difficult days and one,
be assured of the orthodoxy of each priest and theologian. Even Bishops
have given reason for concern. The fact that a priest, theologian, or even bishop states something, does not
necessarily guarantee that it is
official Church teaching. Even "well respected" clergy may
things contrary to official Church teaching.
Understand that the other person may not see things the same way that you
do. For example, you provide a biblical "proof text"
concerning a certain Catholic doctrine that you feel is obvious and irrefutable. Despite that
however, they may see it in a different
light or reject it altogether.
Realize that you might encounter objections, so-called "facts", or
other charges that can't answer. This does not mean
they are unanswerable, just that you do not personally possess the answer
at that moment. You should admit that you don't know (or that you
"cannot answer that to their satisfaction") and try to find
the answer - or advise them where they may be able to find the answer for
Such an admission doesn't mean you are ignorant, but rather honest.
Those who act as if they have the answers may display pride, whereas
those who admit they do not know may display humility. As an additional
benefit, you may be able to encourage the other person to ask a priest
or bishop about questions you cannot answer. If so, you may help open the
door that ultimately leads them back into the Church. Or, if you need to get back to them with the answer, it
provides you with one more
opportunity to discuss the faith.
Remember the maxim "if you seem to win, you may really have
lost". While engaging in apologetics, if you "win"
against your 'opponent' over a particular point, you may actually find
that you have lost. For example, while one may concede your point about
a truth of the faith on one hand, the person may be repelled by your
'arguing to win' mentality on the other hand.
Set a good example for the other person. Why would they
want to convert if your bad example scandalizes them? How can you correct
them while you are guilty of the same or greater sin? Keep in mind
that "one is more likely to be convinced by holiness than by
reasoned arguments". You may actually do a disservice to the
faith by defending it while not living it yourself. It is clear that even
a perfect knowledge of the faith doesn't guarantee that one is really living
the faith. Further, if one does actually convince people of the truth of the faith
while not living up to the faith personally, that person, by his actions, tells the other
person that the faith really isn't that important in his life. If you say one
thing and act differently, you undermine your own teaching. As St. Francis of Assisi's
advises, "Evangelize always - when necessary, use words".
You must persevere in your prayers for the other person. St. Monica prayed for many years for
the conversion of her son, St. Augustine. Assuredly, even when you can do nothing else, you can
still pray. In fact, "even if you can do all else, it is no good
without prayer." When you do discuss the faith, be sure pray
first (e.g. that you will worthily defend the faith and that they may be
receptive to your words). You should pray for someone at least as much
as you try to convert them (and much more is much better!).
For conversion-related prayers, try the Prayers & Devotions section
of this site (click
here). To request prayers, try the Prayer Requests section of this
site (click here).]
Excellent saints to pray to for the conversion of sinners include: St.
Paul, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Monica, St. Augustine, and St. Rita (try the Saints section
Consider drawing them back with the Eucharist. Remember that no
other religion lawfully has a valid Eucharist. No matter what issues
they may have concerning the Church, they can't have this
precious Gift anywhere else. You may try asking them if they hunger for the Holy
not, consider asking them to attend Mass
with you, read devotional books, read about Eucharistic miracles, etc.
Do not fear! Even if you have poor speaking skills or lack higher
education, God can still use you to help bring back a loved one!
that you are only an instrument that the all-powerful Holy Spirit may
Remember that you can do nothing without God.
* Even if one doesn't engage in any apologetics, one
does a disservice to the faith by "being Catholic" and not living as a
Catholic. In fact, such a person actually helps to conceal the true
Catholic faith from others.
* Acknowledge your own sinfulness and be repentant
about your sins. Do not attempt to explain them away, shift blame,
or act as if they are inconsequential.
Do not defend or deny the sinfulness of others in the Church. Remember
that "the Church is made of up sinners, for sinners, so that we
may do something about our sinfulness." There never will be a
time on earth that the Church does not contain sinners. Some "unpleasant
occurrences" have occurred in
Church history, as they did in Jewish history in the Old Testament. This
doesn't mean the Catholic Church is false (as the Jewish religion of
the Old Testament was not false), but simply affirms that the Church
contains sinners. Remember that even saints have faults. When addressing "unpleasant occurrences",
both parties should handle them in a fair and honest manner. One must be
careful not to "unfairly justify" actions of others. We can
also admit mistakes of the past, while carefully noting that such errors
are not of a doctrinal nature. Be very careful, however, about blaming
the Church for supposed "mistakes". Oftentimes, the circumstances
surrounding events had a great deal of impact on what was done. Often those
outside the Church portray things in a completely inaccurate light and confuse the issue. A general "the
Church can make mistakes of a non-doctrinal nature" should suffice
to cover all objections without naming any specific mistakes.
Center many, but not all, arguments on truth. Sometimes others
simply need to see how the Church can meet their needs. It is not wrong
to point out some of the many earthly benefits of being Catholic (e.g. relief
felt after Penance/fresh start it affords, the joy of Eucharistic
adoration, the comfort of our Blessed Mother and the saints, the pleasure
of sharing in the many historical achievements of Catholics, etc.)
Be on guard for items taken out of context. Often those outside the
Church take a single passage of Scripture as a "proof text"
which, in reality, is unrelated to their point or doesn't paint a
complete picture. It may be helpful to examine what comes both before
and after quoted Scripture passages to help put things in context. You also
want to be sure that you do not present your proofs out of context. Note
that the item which sometimes follows others' "proof texts" may
be the very one that "proves" the Catholic position. An additional
'benefit' of asking others what comes before and after a certain passage is finding
out that the person may not know as much Scripture as they might appear
to know. Often those outside the Church are simply taught standard
verses thought to "prove" the Catholic Church wrong.
You may find others more receptive to your points if you avoid direct
condemnations against them. Instead of condemning them as
"wrong", you may find it helpful to show where you agree with
them and then simply "explain your position" (and your
reasons) on points that you disagree on.
Don't criticize the Church in front of those you want to
Don't think truth alone will make converts. People are complex and
are usually more convinced by how we act than what we say. If they see
your good example and your love for them and your love for and closeness
to God, it may go a long way in convincing them that the Church is the
right place to be.
Watch your language. Be sure to use correct terminology and avoid
terms that are easily misunderstood. Note that those outside the Church
are sometimes turned off by "Catholic" terminology. If so, try
to avoid such terms and stick with biblical terms that you both agree on
(as appropriate). Note that an additional benefit of using Bible terms is
that 'Bible-only Christians' may be more favorably disposed to your
points, and it may also help dispel their belief that Catholics don't know
Scripture. Also, try to avoid terms that might put the other person on
the defensive (e.g. "objection/misconception" vs.
Focus more on living your faith than making converts.
will not avail you, even if you make a million converts, if you do not
save your own soul.
Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. "Every man
must be regarded as acting in good faith until the contrary is
Try to "convert with love". You may find that it is more
effective and pleasing to God.
Do not flatter the other party. Rather than help convert them,
flattery praises them - and may confirm them - in their sinfulness.
Be ready to explain why we do what we do. It can be very
helpful to have good books to show them why we do things. Not only might
the books explain things more clearly and comprehensively, it may give
you an opportunity to lend them a book that might peak their interest in
other Church matters.
Ask questions. Some good questions might include: Why did they leave
the Church? What benefits are they receiving now from their
religion? How did their previous religion fail to provide them with these
benefits? (You may find that that they took advantage of the benefits in
the new religion, but had not taken advantage of them through the Church.)
Why did they join that particular religion? What shortcomings does their
new religion have? Ask
them how they learned of the anti-Catholic beliefs they now maintain. Did they
learn them on their own or through others? Ask them questions to gain an
understanding of their new faith. Not only will this force them to think
about their new faith, but it will help give you an understanding of their situation. It is also helpful to ask questions of people rather
than to tell them things - since they are more likely to believe their own words
over the words of others. (For example, rather than tell them that there are fixed
truths, you can ask them how they know there are fixed truths.) People
also tend to prefer hearing themselves talk than listening to others. Ask
tough questions carefully, and as appropriate.
Try to get them to put the blame where it belongs. Sometimes
people leave the Church and blame everyone but themselves - They left
because of the bad priest, or the mean lady in the second row, or
because the "intolerant" Church wasn't "welcoming"
of their lifestyle choice, etc. Remind them that no one can have their
faith taken from them - they can only give it up. Remind them that one person does
not the Church make. Explain to them that the Church cannot
be tolerant of sin since sin will make them miserable both now and for
all eternity. Show them that the Church does what she does for their
benefit, not to their detriment.
Ask them to tell you their top three issues with the Church
(or with religion in general). Once you know these, you may be in a
better position to converse with them.
Practice your discussions in advance. Be certain that you speak
intelligently, are clear, and that your pace is appropriate.
Focus on points where their religion either stands or falls.
If they find that they no longer believe in
the "truths" of their religion, it will be hard for them to
Even if you can't "convert them", perhaps you will provide
a new perspective on the Church that might better
dispose them to conversion at a later time.
Don't underestimate the ties they have to their non-Catholic religion and the
difficulty they may find in leaving it. If possible, help build the
bridges that can lead them back. For example, if they are particularly tied to their
non-Catholic religion due to an activity their child participates
in, you might help them arrange a similar activity in your own parish.
Guard your own faith. Remember that it can be dangerous to hear false ideas - once
they are heard, they cannot be
unheard. Those who hear false ideas may not be able separate those
ideas from their own faith and may become confused. Even learned saints
prayed hard before engaging in apologetic activities. While it may be
helpful to learn about their beliefs in order to help them convert from
their errors, you must be sure your own faith is
strong enough. Do not learn their faith without correctly knowing your own faith!
Realize that the other person may be uninformed, under-informed,
misinformed, etc. They may have been "brainwashed" by enemies of
the Church. Certain words you might use might "set them off"
against the Church due to the twisted understanding they have been given.
Sometimes the reaction can be surprising.
Attempt to take charge of the discussion. If possible, don't permit them to stick with a "prepared
Try to discover and overcome their misconceptions about the Church.
Don't deny that their new religion may contain some "elements of
truth" (if it does). However, do realize that "elements of truth"
is not the same as truth. While arsenic-laden apple juice contains
elements of apple juice, it is still deadly.
When dealing with 'Bible-only' Christians, make Biblical arguments.
is good to know that the Catholic Faith can be "proven" even
using their deficient/corrupted Bibles. But, be on guard. Those outside
the Church often engage in so-called "Bible gymnastics", where
the words of Holy Scripture are twisted to mean just about anything.
Sometimes the "stretch" can be quite subtle. Remember that "one can make the Bible 'prove' just about
Don't let them discard history. Both your Church and their religion
had to begin at some point. That point is critical! History shows that the
2000 year old Catholic Church has always taught the same faith, whereas
their more recently invented religion has undoubtedly been unable to preserve its
doctrine even over a period of hundreds of years. The
Bible is a wonderful treasure, but the Bible itself says that all is not
within its pages. Some things claimed to be new inventions of the
Church ("things not contained in the Bible") can be clearly
demonstrated from the Bible and from history (e.g. the doctrine of the papacy can be shown
to be held from the beginning of the Church, and is definitely contained
in the Bible,
although the actual word "pope" was not in
use until later).
Have good apologetic reading materials on hand. Not only can you
leave them out for others to peek though (e.g. in bedrooms, offices, bathrooms, etc.), but you can lend them out as an 'ice breaker'.
It is always good to have some on hand to share for those unexpected occasions
that might arise. Apologetics materials may also make good gifts. You
might also encourage your parish to start a library of good apologetic
and other materials. And, consider starting a good Catholic library of
your own. Good items to leave out in your home may include: a good,
traditional catechism, convert stories, apologetics, writings of the
early Church Fathers, etc.
Don't oppose the person, but their beliefs. It is important to be
able to separate the believer from the belief. One should spare the believers
as much as possible.
Be prepared to be 'thick skinned'. Those outside the Church
sometimes employ surprisingly vicious attacks against her. The person may be well
intentioned or they may simply be trying to justify their actions, but their
arguments are usually based on misinformation, misconceptions, and even deceit (e.g. on the part of
those who originally formulated the arguments that they now disseminate to their followers). Sometimes such
arguments might even appear strong or "unanswerable" at first glance. Usually a little research
will show that they are very weak and easily disproved.
Be warned that they may try to sway you from your beliefs and use
'proof' to show you that you are 'wrong'. Often their sources will
appear credible and scholarly. They may attack things about your faith
you've probably never thought of. They may completely discard all
'proof' for your position, even if it is completely credible.
Remember that our fight is against the "principalities and powers"
(cf. Eph 6:12) and that the world is "under the power of the evil one"
(1 Jn. 5:19). Satan may have the other person in his grasp,
and he wants us there too. We must not be his next victim, either by
losing our faith or by failing to love the other person and act
appropriately towards him. Satan attacks us individually and we must be
very careful not to fall into his traps.
Let God be in charge of your efforts. God sees the picture
and understands the mysterious workings of others' minds. If we try to
make everything go our own way, we will probably end up making mistakes.
Be sure to pray a great deal and do penance both before and after your apologetic
endeavors. Persist in prayer, even if you see no results.
Remember that God loves the other person more than you ever could and
that He knows the right words that might "unlock their heart"
- as well as the right timing for them to hear these words. The other
person's conversion also depends on grace, which is entirely in God's
hands. Have faith in God - really trust Him. You need also to accept
God's role for you. Your role may be merely to "plant the
seed" - someone else may "water it" - and someone else
may "see it grow".
Ask our Blessed Mother for her intercession. Our Lady is often instrumental
in the conversion of sinners. You should also consider
making use of the Green Scapular, which is especially useful for those seeking
conversion of a loved one. [Try the Mary,
Our Mother section for more information on the Green Scapular.]
Realize that some people might just be wanting an invitation. Sometimes
all it might take to lead them back is a simple invitation to attend
Mass with you or to go to Confession with you (not together of course,
but at the same time). Invite them back to their home, the Church.
[Note: Be careful that the person doesn't take the invitation to
Confession as an insult.]
Don't expect conversion to occur (if it occurs at all) on your time
Don't wait until your loved one has left the faith to discuss the
faith with them. Not only will it be harder, but they might be less
disposed to listen to you. Help them realize that the Church is their
family, their loving Mother, their true home, before someone else
reaches out to them. Give good Catholic books (e.g. conversion stories, inspirational
books, etc.) as gifts. Remember that people are starving for
Don't misuse terms. Those outside the Church often refer to their
religion or their building for worship as a "church". They
often abrogate terms such as "Christian", "Pastor",
etc. to their sects. You, however, should use correct terminology - e.g.
sect/denomination instead of church. Remember that Christ founded only
one Church, the Catholic Church. Those outside the true Church who call
themselves Christians are actually joined to heretical / schismatic
religions. If you, personally, use incorrect terms to describe their
religion, you are, in a way, countenancing their religion (a religion
not founded by Christ and one that actually sets itself up in opposition
to Christ's Church). You cannot stop them from using such terms, but you
do not need to participate.
It may be wise to let the other person come to the truth by
themselves. You may be well advised to act more as a facilitator
than an instructor.
Wherever appropriate, show them how their arguments are not logical.
sure to do so in charity and without leaving them to feel
"stupid" or "ignorant".
Work first on their most important / strongest objections or biggest
stumbling blocks. Of course, this will differ depending on the
person. If you don't know what they are, you will need to find out.
Rather than engaging in long, drawn out apologetics, you may ask a
simple, non-threatening question such as "Have you ever considered returning to the Catholic Church?"
The answer may give you a good deal of insight to their situation. If
they are favorable to the idea, consider inviting them to Mass.
The steps you take should depend on their behavior.
example: Does the person still call themselves Catholic? Do they
still receive Holy Communion? (You should know that it is gravely sinful
for them to receive Holy Communion when not in a state of grace.) Do
they attend Mass at Easter or Christmas? Do they attend any other
functions at the parish? Etc. You should not assume you know the correct
answers to the above. If you don't know, you may consider asking them.
If the person's vision of the Church is colored by a bad experience in
the past, consider ways to help them overcome their negative
Some may simply not want to believe. This may especially be the case
if they don't want to suffer consequences for sinful
Realize that some leave the Church because they reject authority or
are intolerant of authority. If that is the case, all the arguments in the world
concerning truth and dogma may be of no avail. Note that if
one has left the Church because they reject authority, their reason may
be hidden under many other "excuses".
Remember that attempts to help a non-Catholic convert will probably be
much different if the person was previously Catholic than if the person
has never been Catholic. If the person was previously a good
Catholic, there is probably a fair chance that the Church may still have
a "tug on their heart". It is believed that most people can't
totally leave behind the gifts of the Church - especially the Eucharist.
Perhaps those who have gone astray simply need some healing.
Don't fall into the trap that all "Christian" religions are
similar or are sufficient for salvation. Note that Protestants have
a very different religion than ours. Even though they may call
themselves Christian and use some Catholic terminology - or even make
use of some Catholic Sacraments (e.g. baptism), their faith is
completely different. They often reject authority, tradition, the Holy
Eucharist, sacraments, the saints, and various other dogmas of the
faith. They oppose the only true Church established by Christ. Remember
that Christ himself let persons leave him when they found the Eucharistic teaching
too hard to accept (see Jn. 6:66). Their false views can and do
manifest themselves in various ways of life, many of which can be
dangerous to salvation (e.g. not baptizing infants, allowing divorce,
permitting abortion/birth control, etc.). Keep in mind that the term
'Catholic' was used in the earliest years of the Church to distinguish us from heretics that called themselves Christians. Also note that it
has always been the teaching of the Church that Catholics refrain from participating
in any worship of non-Catholics, and this teaching is
confirmed in Scripture. [Note:
Also see "The
Importance of Being Catholic: Combating Religious Indifferentism"]
If you are a "cradle Catholic", you should especially
consider reading conversion stories. It may help you counteract the arguments
of others and help you to understand what those outside the Church think of
Catholics (and the Church). Not only that, but
such stories often may make you more grateful for the precious gift of
Be sure to find out why the person left the Church.
the reasons given by the other person may not be complete or may not be
the most important reasons for their leaving the Church. The real reason
or reasons may be unspoken, hidden, or not what they seem. It will be
most helpful in your efforts to bring them back if you are able to
discover the true reason or reasons they have left the Church.
Realize that some people may be so troubled by bad examples of other
Catholics that they might leave the Church. In such cases, it is
important to help them make a distinction between those who live by the
Church's teachings (and the fruits thereof - e.g. show them the lives of
the Saints) and those who do not follow Church teachings. Remember that
Judas was hand-picked by Jesus. Is it right to leave the only Church founded by Christ because it
contains some Judases? Isn't it unfair to
judge the Church by those who fail to live up to her teachings rather
than by those who actually do live up to her teachings? Is it the
Church's fault that others who don't practice their faith identify
themselves as Catholic?
Realize that some may have made their decisions without much thought.
may not realize the seriousness of their actions or the potential
consequence of their actions. They may not have thought things out or
may simply have misunderstood Church teachings (e.g. that Mass
attendance is required, that being Catholic is necessary for salvation,
etc.). Or, they may have been convinced by an influential person.
Obviously your approach would vary depending on the applicability of the
Don't overlook various "proven" ways to bring "lost sheep" back
into the fold (e.g. inviting them to church, sharing lives of the
saints, encouraging a hunger for the Holy Eucharist, etc.).
Consider reminding them of certain truths (e.g. martyrs died in
horrible agony to keep the faith they are throwing away, right now
others are oppressed and can't even learn of Christ, right now others
are suffering for being Catholic, no one can take their faith from them -
they can give it up, etc.)
Consider asking them 'hard to answer'/'thought provoking questions, as
appropriate [e.g. Why is it you want to give up the place reserved
for you in heaven?, Would you also take a precious gem and throw it
away?, If you abandon Christ or his Church, do you expect to find Him
there for you when you need Him?, Why is it that you abandon the good
God who has given you flesh, assigned you an angel, feeds you, gives you
air to breathe, saves you a place in heaven, listens to you all your
prayers?, What then is the purpose of your life?, Do you really expect
to be found 'invincibly ignorant' - you who have known the true Church since birth?, Why do you think Scripture says it
"would have been better for them not to have known the way of
righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy
commandment handed down to them" (2 Pt. 2:21), "Why are you determined to
lose your soul when Jesus Christ wishes to save you?" (St. Vincent
Ferrer), Do you not think you should love the Church that gave you life
and will be there for you at death - and even afterwards?, Why do you
devote greater care for your body that will eventually perish than for your soul
considering that when "the flesh, which [you] have
loved so much, begins to be devoured by worms in the grave, the soul is
presented to God by the angels in heaven" either to be
"crowned or cast into darkness"?, etc.]
Remember that we must expect persecution and bear it patiently.
"If they persecuted me, they will also
persecute you" (Jn. 5:20)
* Remember that all you can do is your best. We
can (and should) love others, pray for them, help them, and ask our
Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, to intercede for them. We must always
love God and our neighbor, pray, and keep practicing our own faith.