If you’ve been away from the Church for a while, how do you make a start coming back?
There are a thousand reasons why a person might be away from the church. Some never really felt engaged in the first place, many simply drift away, and then there are those who have made a considered decision to walk away. There are also those who come back to the church. And there are as many different reasons for returning as there are for leaving. So you can imagine that, in an article such as this one, it would be quite impossible to account for the experience of every individual.
Instead, I’d like to ‘zoom out’ and offer some more general thoughts that you might then calibrate to your own personal situation.
Why come back in the first place?
God wants what’s best for us and works in our lives to bring us closer to Himself. One of the greatest ways He does this is through the mediation of the Church. The Church is the mystical Body of Christ established by Jesus for our salvation. It’s a place where we can grow closer to the Father and receive all that we need to live the fullness of the Christian life.
Even though the Church is filled saints and sinners, the sincere churchgoer will never be deprived of the grace of the sacraments, the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, or the faith of the apostles handed down the centuries.
To come back to Church is about responding to God’s call to give you what’s best.
With a background on the importance of life in the Church, we can now look at some of the ways to make the journey back a fruitful experience.
- Repent and Believe – In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus begins his public ministry with the words “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” (1:14-15) Jesus was a subversive and challenging figure. He made it quite clear that being his follower would involve sacrifice. And often the first things to sacrifice are own sins. In preparation for a fruitful life within the Church there’s nothing more beautiful than receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation and unburdening ourselves of past sins. Google “Catholic Guide to Confession” or “Examination of Conscience” to prepare. Most importantly, don’t be afraid when incorporating this beautiful sacrament into your return to the Church.
- Go where you’re nourished – One of the main reasons people say they leave the Church is simply because they didn’t feel nourished. The Church is meant to be a place where our souls are fed spiritual food. When returning to the Church, take some time to find a church where you experience genuine spiritual nourishment. Where does the homily speak to you? Where does the music focus your prayer? Where can you learn more about the Catholic faith? Where does the community support you in your journey to heaven?
These are not superficial matters of taste. They are crucial checks that the Church is doing what God intends it to do in your life.
- Read up on the saints – One last thing you can do is draw from the example of the Church’s saints. Every Catholic should have a saint’s biography on their bedside table (or in their Kindle library!). Apart from their indispensable spiritual support from heaven, saints help inspire future saints through the power of their witness and writings. Having a few saints as your spiritual guides will provide much needed direction in your return to the Church. Start with a saint you can relate to and read up on his or her life.
May God provide you with all you need in for a joyful and lifelong return to the Catholic Church.