I love the occasions when I open my inbox and find an email from a sweet reader. These correspondences with you all are what I love most as a blogger. Every month I’ll be opening up my inbox to share questions I’ve received and my responses. However, I want this to be a place to dialogue about these issues. I know many of you have life experiences and wise advice that would help my readers too, so please don’t forget to comment!
This post’s question is about breaking the news of your conversion to your family. Whether your family is anti-Catholic or more neutral in nature, this is something to deal with delicately and intentionally. I’ve received this particular question from several readers. Here it is in a nutshell.
“I’m in the process of converting to Catholicism, which I am really excited about! However, I don’t know how to break the news to my family. My parents in particular are antagonistic toward Catholicism. Help! I’m afraid to break the news!”
My Humble Response:
First off, praise God that He has led you through the winding roads of life to a home in the Catholic Church! This is such a gift and such a grace! The passage we say at Mass every week ‘Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb’ comes to mind. It truly is a gift, friend!
As to your question, I wish I had a clear cut answer. I wish I could say, “Tell them ‘such and such a way’ and everything will work out perfectly. They will be absolutely tickled pink!” However, you and I both know that there are particular people who will receive such news as heart-breaking regardless of how we convey our personal plan of conversion.
In light of this, we must grasp two crucial concepts as we “break” the news of our Catholic conversions:
1. “And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” Mark 10:28-29
I’ve clung to this promise many times when the going has gotten tough with my family. My hope is not in their opinions of me or my faith, rather, it is in the Lord Jesus Christ. He promises great things to those who are willing to follow him at all costs.
I have a deep, deep love of my amazing family (seriously, nobody could ask for a better family than mine), and it was so hard for me to know how to tell them I was converting to Catholicism. I pray every day that we could once more be united in faith.
2. And from 1 Peter 3: 15-16: “But in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.”
I share this verse with you not to encourage you to prepare a defense (although there is a time for apologetics and well-laid arguments, now is not that time), but rather to give the news of your conversion with gentleness, reverence, and in a manner that keeps your conscience clear. Be upfront with your family and give them the news in a way that you would like to receive similar news.
So in light of these two scripture verses, how can we break the news?
Tips for Breaking the News of your Conversion
1. Be up front.
I think this was THE big mistake I made with my family. I’m a private person by nature (why do I blog for the whole world to see?….beats me!), and I kept my conversion a secret until the 11th hour. I knew exactly what my family would think of my conversion, and I wanted to avoid the consequences of my choice at all costs even though I knew what the Lord was calling me to do. They mean the world to me and I hated the rift I knew it would cause in our relationship.
News of my conversion came out accidentally in conversation and I was totally unprepared to share my news with them. They assumed it was just to unite our marriage (which was really a result not a cause of my conversion), and they didn’t grasp that I had really taken hold of the Truths of the Catholic faith and made them my own.
Not being up front has meant that the painful process of helping my family understand my new Catholic faith and its affects on my life has been a long and drawn out (and sometimes painful) process. Mainly, I should have been upfront about Sunday Mass obligation and how we would be attending Mass when we visited instead of only attending their Protestant service. While we try to attend church with them as well, it doesn’t always work out, and this has caused some very hurt feelings. They don’t realize that we choose to go to Mass because we truly believe we meet and receive Jesus in the Eucharist – something I could have explained from the outset. Instead, they see it as an attack on their own faith beliefs and also our relational ties. It also makes it hard for me to let my little boy who is old enough to receive Holy Communion go and have long visits. How do I get them to take him to Mass on the weekends?
2. Don’t run away.
While I love my family dearly, I tend to run away from trouble. Sometimes this means I am tempted to visit my family less because of the friction I know will arise on Sunday morning. I know that I need to lean into this cross and live my life as normal, even though sometimes moments of our visits can be painful. I have gotten better about this, but we tend to avoid being there on Sunday mornings if we can.
3. Pray, pray, and pray.
While it may sound trite, prayer is always, always, always the answer. I am constantly praying for the softening of my family members’ hearts toward the Catholic faith. I even pray audaciously that the Holy Spirit would bring about their conversion to the fullness of the faith. How could I not want what I have found for my loved ones? There is so much misunderstanding and long held misconceptions and prejudices that we must pray fervently for the Holy Spirit to work in these tough situations.
My advice is to lean on the Lord, pray about the conversation and for the hearts of your family and friends, and then to be gentle and loving in the way you tell them.
Alright, sweet readers! I know MANY of you have tread this path before. What words of wisdom can you share with those who need to “break the news” of their conversion to their family and friends?
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