How to convince others to go to church regularly

MATTHEW PINTO

How can I convince family and friends who go to church just on holidays or once a month that they need to go regularly?

The short answer, in most cases, is: prayer, the witness of your life, and, when appropriate, some carefully chosen words about the need to honor the One who has given us everything. Let's consider these three ways individually:

First, prayer. All actions should be accompanied by prayer. A person who goes to Mass just once or twice a year is either insufficiently catechized (ignorant of the need to go to Mass) or simply lazy. It's highly unlikely, for example, that work situations would create such a woeful attendance record. I'm also assuming, of course, that the person is not suffering from a serious illness or physical disability that would legitimately prevent his or her attendance. Regardless of the reasons they give for not going to Mass, prayer is needed. All our spiritual acts -- including witnessing to the truth — need to be accompanied by prayer or they run the risk of being mere human acts and devoid of much — needed graces.

Second, the witness of your life. If you attend Mass regularly, yet treat your family poorly and act hypocritically, your witness will be very weak. If you are hoping they will more consistently go to church, you should be sure to "walk the walk" -- meaning that you should live the faith to the best of your ability. You should live a virtuous life. You will show the person to whom you are witnessing that the practice of your faith does, in fact, make a difference in how you live your life. Otherwise, the person may conclude that the faith has nice rituals but little power to actually change hearts and behavior.

Lastly, speak up. Because many people are unaware of Church teaching or simply succumb to bad habits, they often simply need to be told what's right. However, in this age of radical sensitivity in which everyone gets offended so easily, we need to be careful. Once you decide to speak up, do so with charity, patience, and love. It's important that you don't merely view the person as an "evangelization project" but that you truly love them as a person with dignity. Share with them how a personal encounter with the risen Christ has impacted your life. Personal stories are very effective.

It's also important to keep the lines of communication open. If you find that the relationship is very strained, you may need to have someone else step in to take your place. Also, if the relationship is strained, it is sometimes better to give the person a tape or an article on the topic. Let the book or tape do your reasoning for you.

If, however, your relationship with the person is good and you think that he or she would be open to receiving your comments, here is some of the reasoning you might want to use:

  1. Explain that "going to Church" is not merely about participating in rituals: it is participating in a relationship. Weekly visits to God -- in the context of a community -- show Him that He is important enough in your life that you actually visit Him according to the schedule and structure He has laid out. I believe He asks us to go to Mass one day per week for our own sanity and "grounding," and to have fellowship with the Christian community. In order for us to have a relationship with a person, we need to be in their presence. Weekly Mass gives us this opportunity. As well, weekly Mass allows us to hear God's word and reflections from someone ordained to teach and sanctify (i.e., "make holy) in God's name. Most importantly, we participate in perhaps the greatest of human actions -- the reception of God himself, Jesus, in the most blessed of the seven sacraments, the Eucharist. The Eucharist is supernatural "soul food" for our earthly life. In short, we grow spiritually intellectually and even psychologically when we honor the Sabbath by going to Mass.

  2. Tell them that participating in Sunday Mass is how Christians are to fulfill the third commandment, "Remember to keep holy the Lord's Day." The Catholic Church changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday in commemoration of Christ's resurrection. Established by Christ, the Catholic Church had the authority to do this. This same authority reinforces the mandate of God to keep the Sabbath holy. By making "religion in our own image and likeness" (and therefore going to Mass whenever we feel like it), we are not only rebelling against the Church, but also God.

 


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Matthew Pinto "How to convince others to go to church regularly." Apologetics: "Question of the Week" Ascension Press.

Reprinted with permission of Matthew Pinto and Ascension Press.

THE AUTHOR

Matthew Pinto is a co-founder of CatholicExchange.com, a premiere Internet portal for Catholics. He is also a co-founder and former president of Envoy Magazine, which received the 1st Place award for General Interest Catholic magazines in 1998 and 1999 from the Catholic Press Association. The co-author of Amazing Grace for Those Who Suffer (Ascension Press, 2002) and Did Adam and Eve have Belly Buttons? and 199 other questions from Catholic Teenagers (Ascension Press, 1998) and creator and co-author of the Friendly Defenders Catholic Flash Cards, Matt is a well-known speaker whose work has focused primarily on youth and young adults.

Copyright © 2003 Ascension Press




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