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CBB Review: The Prodigal You Love: Inviting Loved Ones Back to the Church

CBB Review: The Prodigal You Love: Inviting Loved Ones Back to the Church February 11, 2015

the_prodigal_you_loveFormer atheist, convert to Catholicism, and now nun, Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble uses her own story as the backdrop to teach us how to welcome others back to the faith. In her new book The Prodigal You Love: Inviting Loved Ones Back to the Church, she counsels reader on the do’s and don’ts of trying to bring those close to us back to the faith. What she accomplishes is a mission manual for evangelizing the dechristianised of our own family and friends.

Taking her own words you can almost hear the same things being said by hundreds of others struggling with the same questions. “I felt as if I would go crazy. Anyone would have said my life was perfect. Yet, I experienced an emptiness that nothing around me could fill. Why was I so unhappy? Why was this pain that seemed to rip me apart from the inside out? What was this terrible emptiness?”  This is where we come in. But, and this is a big one, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about doing this. Thankfully, Sister takes us by the hand and makes sure we don’t mess this up.

Most importantly, and brought up early in the book, we must be humble. When evangelizing those away from the church we must be compassionate towards them and have an understanding of their personal situation. Evangelizing is not about forcing our beliefs on anyone. We are not involved in a grand game to accumulate a head count of how many souls we have saved. Standing on your soap box and proclaiming the faith to someone either on the fence or not interested at all will do one thing…push then further away. For this reason Sister Therese spends an entire chapter on the topic of humility.

We must also check our emotions in this quest to bring back our loved ones to the Church. We must be careful that we do not allow frustration to set in. Prayer is a major component of bringing our loved back to the faith and sometimes this can get frustrating. Some may expect the return of their loved to be foremost on God’s to-do list and when this does not immediately happen, we may take this the wrong way. “Sometimes, when our loved ones make bad choices, we resort to unhealthy behaviors. On the one hand, when a situation seems hopeless and causes us too much distress, we may retreat into indifference. “It is your life,” we say, throwing up our hands in surrender. We may cease praying for that person. Our loved ones’ loss of faith can drive us to feelings of sadness and doubt. Temptations to abandon faith can surface in our loneliness and anguish. However, giving up our own practice of the faith, while temporarily distracting us from our feelings, ultimately leads to a greater despair and will only make it more likely that our loved ones will not return to the Church.”

We must be especially careful of nagging, acting aggressively, or shutting them out of our lives to force a change. None of these approaches will work either. Love is what we need to show. Compassion is what we need to display. A faithful example is what we need to portray. Prayer is what we need to rely on. Like the prodigal son who finally returns to the father we can be assured that in due time, with the help of the Holy Spirit our own prodigals will return to us and the faith we abandoned. We must never give up that hope that one day it will happen.

Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble has given us a great gift. Her new book provides us with a field guide on how to approach family and friends who seem the furthest away from the faith. In addition to the twelve chapters each based upon a theme such as The Foundation of Humility, Listening to the Holy Spirit, Respecting Free Will, and Prayer is Key, there are a number of prayers in the back of the book to aid us in our mission. I will close this review with an excerpt from the Epilogue.

“In order to gaze upon our loved ones like Jesus, we have to reorient our lives with Christ at the center, live under the transforming gaze of the Father, and participate in the humble, self-emptying dynamic of the Holy Spirit. But, if we are honest with ourselves, most days our gaze is inward, wrapped in our thoughts, our interests, and our wants. Or, if our gaze is outward, it is too frequently judgmental, unforgiving, and lacking in the charity of the Father…..A life of continual transformation allows us to become more and more like Jesus, who desires to inhabit our lives to such an extent that when we look upon our loved ones, we look upon them with the eyes of Jesus……As we continue to strive to look upon our loved ones with God’s tender gaze of transforming love, let us live under the gaze of the Father, fix our eyes upon Jesus, and be guided in love by the Holy Spirit.”

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