No matter how long you have been away from the Catholic Church, you can always come home. You can start going to Mass again (find a parish) and become a part of a parish community that is ready to welcome you with open arms. God is inviting you to dive into your faith in a deeper way than you ever have before.
You may already be feeling a strange inner pull to look into the Church again. That spiritual longing you feel is God drawing you back to Himself. God never forces; He only invites. He leaves the decision to return to the Catholic Church up to you.
There are numerous reasons for coming back to the Church. Though Christ is at the heart of the many reasons to come home to the Church, each individual’s experience in returning can be unique, depending upon whatever speaks to his or her heart.
Here are ten reasons (by Lorene Hanley Duqin of Our Sunday Visitor: http://www.osv.com and edited by Catholics Come Home) that influenced the decision of many of us to return to the practice of the Catholic faith:
In the hustle of today's busy lifestyles, many of us suddenly realize that our lives have lost a sense of meaning or purpose. We begin to ask ourselves, “What is my life all about? Why do I do what I do?” There is widespread confusion in our culture with regard to morality and truth. The Catholic Church offers a beacon of light that gives meaning to our existence and leads to eternal life if we persevere.
Some people say childhood memories of feeling connected to God surface in later life. We begin to ask ourselves, “Is it possible to recapture that simplicity of faith? Can I ever really believe that God is watching out for me?” The secularization of our society leads people away from the spiritual side of themselves. The Catholic Church offers BOTH religious and mystical experiences that feed the heart, the mind, the body and the soul AS WELL AS an array of active lay ministries that interface and interact with the secular world in order to make it a holier world to live in.
Some of us become burdened with the weight of accumulated sin. We want to get rid of the guilt of having hurt others. We begin to ask ourselves, “Will God ever forgive me? Is there any way I can start over with a clean slate?” You can always tell God that you're sorry, but through the Sacrament of Reconciliation you have a complete assurance of God's forgiveness. In addition, you are reconciled not only with God but with all the members in the Church, the Body of Christ (CCC 1440) and given the grace to start again with that new slate.
Sometimes we hold on to anger and resentment toward individuals who have hurt us deeply. Maybe it was a family member or friend. Perhaps it was someone, (a sister or a priest), or something in the Church. “Will God ever forgive me?” Our modern culture condones and encourages anger and revenge. But hatred and bitterness are spiritual cancers that eat at the heart of a person. The Catholic Church provides the opportunity to seek God's help in forgiving others, even when the other person does not ask for forgiveness or does not deserve it. The ability to forgive is a gift that opens a person's heart more fully to God's love and peace.
Some of us carry deep spiritual wounds. We struggle with anger at God over bad things that happen–a terminal illness, a debilitating injury, a broken relationship, mental or emotional problems, an act of violence against an innocent person, an unexplainable accident, some natural disaster, the death of a loved one or some other deep disappointment. The Catholic Church cannot change these situations or explain why they happened. But there are people in the Church who can assist in the process of spiritual healing and help you get on with your life.
Many of us who leave the Catholic Church are blessed by the experience of worshiping for awhile in various Christian denominations. But some people come back when they realize that Catholicism has the fullness of truth and grace. The Catholic Church was not founded by a single reformer or historical movement. It is not fragmented by individual interpretations of Scripture. There are thousands of Christian denominations, but only one Catholic Church. This Church has been guided by the Holy Spirit and protected from teaching error on issues of faith and morals from generation to generation for some two thousand years, as Our Lord Jesus promised: (foretold Isaiah 22:15-25) Matt 16:13-20; Matthew 18:15-18 (in this verse the word is church, not community); 1 Tim 3:15.
Some of us return to the Catholic Church because we recognize that raising children in a culture that promotes "doing your own thing" can lead to disaster. Children need to experience the spiritual dimensions of life. They need a structured system of belief and a firm moral foundation that goes beyond human logic and reasoning. We return because we want a solid foundation upon which our children can build their lives.
Many of us seek a sense of belonging. But community is more than just friendly people, good sermons and interesting activities. A Catholic Christian community is a group of people who gather around the person of Jesus Christ to worship God and live in the light of the Holy Spirit. Catholics come together at Mass, in the Sacraments and in parish activities to pray, to celebrate joys, to mourn losses, to serve others, to provide support and to receive strength for daily life. A Catholic parish offers all of this - and much more - to people who recognize the importance of walking with others toward union with God.
There are lots of opportunities within the secular world to volunteer. What's missing is the spiritual dimension that service within the Catholic Church provides. It's more than just a "feel good" activity. It's part of the "great commandment" (See Mark 12:28) to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. In reaching out to others, Catholic volunteers become instruments of God's love. The Catholic Church offers opportunities to touch the lives of people at home or around the world.
Many people come back to the Catholic Church because they feel an intense longing for the Eucharist. Sometimes it happens at a wedding, a funeral, a baptism, a First Communion or a Confirmation. Sometimes it happens when people are alone or facing difficulties in life. They describe it as a deep hunger for the spiritual nourishment that comes when they receive the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. This hunger for the Eucharist triggers a recognition of the presence of Christ in other sacraments, which draws them even more deeply into the practice of their faith. It is, without exception, the number one reason that people come back to the Catholic Church.
Most people discover that coming back to the Church is not an event as much as it is a process that involves a little pain, a little laughter, some thinking, some prayer, some discernment and a lot of letting go. “My actual return to full participation in a parish took about three years after I felt the first longing,” one person admitted.
And what do we get in return? The Catholic Church offers union with Jesus Christ:
It offers spiritual support in good times and bad. It offers divine wisdom which is thousands of years old from people just like YOU who lived in each and every century throughout Christian history: 33AD, 100AD, 800AD, 1000AD, 1300AD, 1964AD and 2005AD. It offers meaning and purpose in this life and the promise of eternal life with Him after death for those who persevere to the end.
You'll know you are home when you begin to feel a deep sense of peace.
My personal side note: For those (families, husbands, wives, etc.) who have left the Church OR non-Catholic Christians who have ruled out becoming a Catholic due to the recent problems in our Church, I want to share the following.
We do have problems, but using the crisis in the Church as an excuse for not being a practicing Cat
holic or, for non-Catholic Christians, not becoming a Catholic, is no excuse. We are and will always be a Church of saints and sinners. Through the Eucharist, where we REALLY partake in Divine Nature, Our Lord molds us in maturity and, if needed, pulls the grudges we have been holding in our hearts for years from our soul. We have to work with Him in prayer though, not run away.
Let's hope and pray that over the next few years the divinely appointed leaders of our Church will take a serious look [accompanied by serious actions] at the spiritual life and environment of Catholic seminaries in the United States, from assessing and evaluating rectors, seminary professors, vocational directors and sisters who are employed there.
Though the mass media tends to paint the problems in our Church with a broad brush and never in a positive light, remember, there are many holy priests who carry out their vocation in silence and ARE truly holy witnesses of Jesus. (These are the priests you'll NEVER see on the 6 P.M. evening news.) Just as Jesus was rejected by the world, so will the Church He founded and true followers of that Church be rejected.
Within the past seven years, a study on sexual abuse within churches was done based on an incident/church population.
Guess which Church had the lowest incident of sexual abuse? You guessed it: The Catholic Church.