I had dinner recently with an old business associate. This man has been a friend of mine for thirty years and was “a good Catholic”. Our conversation eventually shifted to the Church and why he left. He then asked the almost inevitable question. Why? Why would anyone come back to a Church that has been plagued by scandal and poor leadership; to a Church ( in the broad sense) marked by liturgies that are “boring”, preaching that is uninspiring and a congregation that is aging and often crotchety?

CARA, (CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH IN THE APOSTOLATE) a Catholic “think tank”, tells us that the second largest religious denomination in the United States today is “ex Catholics”. Too many of our former pew-mates have drifted away from the Church for all kinds of reasons, some legitimate some not. On any given Sunday, “St. Pillow” has become the most popular Church in too many towns. A “leisurely breakfast” or “the game of the week” has replaced Sunday Mass in the weekly schedules of too many “Catholics.” 

That dinner discussion forced me to do a bit of soul searching. The honest truth is that lots of my family and friends have “left” the church. I wondered what I could offer to anyone to bring them back. Condemnation and criticizing is certainly not the answer.

One of the possible answers came to me a day later. I had the joy of spending some quality time with my young granddaughters. These precious young ladies were a total joy to be with. They were totally at ease and at the same time totally dependent. The total dependency and devotion that my granddaughters and I shared that afternoon provided a wonderful analogy for our relationship with our God.

Each of us has an open invitation to rest comfortably in the arms of our God; a God that will nourish and protect us; a God who offered the life of His only Son to save us.

It is an awareness of this relationship that can bring people back to our Church. While the preaching, the music and the overall sense of welcome are important factors… we have to begin with a relationship! The Catholic Church offers us that opportunity for a deepening relationship with an all loving God who will nurture and care for us. We can snuggle into His love and warmth and let go of many of our cares and fears.

We cannot promise our friends who sleep late on Sunday morning that if they come back the music will always be great or that the preaching will always be engrossing but we can promise that if they join us at the Table of the Lord they will be able to deepen their relationship with Christ. They will be bathed in the warmth and love of God. They will be able to “sleep like a baby’. In the next week or two share this invitation and promise with your sleepy friends and family.