There’s an old saying that goes, “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.” Maybe you have been away from the Church for a little while or for quite some time, but now you feel a tug at your heart calling you back to the Catholic Church. Listen to that tug. It’s your Heavenly Father reaching out to welcome back the child he loves, the Holy Spirit whispering in your ear, hoping to draw you home.
Regardless of why you left or got out of the habit of going to Mass, you can always come home and return to the practice of the sacraments and the fullness of relationship with Jesus Christ and the Church he founded. Here in the Catholic Church you will find Jesus’ victory over sin and death – for you. Freedom from fear and the gift of God’s love and forgiveness. Hope in a world of confusion and turmoil. A way of life that gives direction and purpose. The guiding light of scripture and tradition. A real and sure encounter with the Lord in the sacraments, and a visible community of faith united in their one common call to know and follow Jesus.
Everyone’s journey is different, everyone has their own story to tell. Below are a few suggestions as to how you might make your journey home. Please decide for yourself what path you will take, and know that we’re here to help.
It sounds simple, but it’s often not. The first step on your journey home might be to simply offer a prayer to God, asking him to give you his strength and courage for the journey. You can of course pray in your own words, but if it it’s useful here’s a prayer you might say:
I want to know your love, forgiveness and guidance in my life
and come to that place where you dwell.
Inspire me by your Holy Spirit
and give me the strength and the courage
to follow your promptings,
that I might come again into the Church
which is your home on earth.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen
If you’ve been away for a long time, particularly if you left before you received the sacrament of Confirmation, you may find that there are things about the faith you want to know or need help to understand. This is very normal. There are several ways we might be able to help:
- A meeting or two with one of the clergy or a catechist to talk through your questions.
- Joining the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). RCIA is aimed at helping those wanting to convert to understand and live the faith, but is also useful to many Catholics as it seeks to cover the faith in its entirety over a series of group meetings. If you haven’t yet been Confirmed this would be a good route to take, with the hope of then being Confirmed alongside those converting at the Easter Vigil.
Talking about past hurt
Sometimes life is complicated. Perhaps in the past something in the church has caused you pain, or you have a difficulty in your own life. You could be hurting, angry at the church, or angry at God. As part of your journey home you might want to talk about your pain and struggles, and if you do we’re here with a listening ear.
Come to Mass
One of the most common ways people come back to Church is to begin, sometimes tentatively, attending Mass again. This can be a strange experience, especially if you have been away for a while. On one level you might find a comfort in a certain sense of familiarity. On another level, especially if you have been away for a while, you may find that the words and prayers of the Mass have changed a little and seem strange to you. Here are a few bits of advice that you might find useful:
- Don’t worry about not knowing what to do – just follow along with everyone else as best you can and you’ll be fine.
- If you don’t want to come up for Holy Communion, or you haven’t been to Confession in a while, then that’s fine. Cross you hands over your chest to indicate you want a blessing, or you’re free to simply stay in your seat.
- You’ll probably be less nervous if you’re a little early for Mass, that way you can pick where you’re going to sit more easily.
- If you are nervous, perhaps ask someone to come with you for moral support.
Confession is an essential part of your journey home, but also the part that most people look forward to the least. It’s important for one reason, because in Confession Jesus Christ is waiting to give you his mercy, to free you, and help you in your life. In Confession your relationship with God welcomes you back to himself and his church. It restores grace, and helps us to grow stronger, happier and freer in ourselves and our faith. It is there to bring us closer into relationship with God and each other. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since your last confession, our priests are here to help.
- Before you go to confession have a think about what it is you want God to forgive you for. A good way to do this is to think about life in terms of relationships – is there anything I have done that has damaged my relationship with God? or with other people? or is there anything I have done that has caused me damage that I want forgiveness for?
- When you go to confession tell the priest you have been away and for how long.
- Don’t worry about what to say when, the priest will guide you through.
- Listen to the words of forgiveness the priest speaks on behalf of Jesus – they are for you.
Once you’ve made that important step to go to confession you are 100% back and should begin to receive Holy Communion once more. In Holy Communion Jesus enters into our lives in both a physical and spiritual way, drawing us into an intimate relationship with him and sharing with us his own Divine life. It quite literally is the food from heaven, and is a foretaste of eternal life.