Science of Sainthood
The Powerful Battle Plan to Bring Loved Ones Back to the Church
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The Powerful Battle Plan to Bring Loved Ones Back to the Church

blog prayer sacrifice science of sainthood Sep 07, 2023

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I’d bet my bottom dollar that you have a loved one or know people who have left the faith. Maybe it’s a spouse, children, friends, or whomever.

It’s heartbreaking.

They walk away from the very source of eternal life and we’re beside ourselves as to what to do.


And the typical reaction is often to nag, cajole, and strategically place evangelistic books on the coffee table in a desperate effort to light a spark in the heart of the wayward.

It rarely works.

So what do we do? How do we get them back? How do we get them to desire divine life and return wholeheartedly to the sacraments?

First of all, we have to acknowledge that there’s no “silver bullet.” Every person has a free will. They can choose to simply reject God and ultimately we can’t control that.

Not only that, but everything…and I mean everything is a matter of grace. Repentance and salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit. And this is something we need to keep in mind as we labor for the salvation of others.

Ultimately, it’s God’s work.

That said, as members of the Body of Christ, we have a definite, even powerful role.

In fact, I would propose that we possess a spiritual battle plan that has the ability to break through the defenses of even the most obstinate prodigal.

It’s not easy, but it’s incredibly effective.

So if you’re serious about unleashing the powerful mercy of God in your loved one’s lives, here’s a step-by-step master plan:

  1. Look in the Mirror

In other words, do a self-assessment and see whether or not any of your behavior is turning the other person away.

At its core, this means making sure that you are personally growing in holiness.

It means focusing on real spiritual growth that will help you to quell your anger, relieve your anxiety (which leads to the nagging and impatience), and fill you with merciful love.


Yes, it takes a fair bit of humility to realize that we might be part of the problem. But since humility is the taproot of all virtue, it’s an absolute necessity to exercise it and take a hard look at ourselves.


And the primary way to achieve humility and holiness is number 2.

  1. Pray

Millions of parents and spouses have begged St. Monica to intercede for their lost children and loved ones.


And certainly she is a powerful, powerful ally. Don’t ever stop those novenas.


But don’t forget that in order to evangelize, we must first be evangelized. We have to first focus upon ourselves and ensure that our personal relationship with the Lord is growing and maturing.


That happens primarily through prayer, particularly authentic Catholic meditation.


(If you’re looking for a basic primer on prayer that goes over vocal, meditative and contemplative prayer, you can check out my book Prayer Works at ScienceOfSainthood.com.)

But prayer is huge.

If we’re going to be a reservoir of love to others, we must first tap into the living waters of Christ’s love and draw it out for ourselves. That happens through prayer.

If you don’t have a real life of prayer you will never grow in holiness. Prayer brings us more into contact with God and allows him to move more powerfully through us.

Prayer helps us to crush our self-centered attitude and begin to put the other person first. We die to our own desires and shower others with Christ-like love.


And this is a huge point. 


People don’t come into, or return to the Church because they were beaten into submission through apologetic arguments, drug by the arm, or nagged to death.

They come back because of love. They come back through relationship.

I’m not sure I would have ever become Catholic had it not been for the one Catholic family I knew leading me by the hand and getting me into RCIA.

And it was the patient care of my local RCIA sponsor Mike that helped me get over all the final hurdles that remained in the last few months before I was received into the Church. He was, and is, the truest of friends.

I could read all kinds of books. I could come to all kinds of theological conclusions, but I’m still a human.

My point is that you simply can’t separate humanity out of the process. Our relationship with those people who are considering (or reconsidering) the Church is pivotal.

But we have to realize that we can’t offer a truly loving relationship without a deeply personal relationship with Love Himself. In other words, if we’re going to love others into relationship with the Lord, we have to already have that love, that relationship with him.

Well prayer is that relationship.

And a deep, prayerful relationship with God takes us to another level. It fuels our ascent to God.

In fact, it’s supposed to literally make us like the One we love.

“Prayer restores man to God’s likeness and enables him to share in the power of God’s love,” says the Catechism (no. 2572). And that’s pretty much the whole goal of the spiritual life.

But here’s where things get difficult.


If the goal of the Christian life is to become like Christ and extend his love to the rest of the world as part of his Mystical Body, what does that actually look like?

Does it only consist in asking and petitioning for those living in darkness or is there more to it?

Yes, there’s more. A lot more.

And you can sum it up in one word…

  1. Sacrifice

In fact, as we’re going to see, it’s sacrifice that puts your prayer life on steroids.

Even so, it’s a term that makes us squirm, myself included. But if you are serious about reclaiming lost souls, sacrifice is a key.

What do I mean by that? What do I mean by “sacrifice”? Basically I’m talking about offering up our bodies in penance for others.

And I know…the squirming just became shuddering. But hang with me.

Now why is offering our bodies in penitential sacrifice for others so powerful?


Basically it’s because when you offer yourself up in sacrifice you’re doing exactly what Christ did on the Cross. And not only are you imitating him, you’re wielding his very power because you’re united to him through the sacraments.

You’re making a gift of yourself for the salvation of others.

Remember, we are a union of body of soul. We’re not simply spiritual beings. That means that if we’re going to truly make a gift of our full selves, our body must necessarily be involved.

Certainly there is a kind of spiritual, interior suffering we can undergo without visible bodily suffering, but I’m talking about voluntary bodily penance done out of love for the other.

It’s an act of love.

Ultimately, that’s what penance is…an act of love.

As the great Jesuit Fr. John Hardon said, “We love only to the degree that we are willing to suffer.”


And again, Christ is the perfect example.

He was beaten, bloodied, and crucified for us. His exterior suffering was a manifestation of his interior sacrificial love. He gave it all up – body and spirit – for us.

And we are called to do the same thing.


We’re called to offer up our whole selves – body and soul – in sacrificial love.

And it’s extremely powerful not because of us, but because we’re wielding the power of Christ. Joined to him through the sacraments, we’re tapping into the saving power of the Cross, the ultimate source of sacrificial, saving love.

And realize that I’m not saying we have to go all “Rambo” on ourselves.

Even small penances – turning down the hot water in the shower for a minute and saying a Hail Mary, not having that second cup of coffee, eating all the cauliflower on your plate – can be incredibly powerful.

Why?

Because they are sacrifices driven by love for neighbor that unleash the powerful mercy of Christ. As members of his mystical Body, we’re wielding the power of his crucified and risen Body.

Of course, not only will this sacrificial love help others to conversion, it will lead to our salvation, as well.

As Christ told St. Catherine of Siena, “Those who are willing to lose their own consolation for their neighbors’ welfare receive and gain me and their neighbors…and so they enjoy the graciousness of my charity at all times.”

So there you go: Look in the mirror, pray, and sacrifice. It’s a serious battle plan that paves the way for the Holy Spirit to powerfully penetrate the hearts of our lost loved ones and move us closer to Christ, as well.

And one final note… don’t get frustrated if things don’t happen right away. Conversion normally takes time. Everyone has different wounds and issues that take time.

But as you’re waiting, never forget that the Lord loves your loved ones even more than you do and is always showering them with powerful graces to draw them close.

God bless you!

Matthew

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