What Should I Do When My Children End Up Leaving The Faith?

I recall some couples leaving the faith recently and they had some reasons. Yes, after all the hard work they put through schooling them at home. Then after all the toil and trouble of spoon feeding them scripture, rosaries and all the Jesus movies you can get your hands on, some of the kids ended up atheist and doing whatever they felt like anyway.

The parents began to suffer from what is known as “Mommy loves child more than God syndrome” and left the faith to follow in their atheist teenagers footsteps. Our former Irish president ended up that way also. She was quite the Catholic conservative type before she found out her son was gay, but now she’s on a mission to attack the churches teaching on homosexuality. Her love for her son, was greater than the Lord and his Church. It happens all the time and I call it “Mommy loves child more than God syndrome”.

Others did the opposite and disowned their children for leaving the faith and refused to offer any financial aid. One Monk told me of a very Catholic lady who raised her kids to be very Orthodox in their faith, but the young woman ended up marrying a Muslim.

I myself was raised to be Catholic and I drifted away in my teens and did whatever I liked. However it must be noted that I received little to no education on the faith at all except for being taken to Mass one a week so what did you expect, right? But here I am and I guess you could say it’s never to late to bloom. Religious studies class was keep your head down time and go for a nap, or the teacher let us do our homework. Later on that teacher would become a convicted pedophile a few years after I left for abusing pupils in the school.

I digressed a little there. Where was I? Oh, yes, that’s right, stubborn teenagers and their rebellious ways. Ah, that special moment when they finally grow a free will and are able to make adult choices and ask themselves questions about who they are, where they are and why they are.

In the ancient world going back to the time of Pharaoh you were considered a man at the age of 14. At the age of 19 you were looked upon as an old and mature man in his prime. While such biological and psychological understanding of the development of a person have changed today, the actual biology and the way God looks at you has not.

In Gods eyes around that age, you’re a man. Today it’s readily accepted you’re a young man at 18, a man at 21 and a fully grown man at 30. I heard a teacher joke with her students saying, “You’re all left wing and liberal now in your teens and 20s but once you hit 30 you’ll be right wing and conservative”.

And that’s the way it goes in modern society although I do worry about the level of maturity of those in their 30’s sometimes. I think as time progresses and society regresses, the age of maturity will increase to 40 years old by the time 2050 hits us.

With this newfound teenage manhood comes along what modern man calls the rebellious teenager. However this rebellion in Gods eyes is a manifestation of a cry for independence. There is this natural need to move away from the obedience to ones own parents and be self sufficient. There is a preference to make ones own choices and stand on on ones own two feet.

This need for self autonomy expresses itself in rebellion mixed with immature intelligence, for often the young teenager hasn’t quite reached the spiritual maturity necessary yet to make all the right choices. If he lacks the Grace of God, his decision making process will be very deluded in nature. The way society is governed today compared to 10,000 years ago means that young teens today are not as adult and mature as those teenagers of long ago. Teens of long ago were not raised in the childish way in which they’re raised today.

This means that by the time they got to the age of 13 or 14 they were ready for life’s challenges that faces an adult today when he finishes college in his mid to late 20s. It’s necessary to understand this in order to make sense of why your young teen is so rebellious. Yes, there’s that element of their sinful nature getting in the way, but also mingled with the way in which God made them.

In the end, when a teen decides for himself that Mass is not something he wants to do or religion at all, it’s up to you as parent to decide. Do I allow him sit at home while we go to Church? Do I force him to join in on praying the rosary? I know some parents who will drag their teenagers to Church and force them to participate. I don’t do that not even from the time they were little except of course for taking them to Church. They’re going whether they like it or not, can’t exactly leave a 5 year old at home all by himself now can I?

Whenever my son says he doesn’t feel like praying, I leave him be and I continue the prayer. I may approach him another time and he’ll say he’s not up to it so again, I leave him be and I pray. Then all of a sudden he comes over and begins to pray of his own accord and that’s the kind of heart the Lord wants, a heart that is willing. In fact, his prayer is more powerful this way because it comes from his own desire and not out of a sense of duty or that he must.

St.Paul says we must not drive our children to resentment. We should never force them to participate all the time and at times respecting their free choice to say no. By showing them this kind of respect grace will be at work in them and it helps them receive you with more love.

If your child grows tired of religion and decides he’s going to go out and walk around the globe and do some spiritual shopping. . . let him go. After all your efforts to talk it over with him . . . let him go. If he wants to marry a Muslim . . . let him go. If he wants to be part of some cult where the local school janitor thinks he’s Jesus, have a talk with him, but if he’s still adamant? Let him go. And then when he comes back and is sick of it all, welcome him with open arms and invite him back to the faith at his own pace. Leave lots of good spiritual books and movies lying around the house and let God do his work.

That’s what happened with the Prodigal son. He demanded his share now and without complaint the father gave it to him and off he went to enjoy himself and make some major life decisions. When things didn’t go so well for him, and he got sick of all the sex, drugs and Rock’n roll, he decided he’d make the arduous journey back to his Dad who welcomed him with open arms.

This is how I apply it. If my son comes to me and tires of religion and demands his share of freedom, I’ll debate all the issues and answer all the questions he puts before me. But if he’s still adamant he’s right and I’m wrong, I’ll leave him be and respect his choices. And then, like St.Monica with her son St.Augustine, I pray for him and I wait even if waiting means I die and nothing with him ever changes. What I won’t do is make matters worse by not welcoming him back, disowning him or forcing him to participate. Then he will resent me and not only me but the religious tradition he was born into.

Another problem many Catholic parents have is that they think that by simply educating their children this is sufficient. What you have to understand is that reading them all the intellectual books out there, while it’s not a bad thing, is not the only way of bringing them up in the faith. Simply knowing the art of how to make fire isn’t enough if you don’t make fire with it. The fire is the Love of God and neighbour. Take them out and have them give out food to the poor and have them love the homeless man. Have them do good deeds for others.

Teach them to Love God and not to simply fall in love with some text in a Catechism book. Instead of the legalist do’s and don’ts, teach them to pray from the heart and be comfortable in Gods presence. Try to help them develop a relationship with God away from all these canons. A priest once told me at the door of his Church that he was having problems with the more stiff necked of his parish folk. He said, “We had a parish get together party in the sacristy behind the tabernacle. Nothing major, just a few drinks and bit of a sing song and a jolly old laugh together.”

At this moment I’m more or less upset I didn’t get an invite. But he continued that, “Well….many of the more stiff necked traditionalist type complained because we dare to do this in the presence of God with the tabernacle so close.” Can you actually believe that? It is times like this when the presence of Christ, his tabernacle and the Eucharist becomes more important than Christ himself.

This is what happened the Pharisees, it became about all the do’s and don’ts and it was this that they worshipped not God. It was the books Catholics worshipped not God. Sometimes it’s the actual presence of God we worship and not God himself. I guess what I’m really saying is that sometimes we have a tendency to get wrapped up in the idea of God and not God Himself. We don’t engage our children’s hearts and souls and respect their uniqueness, rather, we impose upon them rules and regulations and make life miserable for them. Then we wonder why they leave?

We must not allow ourselves to become like the Pharisees with our children. I know some parents who don’t even celebrate Christmas with their kids and the giving of gifts and buying each other presents. Their reason for this is that they don’t want to commercialize Christs birth. I mean, come on! The wise men gave gifts to Christ that’s what we are remembering and reenacting when we give gifts to each other.

Santa Claus is a bit of an exaggeration from St.Nicholas but who cares it’s just a bit of harmless fun right? Then there are parents who refuse their children the joy of TV or videogames. Is it any WONDER they want to leave religion when they grow older? Some Catholic parents can be extremely cult like in behaviour denying their children to wear clothes that help them connect with the modern culture and be a cause for evangelization. Instead they send them into the pack of wolves looking like one of the Waltons from the 1950’s. Then there are some who want to start up little Catholic colonies and live together like hermits away from the culture altogether.

If I lived in a house like that becoming 18 would be as if I’d won the lottery and I’d be writing my very own book on what it was like to live in ” Domestic North Korea”. My kids will be shown how to dress modestly while at the same time connecting with the culture around them. They’re allowed to play videogames to their hearts content within reasonable limits and yes, we celebrate birthdays, Christmas and give each other gifts on all occasions.

Don’t get wrapped up in the idea of God and of rules and regulations. Americans are the worse for this by the way and most countries where Protestantism took root. These countries tend to be more legalistic, obsessed with politics and very intellectual compared to other Orthodox and Catholic countries like Greece, Italy or Ireland.

The Catholics in Protestant countries tend to absorb that kind of legalist intellectual type of “do’s and don’ts” culture. You can actually go to America today, and persuade a protestant to become Catholic via an intellectual argument and he actually thinks he’s converted did you know that? There ya go, you learn something new every day.

Anyway I’ve digressed yet again. Keep your children close the heart of the Lord, because if they’re there then they’re less likely to leave. And if you’ve tried even that and they still leave, do not end up suffering from “Mommy loves child more than God syndrome” and follow them into Hell where they want to go. Grow a spine and remember that nobody who loves their child more than God can be a follower of His. Only those who put God first can truly love their neighbor it doesn’t work the other way around.

If you or any other parent has felt insulted and offended by reading this post, please seek help by dialing:


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