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Posted March 3, 2015

Book: The Prodigal You Love: Inviting Loved Ones Back To The Church
Author: Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP
Pauline Books & Media. Boston. 2014. Pp. 191

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

It is not hyperbole to suggest that every adult practicing Catholic has at least one person in their life who is away from the Church and the sacraments. . .That's a lot of people! How can we get them back? How can all of us be agents of change?

What can we do when we see family or friends struggling with faith, torn with doubts, or oblivious to the love and mercy of our heavenly Father? Sr. Theresa shares her own personal experience as a "prodigal daughter," showing how we can journey with our loved ones, witnesses to the never-failing love of God, always ready to welcome us home.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The Foundation of Humility

"No one reaches the kingdom of Heaven except by humility --- St. Augustine

When I lived for several months in Costa Rica, I spent most of my days outside, working under the sun. One day before my conversion, I was in the garden tending some basil plants when one of the local farmers stopped by. He said, "Thank God for this day --- right Teresita?" I blinked up at him in the bright sun. he looked so pleased that he was sharing this moment with me that I did not want to disappoint him. But I am not one to lie, so I said honestly, "Chepo, I don't believe in God so I don't have anyone to thank." His eyes widened in surprise. He was not peeved by my admission; I saw only compassion and mirth in his eyes. He did not say much in response; he only sighed and shifted his feet. "I see, I see, You had that smile . . ." He trailed off. I assured him that I could be happy without God and he looked at me again with gentle amusement, his eyes so deep, wise, and expressive that I felt like some primordial being was gazing at me. In that moment, I wanted to connect with him. I wanted to understand the source of his serenity, but all I could do was look up at him, squinting in the sun.

My conversion pivoted around many small moments like this, which shifted and changed my narrow perspective on life, on God, and on the Church. In these moments, other people helped me to look gradually beyond myself and realize that I could find meaning only in my Creator. Most often, the people who successfully pierced my self-assurance and urged me to reconsider my beliefs did so not with complicated arguments but with humility and simplicity.

Humility is absolutely essential in our relationships with loved ones who are away from the Church. If we do not understand the importance of humility, then chances are we will hurt rather than help the likelihood of our loved ones' return to the Church.

Why is humility particularly important in interaction with loved ones who are not practicing their faith? First of all, because humility is the virtue our loved ones need in order to return. Faith begins with humility. In the encyclical Light of Faith, Pope Francis writes, "Faith is God's free gift, which calls for humility." The journey of faith is a process in which one's perspective in life increasingly shifts away from self and toward God. If we do not model humility, than we do little to encourage an attitude of faith in our loved ones.

Secondly, humility is also important because if we are not humble, we can easily fall into the trap of thinking that we are responsible for another person's return to the Church. This attitude is perhaps among the most dangerous, and can lead to serious missteps that push people away. In order to really live in a compelling way that leads others to faith, we have to give up any savior-complex we might have. What we say and do is not going to save anyone. We have a Savior and his name is Jesus. In order to make any difference in our loved ones' lives, we have to let go of any self-centeredness in our desire for someone to return to the Church.

Table of Contents:

1. A story of hope
2. The foundation of humility
3. Listening to the Holy Spirit
4. Finding the balance: love and truth
5. Responding to illusory ideas
6. Accepting doubt and embracing doubters
7. Why our faith matters
8. Respecting free will
9. Prayer is key
10. The power of suffering
11. Be saints, it is all that matters
12. Becoming a person of hope