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Aleteia

Should You Try and Convert Unbelieving Relatives at Christmas?

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And how should an overwhelmed mom cope with her over-the-top stress levels?

Ask Zoe is Aleteia’s weekly advice column. If you have a dilemma, question, or need some general advice for your life, email Zoe. All questions are given consideration and names are withheld.  

Dear Zoe,
Christmas is coming with the gathering of siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles—and mine is the only nuclear family that still practices the Catholic faith. At best we have only one or two occasions a year to share the faith with these family members. Obviously, confrontation is out of the question, but must we simply witness to the joy of being Christian without saying anything explicit about the fact that living godless lives pursuing pleasure and money is not the path to inner peace now or forever? I don’t want to be judgmental, but do want them to love and serve God and make it to heaven. What to do? What to say? Subtlety doesn’t seem to be working. 

Sincerely, 
Worried About My Relatives

Dear Worried,
First of all, you don’t know that your quiet witness hasn’t been working. Every thing we do as Christians— the joy we project, how we respond to someone, the way we love our family members and talk about our faith —these seemingly ordinary things often pave the way for someone’s eventual conversion. 

While it might make you feel better, rarely does an explicit, "Hey, you’re going to hell if you don’t wise up," open up hearts and minds. You catch more bees with honey, as they say. My advice is to look for situations and conversations during Christmas where you might be able to share your own faith and the difference it has made in your life. 

Also, what about giving everyone a nice prayer card for Christmas this year? The Serenity Prayer and the Prayer of St. Francis both seem to speak to people who may not have faith or be familiar with prayer. A simple and non-threatening gift like this could go a long way—they might stick it in a purse or on a bed side table and turn to it some day. 

Ultimately, conversion is the Holy Spirit’s business. We can’t save people from themselves; we can only point the way, share our own experiences and convictions, answer questions, and love people with the love of Jesus Christ. Does this mean there is never a time to tell someone they need to smarten up? No. But tread carefully if your goal is to help someone turn to God; if you’re considered the "cranky, judgmental relative" every Christmas no one’s going to want to buy what you’re selling. 

The simplest of gestures can be a catalyst for a relative’s faith. Take the pressure off yourself to save them. Give them to God and ask the Holy Spirit to show you how and when to share the Gospel with them this Christmas.

Sincerely,
Zoe

******

Dear Zoe,
I have two children under two, both of whom are extremely mom-needy right now. The baby won’t eat or nap for anybody but me, and the toddler weeps uncontrollably when I leave him with the sitter so I can go upstairs and work on my dissertation. I must finish it by spring, and have all the other tasks of running a household. Every time somebody doesn’t nap, I see hours of work time evaporate in front of me. When my toddler is feeling extra fragile and just wants Mommy, it can be extremely frustrating to know that I’m paying a sitter to play with the baby while I sit with the toddler and don’t get any work done. Then there’s the guilt of knowing that for a few hours every day, my kids are with somebody else, which, added on top of the time they’re napping, and all the time I’m saying, "Not now, honey, Mommy has to clean the kitchen," leaves very little time to be with them myself. 

How do I cope when I find my stress levels tipping dangerously into the red zone, and yet it doesn’t seem possible to shed any responsibilities? How do I care for myself  when I just don’t have the time?

Sincerely, 
Overwhelmed Mama

Dear Overwhelmed,
Some version of this exists for many moms out there and there’s no magic wand that can make it all calm and bright. There are a few things I do recommend, however: 

First, take a hard look—ideally with your husband—at where you can ease your burden on the domestic front for the next four to five months. Can you direct some financial resources towards regular house cleaning and dinner help? Maybe you can start ordering take out, use a meal service, and have your husband don an apron a couple nights a week.

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