I so badly wanted them to be Catholic that I made it a miserable experience
I had a major conversion. I am the walking definition of “metanoia.” My life was flipped upside down in a matter of months—everything from the way I lived to all that I thought was true. I went from being a drunk at swingers bars to a devout Roman Catholic in a little over a year.
My conversion came about because God is amazing and because of the people who loved me at what became my parish—from the woman at the front office who helped me register my kids for catechism classes to every one of the priests. Not only did I learn about the Catholic faith in an open and loving way, but my RCIA director is the best evangelist alive. (I know a lot of people say that about people they know, but Noe Rocha has the fruit to back it up, including Jennifer Fulwiler, among many others.)
It was clear to me from the beginning of my conversion that my mission in life is to tell people what Christ has done for me. I’m an evangelizer. My life is one huge testimony to the fact that nobody at all is ever too far gone to be redeemed by his grace.
You would then think my children would be evangelized to the max, right? Wrong.
I have four kids and three stepchildren. My children and I came into the Church at the same time, with my now-husband and me getting married shortly thereafter. Some months later my stepchildren received all the sacraments of initiation. So in barely a year, we became a family of nine fully initiated Catholics. I thought it was going to be the “happily ever after” ending to the story of our lives. It wasn’t.
Today, I have two children who are practicing Catholics; one who has obsessive-compulsive disorder with a disordered relationship with religion being part of that; one who knows Jesus is alive but is having issues with same-sex attraction; one who doesn’t go to Mass, has children out of wedlock and lives with his girlfriend; one who is a pot-smoking hippie and one who is just as lost as a stray cat.
How is it possible that someone with my conversion story would have only two out of seven kids living their lives in a relationship with Christ? I can tell you how: I was a horrible new convert.
Because I had gone from a life drenched in sin—every sin you could think of besides murder—to trying to be a devout Catholic in a suburban middle-class parish, I had a lot of insecurities about belonging. Nobody ever made me feel like I didn’t belong, but I just assumed that I was not good enough and had to earn my way in. All I could see was how screwed up my family and I were.
So I nagged everyone to freakin’ death. I told them to dress right, sit up right, pray right, look right, behave right and on and on. I didn’t allow them to ask questions, and I made it clear that if they didn’t go to Mass, they were not going to live in my house. I even once kicked my oldest son out when he missed Mass at age 17.
I was making my family a means to an end. I objectified them to make me look good so that I could prove to everyone that this girl who had been dirt poor her entire life, came from the ghetto and was always sleeping around really did belong in this middle class suburban Catholic parish.
I never did prove that and in the process I pushed my kids away from God.
If I could go back and do it all over again, I would not be so afraid.
I was afraid of what people would think of me if I didn’t raise “good Catholic kids.” My only concern should have been their souls.
Now, some years later I’ve come to accept that I can’t make them believe anything. That they have to be able to question. And I rest in knowing that God’s own love for them and desire that they know him is greater than my love for them ever could be.
If God could break through to me and bring me home, he can do that for anyone.
How do we bring our children back to the Church? It’s really simple. We love them and pray for them.
When I feel the panic coming on, I just say this prayer: Dear Lord Baby Jesus, please help me be the mother you need me to be for my kids. Please give me the grace to love them when I want to tell them what to do, and to trust that you will catch them when they fall, just like you catch me when I fall. Amen.
Dear Blessed Mother, please bring people into the lives of my children who will introduce them to your Son. Help me trust God with my children and know that he loves them more than I do. Amen.
Leticia Ochoa Adams is a radio host at Breadbox Media and a regular contributor to the Jennifer Fulwiler Show at the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM. She writes at http://www.letiadams.com and Catholic Stand.com. She is a full-time philosophy student at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. She is married, with four kids and three stepsons, and at the ripe age of 38 she boasts about her two grandchildren.