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Our readers asked:

Can you give advice to parents who are troubled when their children marry outside the faith?

Rev. Leo A. Walsh, S.T.D. Answers:

While marrying outside the Church precludes one from receiving the sacraments, it is helpful for parents to keep the following in mind.
1. The end of the story is not yet written. The Holy Spirit continues to be active in the lives of your children. You’d be amazed how things can change as the years go by, especially when they start to have children.
2. Maintain contact and communication. You do not need to condone the act, but neither should you disown them because of it. A good rule of thumb: If your child seeks to return to the sacraments, will they be comfortable asking you for advice on how to do so?
3. In matters of faith, be inviting, not condemning. Remember, “The truth without compassion is the hammer that destroys.”
4. Never stop praying for your kids. St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, is a powerful intercessor in this regard. She prayed for her son to change his wayward ways and he became a saint.

The Author : Rev. Leo A. Walsh, S.T.D.
The Rev. Leo A. Walsh, S.T.D., formerly the Interreligious Affairs specialist at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is now pastor of St. Benedict's Parish in Anchorage, Alaska. Photo Credit: Bob Roller, Catholic News Service (CNS).
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  • Michael R.

    Ms. Richardson, I must say your story is an incredible testament to the struggles of the heart in living with and maintaining relationship with family that is not your typical “Cleaver” family and does not necessarily resonate together with each other. I feel like i can relate somewhat to your situation in that my family is hardly agreeable at times. I come from an Italian family and my grandfather was a gangster and has been very rigid and abusive as well, although he did get away from the lifestyle while he was still young, and I will say was not as nasty as yours seems to be, the mob mentality remained a part of him. Plus I believe it was like a generational standard in the community. They were tough guys, they never cried, they lived a hard life and thats all they knew. Not that that is an excuse but its the reality. I tell you i feel really bad for you when i read your troubles. I am praying everything gets better for you and that God will soften your grandfathers heart before it’s too late. I feel like in this situation you are the bigger person and it is important you stay true to your nature even though it can be very challenging to say the least. It is a natural reaction to seek justice for what he has done, but it is important as a Christian to put aside the natural man/woman and strive to be a creature of God. The truth is it is not your place to judge or condemn him even though he has hurt you. He will be judged in time as we all will be. Do not let his sin of anger become a part of you, manifesting itself in your life becoming your sin. The best thing you can do is be kind to someone like that. The angrier they are, the kinder you must be. Im sure that people like your grandfather have a heart somewhere deep down that is capable of some sort of love no matter how suppressed or damaged it may be. If he is going to die soon you should consider devoting yourself to magnifying that love somehow. I don’t know what his relationship is like with Jesus as he is a Christian, but it doesn’t sound very good according to his behavior. I would try as best i could to encourage his relationship with Christ before it is too late, cause truth is that if he dies unrepentant and without being saved by Gods grace through faith, then he will end up in a very horrible place that you wouldn’t even want your worst enemy to be. If you have the slightest bit of love for him it should be your concern to try to save him from eternal punishment. You might be surprised to find out, if its Gods will, that you could potentially have a rich and loving relationship with your Grandpa in his final remaining years resulting in a much needed healing of the many wounds. Although, it will not be easy and can present one of the greatest challenges of your life. The things of God are always the hardest to attain but they hold the most merit and power, and for this reason are the greatest benefit to the soul. Its easy to be angry, but forgiveness is a divine attribute and is most pleasing to God. I hope you can find peace and i am praying for you in your hardships, that the Lord and Living God quicken you and give you strength and shelter you in the embrace of His love and divine provision, in the name of Jesus His Son. Amen. P.S. Have faith in Jesus and look to Him to restore you and truly believe in your heart without a doubt and He will. He always loves you! God Bless

  • Robert’s Daughter

    For as far back as I can remember, I was afraid of my paternal grandfather. He always looked and acted angry. Even as a child, I sensed that I was not welcome and that he did not like me or want me there. His anger and hostility grew as i grew, to the point where I did not want to visit them because it was so unpleasant and uncomfortable. I remember going there and being constantly terrified of his wrath and disapproval and humiliation, and then crying at night and praying my parents would come for me. It was not that I did not love him or want to be close to him, but it seemed to me that he pushed me away with anger and judgment. I did love and grew close to my grandmother, his wife – but she kept this closeness a secret from him as he controlled her household. I grew up to be a mother, a nurse, and earned a Master’s Degree. I belong to the Unitarian Church because I believe in social justice and doing good in the community. I once risked my life to save a child in a shooting. I was once fired for trying to start a labor union. I was taught to always help others, to never pass by anyone needing help, and to always speak out against injustice, even at your own risk. My father was the same. I have not been a perfect person, but I have been kind, compassionate, loving, and generous. My father died in 2005. I became sick with cancer and then Multiple Sclerosis and I ended up losing everything. I am now homeless, but still I volunteer and try to help others. I have not been close to my grandfather because I always felt like he hated me. When he went to visit his other grandchildren he would drive right past my house and never visit, then complain to me that I never visited. I was very poor and sick and could not travel. My father’s brother was arrested for theft, fired multiple times, and even accused of posing as a birthday party clown to molest children. His children, my cousins, all had multiple children out of wedlock and multiple marriages and never got an education of any type. They smoke and drink and live life for fun. All of my father’s children got college educations, were good parents (we never abandoned our children) and took our marriage vows seriously. We were good people, but never labeled ourselves as “Christian” because the only “Christians” we knew were my grandparents, who had only espoused hate and racism and spite and cruelty. We believed in God, and believed in faith through works and probably followed a more “Christian” life than my grandfather or his other children and grandchildren. Yet, he continued to despise us. I once got very upset when he called a military policeman a “Nigger” and he has never forgiven me for speaking up and saying that was wrong of him to say that. He also uses derogatory terms for Asians and Latinos. He has said and done terrible things to my sister and brother, and plays emotional games including manipulation and lies and doing and saying things and then denying that he did so. Despite the whole family witnessing this, only one grandson will ever stand up to him (besides us). I am so shocked that they would stand by and watch and say nothing. They say the worst part of an atrocity is not the person who commits it, but the witnesses who stand by and say and do nothing. Recently, my grandfather started spending his fortune rapidly “so the government will get nothing when he dies”. He spent it by buying cars and boats for my cousins and by paying off their mortgages and credit card bills and the like. I have a terrible disease and need a stem cell transplant but cannot raise the $40,000 to pay for the uninsured portion, and I am living in my car. Yet he offered no help to me, and I did not ask. Still, I am hurt and dismayed. Apparently, with my father now dead (but surely watching in Heaven), he has decided to exile my father’s three children and their children and disown us. I do not know why and he has not said why he is doing this. And during all of this, he tries to make us feel guilty as if we are bad and we have done something to deserve his treatment of us. It is easy to make us feel bad since he has groomed us since we were young children to automatically feel guilty around him. I am so hurt that my father’s brother and sister don’t speak out and stand up for him – because he would certainly stand up for them if he were alive. I think it is the money. Is this a Christian thing to do? What does the Bible say about this? What would God think? Certainly this is not what Jesus would do. I do not understand, and I am saddened and disappointed and hurt. He wants me to bring my son to visit him, but my son is biracial and I am afraid he will use a racist term around my son. I am also afraid his asking us to visit is a trick so that he can get us there to once again mistreat and humiliate us and hurt us one last time before he dies. Is there any hope? I have prayed over this but seem to get nowhere, except to know more what a good person my father was even though he was raised by such a cruel man. The last letter I wrote to my grandfather he burned without opening it. He tells my sister he is ashamed of her because she is a lawyer, but he raves over my cousin becoming the deli manager at Kmart. Why does he hate our accomplishments? Why does he hate us? I would like to go to a Christian counselor with him, or to their church pastor, or even go on a show like Focus on Family. I am sorry, I do long for justice and exposure. It can be maddening to suffer quietly this abuse by a man most people respect but don’t truly know. At church he is jovial and acts kind, but behind closed doors he is angry and raging. I have heard that he threw my grandmother down the stairs and broke her arm, then made her drink an entire bottle of vodka and forced her to tell the hospital doctors that she fell down the stairs drunk. Also, once, he threw an angry fit and slammed on the car breaks so hard that their two year old daughter (this was before seatbelts and car seats) was thrown through the windshield and killed. He is always on the verge of a rage, of a tantrum, of anger and verbal or physical violence. Yet he claims we are not Christians. Please help me before I go mad. I know I am not supposed to want “revenge” but I admit I do want justice for the pain he has caused us for so many years. I don’t want to hurt him, but I want the truth exposed. I loved him. But he hated me. Who hates a child? And I also admit, guiltily, that I hoped for part of my father’s inheritance so that I could pay for my stem cell transplant and buy a tiny house. Instead my cousins will use it for fancy cars, thousand dollar cell phones, boats, and vacations and even fancier houses than they already have. I expected that my aunt or uncle might say, here, let me give Robert’s share to his children – but they are only to happy to have my father cut out of the will. He belittles our qualities and accomplishments and insists that my illness and poverty are punishment from God. My grandfather lives in Clyde. You would not believe the cruel, hurtful, manipulative, and awful things he has said and done without cause. i feel as if he has hoodwinked everyone. Surely he cannot hoodwink God. Please help me. He wants us to come visit and says we are “welcome and loved” but that always turns out to be “unwelcome and hated”. It’s like he enjoys tricking us into trusting him and coming so he can abuse us again. He has hated us since we were children. How can you hate a child?

    – Robert’s Daughter
    Richardson Family

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