Tuesday 1 June 2021

Finding God When a Loved One Loses Faith - Nick Donnelly - CTS Finding God Series

Finding God When a Loved One Loses Faith
CTS Finding God Series
Nick Donnelly
Catholic Truth Society
eISBN 9781784694555
CTS Booklet PA37

I have read several books in the ‘Finding God Series’ from the Catholic Truth Society. The first book I read in this series was by Deacon Donnelly as well, Finding God When Prayer Doesn't Work. I have read almost 200 volumes from the Catholic Truth Society over the last several years. I have read several books that are part of the CTS Devotions and Prayer Series. I have read many in the CTS Biographies and also Saints of the Isles Series, and the Great Saints Series. But this series is very different. All the titles and volumes in this series are about difficulties in life, or in the family, in faith. I have benefitted from all the books I have read from the Catholic Truth Society and from the pen of Deacon Nick Donnelly. The description of this volume is:

“Many influences can cause a person to abandon the faith that they once loved: the hostility of secular society, misleading philosophical arguments, and painful experiences that undermine one’s beliefs about God and his Church.

This sensitive exploration of the reasons why people leave the Church offers encouragement and support to those most deeply affected by their decision. The central truth remains: that God comes looking for us when we are lost and separate ourselves from his life and his love. Drawing on the parables of Jesus, and the wisdom of famous men and women who were once lost and later returned to the Christian faith, Nick Donnelly explores this fundamental truth about God’s loving response to humanity.”

The chapters in this small volume are:

God Knows We Easily Get Lost
What Does It Mean To Be Catholic?
Reasons Why People Leave
Famous Christians Who Got Lost And Came Back
Facing Problems Caused When Family Leave The Church
Tips About Coping When Family Leave

This book begins with these words:

“Every family I know is affected in some way by the modern loss of faith. I’ve lost count of the number of young people I’ve known who have left the Church. The practice of the faith has collapsed in my own extended family. My paternal and maternal grandparents were all devout Catholics who attended daily Mass. They had between them eight children, who all practised the faith, one of them becoming a nun. In the next generation there were twenty-two children, including myself. Of this generation, only seven are practising Catholics, three are members of other Christian ecclesial communities, such as the Church of England and the Baptists, while the remaining twelve are now secular. Most of my grandparents’ great-grandchildren have not been baptised and have no contact with the Catholic Church.”

As such we have a book written from personal experience and a personal passion. Donnelley’s passion for the lost in infused throughout the volume. This book outlines many of the causes of falling  away from the faith. And also provides hope. Some of those are the many great examples in this volume. Examples that give hope, and will inspire renewed prayer. Such as examples of:

Blessed Charles de Foucauld
Blessed Bartolo Longo
Dorothy Day, Servant of God

Some passages I highlighted my first time through this book are:

“The danger is that, for the sake of peace in the family, the remaining faithful members sink into a practical indifference. There is the temptation to ignore the practical atheism of those who leave by focusing on their positive qualities and natural good acts, overlooking the fact that they are gravely lost, living their lives as if God does not exist. The danger for us is that if, out of love, and for the sake of peace, we acquiesce to their leaving the Church, we also live as if God does not exist.”

“It’s sobering to realise that we all have an inclination to rebellion, to disloyalty and to betrayal. Why does original sin leave us with this inclination to rebellion against God?”

“The sacraments, particularly the sacraments of Confession and the Most Holy Eucharist, protect us from the power of the devil. But those who place themselves outside the protection of the Church, especially if they do so as a conscious act of rebellion against God, put themselves under the influence of the devil and in harm’s way.”

“Since the early Church, Our Lord’s Parable of the Lost Sheep has been understood as revealing the truth of the Incarnation from God’s perspective. The parable (Lk 15:1-7) is one of the “parables of mercy”, a series which also includes the parable of the lost coin (Lk 15:8-10) and that of the father and his prodigal son (Lk 15:11-32). Pope Benedict XVI comments that these parables of mercy constitute God’s explanation of his own being as love and his activity towards sinful man (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 12).”

“Nowadays people use the word “Catholic” in many different ways. Some people say they are Catholic because their grandparents were faithful and went to Mass. Others call themselves Catholic because they went to a Catholic school during childhood, even if they haven’t had any contact with the Church since. There are those who call themselves Catholic because they were baptised as babies and they attend family christenings, weddings and funerals. There are also people who call themselves Catholic because they occasionally attend Mass at Christmas.

Faced with this complex modern reality, the question arises, what makes a person Catholic? To answer this question, we should begin with the Catholic Church’s understanding of herself. The Catholic Church’s understanding is that all of humanity is in a relationship with her, because she is the sacrament, the visible expression, of Jesus Christ in the world. And Jesus is the expression of God’s desire and will to search for lost humanity and bring everyone back into the safety of his divine purpose and grace.”

“People leave the Church for all kinds of reasons, some of which are more understandable than others, but at the end of the day leaving is always a serious mistake. St Paul warns Christians of the danger of making a “shipwreck of their faith” (1 Tm 1:18-19). For whatever reason a person leaves the Church, they are always harmed by losing the priceless gift of faith.

Some leave the Church deliberately after much thought and struggle, while many leave the Church almost by accident, carelessly losing the habit, as if they misplace their faith. C S Lewis, the author of the Narnia novels, got lost after the death of his mother, returning to Christianity later in life.”

Jumping from C.S. Lewis to the author of this work. Donnelly also writes from his experience of falling away and his own return. He states:

“I was born a cradle Catholic and grew up in a loving, practising Catholic family that faithfully went to Mass on Sunday. I’m a husband, a permanent deacon, a catechist and a journalist. I was granted a mandatum by a bishop that officially acknowledges me as a teacher of theology within the full communion of the Catholic Church.

But despite all this, there have been times in my life when I was lost, and sometimes very lost. I still attended Mass, and to outward appearances I was a Catholic, but I was lost all the same. As a teenager I got involved in occultism, using Tarot cards, I Ching and occasionally Ouija boards. For several years I read the works of occultists and dabbled in occult practices. Looking back I can see that I was seeking direct spiritual experiences in the natural world. At the time I didn’t realise that messing around with the occult put me in danger from the devil.”

His vulnerability and openness about his own failings is heartening. And will encourage those of us with loved ones away from the church. This book is easy to read. Easy to understand. It is well written.  

It is an excellent read. And one that I really needed. I look forward to reading more in the ‘Finding God Series’. But now I have several different series from CTS on the go. So many books so little time.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Nick Donnelly:
Finding God Series:

Finding God in Anger and Bitterness
Finding God in Doubt and Disbelief
Finding God When Prayer Doesn't Work
Finding God When a Loved One Loses Faith

Other Books by Nick Donelly:
Living with Illness and Suffering
Hope and Healing: Living with Illness and Suffering
Prayers for Grieving Parents: Help After a Miscarriage or Still Birth
Praying the Rosary with the Martyrs
Praying The Creed In The Year Of Faith
Praying the Rosary with the Saints

With Pope Francis Series:
Loving Mary: What Pope Francis Says
Finding Forgiveness with Pope Francis
Stations of the Cross with Pope Francis
Who Is the Devil? What Pope Francis Says
Our Journey to Christmas: With Pope Francis

Fiction by Nick Donnelly:
Ben Armstrong Adventure Series Series:
Curse of the Seawolf
Snare of the Demons
Faith of the Armstrong
Fury of the Dragons

Unattributed books cowritten\ghost written by Nick Donnelly:
Priesthood Today
Fit for Mission? Church
Fit for Mission? Schools
Fit for Mission? Marriage
Fit for Mission? A Guide

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