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Carol Johnson wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am a 22-year-old woman and have a question I was hoping you could help me with.

I have quite a few people in my social circle and family who are not Christians . . . pretty much all of them. I feel quite isolated and they prefer talking as if there is no God, whatsoever.

They are all atheists and do not believe in any religions.

  • What should I do?

I would like them to be more understanding of me and my faith, yet they just don't seem to understand.

Thank you for your time.

Carol

  { What should I do if my whole social circle and family prefer talking as if there is no God? }

Paul replied:

Dear Carol,

Welcome to the club. You're not alone. This is one common cross that exists today: Living in secular-humanist America, where our society as a whole is rebelling against God and many choose to orient their minds to pretend He doesn't exist.

It can feel very lonely when you're surrounded by secular-minded family and friends. Please don't get depressed or despair. God is with you, and remember that when you're with God you're always in the majority. He has given you the grace to see through the fog of the noise of our society. Be grateful for this wonderful gift. Do not hide it under a bushel because of fear or intimidation, but spread the truth you know, in prudent measures. Ask the Holy Spirit to inspire and guide in what and how you share each day. As a general rule: speak the truth in love. Truth and love go together like the heads and tails of a coin.

I also know from experience that as you grow older you will find friends who share your values and world view. You may want to:

  • Seek out youth or young adult groups at your parish or in your diocese.
  • Read good Catholic literature.
  • Avoid the trash talk some might want you to share in, and all media that seeks to get you to sin in the heart.
  • And most of all, attend Mass and Confession regularly and pray.

If you remain faithful, God certainly will, and many will eventually come to seek out your wisdom and see you as a model of goodness who can bring them closer to God. It won't always be a bed of roses (look at Jesus on the Cross), but there is nothing more important.

Perhaps my colleagues will also give their own take on your important question.

Peace,

Paul

Bob replied:

Carol,

Ditto to everything Paul said. Get Christian friends that you can share with, which isn't easy at your everyday parish because, frankly, your age group is not catered to; you either have to be a teen or older to be more easily served however if you can get involved with serving the youth or some other ministry, you may find peers that are of like mind.

My connection to peers came through our music ministry. I was a simply secular musician, but when I got involved in the music ministry, God changed my life and really built a community around me to sustain me through the challenges of my twenties. I was about your age when I decided to live a Christian life and God made sure I had what I needed — a best friend, and others that shared my faith.

Family is always the hardest, because you love them the most and want to have them reconciled to God, and it tugs at you every day when you see them going astray. St. Augustine's mom, St. Monica, prayed thirty years for her son, and eventually he came around — but only on God's time.

In any case, don't lose heart. This is a long race, not a sprint. There is time for God to work, just keep praying (think Dory here).

Peace,

Bob Kirby

Mike replied:

Dear Carol,

Here's my take which maybe a little different.

I'm a Front End and Self Checkout Cashier at Target. I've been there a year and the focus at Target is almost 100% business. The Thanksgiving, Christmas, and I'm sure Easter holidays are all very secular and business-focused. They are celebrated with metal Christmas trees (which of, course, has nothing to do with Christmas e.g. there is no nativity scene), and metal Hanukkah symbols like our metal Menorah.

So the question boils down to:

  • How do I have a powerful Catholic Christian effect among my atheistic, social circles and family members?

My approach is based on a quote attributed (by some) to St. Francis:

Evangelize the world, and when necessary, use words.

  • What's he getting at?

If you associate within your secular social circles and family in a Christian way that is always kind yet truthful and Christian, while remaining unmistakably Catholic, over time, with your prayers, you will see small changes.

What you don't want to do is come across like a dictatorial, you-must-do-this-or Catholic. That is what they expect and it will turn them off. As I have said in previous answers of mine:

Our lives consist of an array of people with different:

  • educational backgrounds (both secular and religious)
  • culture backgrounds
  • family backgrounds
  • medical backgrounds
  • emotional backgrounds
  • aptitudes, and
  • maturity levels.

If you know close family members will not be open to your unmistakably Catholic views, you have to love them by kind, loving actions and behaviors and similarly by showing your social circles a strong work ethic when in the work place.

It's that slow but steady public witness of yours that will affect them over time to the point when they will say to themselves privately:

  • Carol is always so kind to me.
  • She always does nice things for me.
  • She respects my view . . . even on issues I disagree with her on.
  • She is never publicly preachy to me.
  • She appears to always be happy, appears to enjoy people, and life in general.

. . . I want to be like that person. Maybe I should find out more about Carol and how she can be so happy and nice while still being unmistakably Catholic.

You may not see any immediate effect but as your friendships build among both your social circle of friends and family members, they will value and appreciate your opinion more and more. . . yes, even among atheists. Remember, though they may deny it, they have both souls and the nature law which is written on them. [The nature law is that gut feeling that something is right or wrong, without someone else telling us it is right or wrong.]

That's my two cents.

Mike

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