Can I come back to the church?

Posted by Alice L. Camille
Tuesday 12, January 2010 | Categories:  

The good news is that you don't need to convert back. Technically speaking you're still Roman Catholic. Having remained within the Christian framework these past 20 years, you haven't denounced your baptism or anything grave like that. So anytime you're ready, the Catholic Church is open to you.

It's recommended for anyone who's been away from the church for any reason, especially for many years, that you approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation before returning to full participation in the Eucharist (you may have called it Penance or Confession 20 years ago, but it's generally known as Reconciliation now).

Most parishes still have "confessions" on Saturday afternoons, but in your case you may want to call the local church and make an appointment with a priest at a time of mutual convenience. That will give you the time you need to really talk things through. Directness is the best policy here. Tell the priest you've been attending your husband's church and would like to "come home" to your own tradition. This would be a great opportunity to explore with him what your needs are in regard to religious practice.

Some larger parishes have regular support groups for Catholics who've been away to help catch you up on what may be new in church practice. These groups are variously known as Landings, Catholics Coming Home, or Re-Membering Church, among others. It can be enormously comforting not to feel alone as you resume your place in the Catholic assembly.

If your local Catholic parish doesn't have such a group, you may want to read one of the books below as you find your way. Also, if you're in an urban area, you might want to go on a "parish quest" and try sitting through a few Sunday Masses in various Catholic churches. You're coming from a "high church" Orthodox experience, and in the Roman tradition we've got everything from formal cathedral liturgies to guitar Masses. Maybe something in the middle of the road will suit you better at this time (or maybe what you're looking for is a let-your-hair-down celebration!). Either way, welcome back. Our prayers are with you as you settle in.

Scripture
Romans 1:9-12; 8:28-39; 10:8-13; 11:29; 15:7

Books
Catholics Can Come Home Again! A Guide for the Journey of Reconciliation with Inactive Catholics
by Carrie Kemp (Paulist Press, 2001)
A Faith Interrupted: An Honest Conversation with Alienated Catholics
by Alice Camille and Joel Schorn (Loyola Press, 2004)

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