NOTE: Today we share Bishop Barron‘s Foreword for a new project by Brandon Vogt, our Content Director at Word on Fire. The project is called RETURN: How to Draw Your Child Back to the Church and features several resources to help parents lead fallen-away children back to the Church. Learn more and access the RETURN video course, book, and interviews at http://ReturnGameplan.com.
The Church faces many challenges today, but I am convinced that the most pressing concern, at least in America, is the attrition of our own people. 13% of Americans identify as former Catholics and for every one convert to the Catholic faith, more than six people leave. One third of people raised Catholic no longer identify as Catholic today, and Mass attendance, identified by the Second Vatican Council as “the source and summit of the Christian life,” continues to fall with only a paltry 24% in the pews on any given Sunday. The statistics get worse among younger generations. One third of the Millennial generation now claims no religious affiliation, and only 16% identify as Catholic.
It’s easy to gloss over these numbers and justify a false sense of security. Admittedly, the overall Catholic population has remained relatively stable, but this is mostly a result of immigration, of faithful new immigrants replacing the Catholics who leave. But obviously this is not a sustainable or desirable trend. Even among immigrants, as cultural assimilation takes hold of second and third generations, they leave the Church at rates similar to the general Catholic population. As many evangelists have observed, “God has no grandchildren.” Each generation must meet Christ and the Church for the first time, not relying on mere cultural ambience or ethnic identification.
But while God may not have grandchildren, people do. If you’re reading this excellent book by Brandon Vogt, chances are high that you’re a parent or grandparent, worrying that your child has drifted away from the faith. In the face of apparent failure and heartbreak, you’re asking yourself, what went wrong? Did I do enough? What more could I have done? Is there anything I can do now? How does one repair a broken relationship with Christ and the Church?
To these many questions, Brandon Vogt’s RETURN offers tremendous and desperately needed help. You’ll find concrete advice and practical strategies. Rather than opting for despair, Brandon calls for creativity and courage, new approaches imbued with the liveliness of the New Evangelization. RETURN includes one of the best summations of Catholic attrition, coupled with keen insights as to why people dismiss the Church’s faith. He doesn’t cast aspersions or blame, and he avoids the scapegoating that marks some approaches to this problem. Instead he focuses on the solution, using a positive emphasis on what parents can say and do to respond to their child’s objections, rebuild relationships, and ultimately draw them back to the Church.
RETURN offers no magic-bullet guarantee that your child will come back. But you will find a complete game plan to create the best possible environment to reintroduce your child to Christ and his Church.
I have worked alongside Brandon Vogt for some time now in the fields of the Lord’s work. His dedication to the cause of evangelization is exemplary. He is a pioneering missionary disciple, whose sense of joy for the Gospel is contagious and reassuring. RETURN will serve as an essential resource for the Church’s evangelization efforts and a true game-changer for despairing parents everywhere. Every parent or grandparent with a fallen-away child needs to read this book.
If your son or daughter has left the faith, I encourage you not to give up hope. The Lord is always stirring like the father of the Prodigal Son, working toward your child’s return, and with the tools and strategies in RETURN, you’ll make that journey far more likely.
Bishop Robert Barron
Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles and Founder of Word on Fire