Posted on December 4th, 2012
Many years ago now, in my first parish, I visited a man in the hospital. He was soon to die, and we were reviewing his earthly life as it drew near the end. “I came to the church for [my wife],” he said to me, “but now I believe it for myself.”
Easy it is to speculate regarding the motives of others, and tempting to judge: one person comes simply for his girlfriend, another for a tuition discount (so I suppose). Yet often have I been proved wrong, for these who seemingly come under noble purposes prove themselves false, while others who seem to have an impious motive show themselves to be very faithful. I neither know the true heart of the person, nor can foresee the end, what mischief the devil will work, what grace the Holy Spirit will bring about in the catechumen’s life. Thus I try now to simply work with what appears before me, and not presume, for good or ill.
St Cyril of Jerusalem, in his Procatechesis, addresses from the start those who may have come to impress a woman or a friend:
Perhaps thou comest on another ground. A man may be wishing to pay court on a woman, and on that account come hither: and the same applies to women likewise: again, a slave often wishes thus to please his master, or one friend another. I avail myself of this angler’s bait, and receive thee, as one who has come indeed with an unsound purpose, but art to be saved by a good hope. Thou knewest not perchance whither thou wast coming, nor what net was taking thee. Thou art within the Church’s nets, submit to be taken; flee not, for Jesus would secure thee, not to make thee die, but by death to make thee live. For thou must die and rise again; thou hast heard the Apostle saying, ‘Dead indeed to sin, but alive unto righteousness.’ Die then to thy sins, and live to righteousness: yea, from this day forth, live.
Lectures on the Christian Sacraments
So, for whatever reason they’ve come, I have determined the best approach is to not view them with suspicion, but as an opportunity to reach them with the Gospel. Perhaps they’ve come for their wife, but I pray that—even if on their deathbed—they will one day confess, “Now I believe it for myself.” As St Cyril of Jerusalem might say, they’re in the nets now, so draw them in.