DetailSo of you who have read this blog a awhile know that, when I was in 10th Grade my hair was long, down on my shoulders, I listened to hard rock, doubted that God existed, and had devilish “blacklight posters” on my wall that frightened my mother. Today I am a priest.

I have no doubt that I emerged from my agnostic, hippie, rebellious stage as the result of prayer. I know my mother prayed for me. I know my Grandmother prayed for me. They are both in the 1963 photo at the right in the front row. My mother lived to see my ordination and enjoy the fruits of her prayer. My grandmother lived to see it too, but I don’t know how much she understood. For, by then, her dementia was advancing. I remember standing before her shortly after my ordination and she turned to my mother and said, “Nancy, why is Charlie wearing those black clothes?” She did not seem to understand that the fruit of her prayer was standing right before her. But that’s OK, she does now.

Both she and my mother have long since died and I have often reminded God of their prayers for me and requested their happy repose.

Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them. (Rev 14:13)

I also remember how my mother and grandmother teamed up to pray my father back to church. He’s seen in the center of the photo above. He had fallen away from Mass for almost 20 years. But mom and Nana kept praying. And suddenly, one day, Dad just said, “It’s time to go back.” And not only did he go back to Sunday Mass, but he became a penitent of sorts. He went to daily Mass. And prior to Mass he said the rosary, and after every Mass he said the Stations. I remember seeing him pray the Stations one weekday in Eastertide and asked him about it. He just looked at me and said, “Charlie, I’ve committed a lot of sins in my life and I really need to pray…a lot!” And he never missed it. Even when he and my mother traveled, my Father was researching where they could attend daily Mass all through the trip. He had it all mapped out. When they went on a cruise, there had to be a Catholic chaplain on board, it was always the first question before booking passage. Yes, he died a penitent and was the surely the fruit of my mother’s prayer for over twenty years.

You and I have folks that we’re praying for, and it’s easy to despair at times that our prayers are making any difference. But don’t give up. It is my privilege as a priest to receive people at my door who have been away from God for years who are now requesting confession and a return to the Church. Many have been away for decades. But someone prayed for them, witnessed to them, called to them and didn’t give up. Maybe it took 30 years or more. But now they’re back.

Often the person who most prayed for them and desired their return has already died. They had sowed the seeds and I as a priest am reaping the harvest. At moments like these I recall the words of Jesus:

Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.” (John 4:34-38)

Sometimes we sow, sometimes we reap. Sometimes too we have to pull weeds, water and feed. The work of evangelizing and shepherding souls is seldom simple or brief. But don’t give up, don’t be discouraged. You just never know how folks will turn out. Pray, work, witness, and trust. Don’t agonize, evangelize! Never give up, keep praying and working for souls!

Photo Credit: My Grandfather, Dr. Charles Evans Pope II

The following video is not about religious conversion per se but it depicts “losers” who became winners. It shows those who were rejected, who became great leaders. You just never know how things and people might turn out.

18 Responses

  1. joan cosgrove says:

    It does my heart good to read your story , I fellaway from the church for many years but I have found my faith again, my greatest sorrow is I neglected my childrens faith you have given me hope that my prayers will be heard

  2. Nguyen Thuong Minh says:

    Epistle 218
    My some thoughts about “the homily” of Msgr. Charles Pope are here below:
    Firstly, in the homily, Msgr. Charles Pope talked about his own family including grandfather, grandmother, mother and himself. They prayed for him so that 10th grade youth, hippie, today became a priest.
    Therefore, Msgr. Charles Pope called us to evangelize and shepherd souls.
    Secondly, now permit me to add some matters to relate to the homily hereafter:
    Indeed I don’t see the word soul in Gospels, that is, Lord Jesus never talked about the word soul.
    According to Catholic Encyclopedia New advent, soul is problem of philosophy.
    However, I saw the word spirit in Lord Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:3, but I didn’t see word spirit in Lord Jesus’ teaching in Luke 6:20.
    Suppose that Matthew is right, spirit is used in several different but allied senses: (1) as signifying a living, intelligent, incorporeal being, such as the soul; (2) as the fiery essence or breath (the Stoic pneuma) which was supposed to be the universal vital force; (3) as signifying some refined form of bodily substance, a fluid believed to act as a medium between mind and the grosser matter of the body. See further the word spirit here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/s.htm
    As for me, I agreed with Matthew about the word spirit of him because from the word spirit of him, we have terminology Holy Spirit in Trinity – The doctrine of the Catholic Church concerning the Holy Ghost forms an integral part of her teaching on the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
    In fact, I have understood that spirit is my confidence in God or God is with me (Matthew: 1:23)./.

  3. Will says:

    Very good post Msgr. I see the fruit of other’s prayer in my life. I was so far away from God and consumed in a world of gadgets, sports and fantasy.

  4. Marilyn H says:

    Wow! What a beautiful reflection! (and what beautiful women). Thank you, Msgr. Pope, for sharing these memories with us. It’s often easy to become discouraged when you see family members away from the church and prayers don’t seem to be working “fast enough.” You always encourage me with your words.

  5. Patty says:

    My heart was uplifted by Msgr. Pope’s homily and Joan’s comment. I, too, strayed from my Catholic faith for many years.I don’t remember why or when I strayed (I do know it was after I married) but I do remember how I found my way back home. My third son asked me one day why we never went to church. He played with two boys who attended church every Sunday. They were not Catholic. This made me realize that I was depriving my children (3 boys and 1 girl and myself) of something very, very important. I then started attending Mass and taking them with me. My husband was not Catholic so never went with us. I am sorry to say that after my children left home, they left their Catholic faith behind. I pray each and every day for them and will heed Msgr. Pope’s message to never give up! And I sincerely pray that Our Lord is looking down and not giving up on me either.

  6. alba says:

    This is so encouraging, thank you. I admire the photo of your parents and grandmother.

    God indeed has placed His spirit in us.

  7. Ruth Ann says:

    Thank you for this one, Msgr. Pope. My brother-in-law returned to the Church about five years ago after 40 years away. I can’t say it was because my husband or I prayed for him, because we had no idea he wasn’t practicing. But surely someone was praying for him! But I pray for my godchild and my daughter and son-in-law to return. The fact that they are not practicing our Catholic faith is a heartache. But your post inspires me to persevere in prayer and in hope.

  8. Sarah says:

    I’ve said since my conversion that someone out there was praying for me, because I doubt that I would have converted otherwise. I wish I knew who it was. I would like to thank them.

  9. AnneG says:

    Thank you, Msgr Pope. You have me in tears, but I really needed this encouragement to keep praying. My brother-in-law called a year ago to tell us he had come back to the Church and was working through annulment of his first, civil marriage and lots of other issues. We had last seen him at the time of my father-in-law’s funeral. My husband and I had hurried out to go to the vigil Mass, as we were the only practicing Catholics there. He asked me where we had been and was surprised that we had gone to Mass. I’d been a convert for years but he didn’t know that since we had lived far away for years, too. I told him, “All roads lead to Rome.” and forgot about the comment. I cried when he called, too. Thanks for reminding me that it is never too late and to keep praying.

  10. Lily says:

    Thank you, thank you, Msgr. Pope! You have no idea how much encouragement your story has given me. I pray constantly for my children who are far from the faith; especially for one that says she is an atheist. Sometimes I wonder if it’s making any difference; if God is listening to my prayers. After reading your article, I feel hopeful. I will continue trusting in the Lord.

  11. Linda.O says:

    Thank you so much for this encouragement, Msgr Pope!

    This is so necessary today – spiritual warfare requires many prayer warriors to combat the vices, temptations, and various “isms” that have caused so many baptised Catholics turn away from their faith. Our prayers, sacrifices, and fasts must be tireless for the sake of our loved ones’ souls, but there is always hope no matter how bleak things might seem. God’s own desire is for his children to return, therefore we can be assured that our prayers will not be in vain – even if we might not see the results in our own lifetime. I am also convinced that we need to pray for each others’ loved ones, not just ours. All are part of the Body of Christ. It is a hurting body when any baptised member is not living out their call, their ministry and/or vocation.

  12. richard says:

    I might add that in my own situation I find myself “backsliding” frequently but I continue praying daily no matter how awful it looks.

  13. Gary says:

    Great stuff as always, Msgr. Pope! Thanks!

  14. Liz says:

    Hi Msgr! The best prayers are those of a mother and even g-mother. You know how it is with us mothers and of course our Blessed Mother. You were in such good hands without even asking or knowing. And look at you now. The sower and the reaper. Our sweet Jesus wouldn’t stop whispering in your ear and through all the mothers prayers in your life you heard the call. You never give up on us. God bless you always, Liz

  15. Stefanie says:

    My Confirmation sponsor (and Aunt) prayed me back into the church, but bless her heart, she didn’t tell me that until I was a few years ‘back in.’ After 25 year absence, I’ve been back now for 15 years. As a way of showing my gratitude for my Aunt’s faithfulness, twice a day, I too pray for the people in my prayer journal which I have with me all the time. When someone asks me to pray for someone else, I write it down asap before I forget.
    As RCIA director, during the Rites of Initiation, I have seen the ecstatic looks on the faces of those who prayed for that spouse/grandchild/child/sibling/neighbor many times — very rewarding! We all ‘wax and wane’ in our devotion to Christ and His Church, but how wonderful that there are so many ‘witnesses’ so are praying on our behalf.

  16. esiul says:

    Dear Msgr Pope, you hit the jackpot today. What a beautiful family! Yes, prayers are most powerful.
    And they are answered, I can attest to that too.
    Thank you.

  17. Stephanie says:

    Dear Msgr Pope,
    My father thankfully stayed w/the Catholic church long enough to be sure his children were properly baptized into the Catholic religion. From there I do not know what all took place but, he no longer goes to mass on a regular basis and my sister and brother have also fallen on the wayside. Thankfully I married into a family who flourishes on their Catholic faith and was comfirmed early in 1993. My husband and I have both supported our 3 sons in baptism, 1st reconciliation, 1st communion, and confirmation. I pray everyday that they will always stay strong in their faith. I am asking all who read this to please join me and pray for my dad James to come back to the church so he can truely reap the rewards he deserves in coming home where he belongs.
    Thank you

  18. Mari Fellay says:

    Sorry to bother you, but how do you pray for someone who has left the Church and everything related to it?
    Can you give me some advice?

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