How to help our parents - those who are much older than we: mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers - to come to the Church? After all, the older generation grew and formed under the Soviet regime, when atheism was the dominant ideology. They are already rooted in their worldview, in their habits. They find it difficult to come to the temple, especially the first time. Very many of them still relate to the Church with distrust.
But, on the other hand, is it good, when the younger ones try to teach the elders, especially in such serious matters? How can we help, and how can we even be here? Is it worthwhile to hold explanatory talks, argue and convince, or is there another way?
Archpriest Alexander Avdyugin:
- The most important thing is not to tell, pray, fast, and not constantly advise: "Do as I do!" Axiom: "Any belief imposed by force is faith unfaithful" - not only for the younger ones, it remains for the older as well.
To argue is fraught with it: we will receive too much in response to arguments about the more moral level of the society of the time when our parents and grandparents grew up and lived. The notion of respect for elders, caring for the younger, helping the sick and the elderly were brought up and encouraged, just as education with all its ideological deviations was then at a high level.
Love "to fatherly coffins", to traditions and history - an argument to which the older generation will listen
But there is an argument to which the older generation listens: the famous moral code of those times, if we remove from it the ideological constructs, which in its essence is at least naive, but in general the correct copy of the basic biblical postulates. We can explain this - there will be interest; we will be able to strive to fulfill the commandments of God with our own behavior and non-illusive sincerity - interest will grow into a desire to know what kind of faith this is.
Another argument that the older generation will always listen to is love for "fatherly coffins", for traditions and for our history.
Archpriest Alexander Avdyugin
I have a friend of a young priest who drew a grandmother, together with his grandfather, with the creation of the genealogical tree of his family. When asked by his grandfather why he does this, he asks his relatives, writes letters to the archives, the priest answered: I want to pray for them. It was enough for the old people to come to the temple.
It is a personal example of faith, tradition, culture and history of our ancestors that, I believe, is the main argument in apologetics with the older generation.
Briefly, then: do not be obtrusive, but be an example.
Priest Valery Dukhanin:
- Personally for me, this question for a long time was very painful. The fact is that I grew up in an ordinary atheistic family. No one, no parents, neither my sister nor I believed in God. In 1989, when I was 13 years old, my sister and my cousin decided to be baptized. Us, children, no one taught faith, and we, the children, decided to baptize even why, just to join some mysterious action that will protect, help. But surprisingly, the mystery of Baptism changed me, opened the heart of God, and I left the temple as a new person, feeling in me an amazing light, joy and more freedom. Since then, my life has changed dramatically, I went to the temple and was happy that I had found the meaning of life, no longer saw for myself any other way than serving God. And here it turned out that my parents do not understand me.
Priest Valery Dukhanin
"Why do you need this?" - they told me when I was going to the temple on Saturday and Sunday. They saw no prospects along the way. The church life frightened them and aroused bewilderment, seemed a relic of the past. However, they did not bother me and did not forbid me. And when I entered the theological seminary - it was 1993 year - it turned out that the overwhelming majority of seminarians, as far as I can remember, came from unchurched families. There was a paradox: the children turned to God before their parents. It seems to me that now this difference has somewhat smoothed out.
I do not remember exactly what I was saying to my parents, but I definitely said that I wanted them to take this joy - communication with God. I remember how I shared my impressions of what I read in the Bible. And since I began to read the Bible, like every book, from the first lines, that is, from the Old Testament, then, without being sufficiently churched, I spoke enthusiastically about things that were absolutely useless in the light of the New Testament, for example, about clean and unclean food, than only introduced his parents and grandmother to bewildered.
Now I am convinced: if you yourself have recently joined the bosom of the Church, then do not try to teach anyone. Learn first yourself. My words to my parents, naturally, did not really work: they did not go to the temple.
Frankly, I have not had any method to address the faith of the older generation. It seems to me, in a sense, even artificial and wrong. If a child tries to teach his parents intelligence, then it looks just wild. It is obvious to me that if children turn to God other than their parents, then even more so, parents can turn to God without obtrusiveness on the part of children.
Only a good example can influence it. People are always drawn to that which brings them good, good. And when they see a concrete example and realize that the Church is good to the soul, then there comes a rethinking. My parents turned to God in addition to some propaganda on my part.
I will still open the secret: when I was studying at the seminary in the Holy Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, on a regular basis, almost every day, I went to St. Sergius. Each time I carried a note with names of native people and prayed for their conversion to God, for the salvation of their souls. For the time that has passed since then, almost all the relatives really turned to God. But this was done somehow unnoticed by the eyes.
First the mother went to the temple, began to confess, to take communion. Then my father began to walk occasionally. Years passed, and it turned out that our native people built the temple of the blessed Matrona of Moscow, the temple immediately took center stage in the lives of many native people, and my parents settled right next to the temple, the pope himself began to confess and receive communion, without anyone's request and proposals. Also, my grandmother, and almost all - each in his own way, but to God came.
The most important thing is a constant prayer for native people, a prayer from the heart
I do not think that it is possible to lead a person to God through disputes and discussions. The appeal to God is the secret of the human soul. The older person can only be kindly suggested, tell us about Christ, about how life in the Church strengthens and nourishes us. But the most important thing is constant prayer about native people, prayer from the heart - it brings fruit.
The difference between faith and disbelief is not just a difference in worldviews, it is a difference between two internal states, the experience of the heart. One heart feels God's presence and the other does not. Faith in God can not be planted in the soul rationally rational way. It comes as a revelation, as a personal meeting with God, and then the heart changes.
If children turned to God before their parents, then this is a huge spiritual victory. This is much better than when parents turned to God, and children do not. Usually parents look more intensely at what the children have dedicated themselves to, so parents often take children to God.
I want to remember from history. When the Orthodox faith was spreading in Russia, the affairs in Rostov the Great were especially hard. The first two bishops were expelled. The third bishop was St. Leonty of Rostov, but he was not able to persuade local residents to believe, he was also expelled. Then he settled near Rostov and began to communicate with the children of local residents. The children were attracted by his kindness, and he told them about Christ, about salvation, then baptized them, and after that adults began to settle. Thus, the conversion of children to Christ was the beginning of the churching of all of Rostov. Therefore, the appeal to God is children before parents - a welcome phenomenon in the life of modern Russia. Through children, faith will spread to all.
Priest Demetrius Shishkin:
- It seems to me, in respect of older relatives, first of all, we need to take care of the most precise and complete fulfillment of the commandment about the veneration of parents. This applies to grandfathers, grandmothers and other older relatives. Because the foundation of the sermon on Christ, of course, is to serve love. Then our word, said about faith, will be "seasoned with salt," that is, spiritually complete and meaningful. This is the first.
Priest Dimitry Shishkin
Second: do not think that the changes in our loved ones will happen quickly and exactly as we expect. People are all different, and in someone a blessed change of heart happens easily and quickly, and in someone with difficulty and slowly. In any case, one should cherish the freedom of a loved one and not force his will. Have enough patience and benevolent respect. And this means: do not fool your head with your endless notations, "do not consider yourself something, being nothing" (cf. Gal. 6: 3). Learn to listen more and serve, not to be clever and admonish.
You can and need to talk about faith to your relatives, but you need to do it with tact, and not deliberately preaching
Of course, you can and need to talk about your faith to relatives and friends, but you need to do it with tact, not deliberately, with an "educational" purpose, which can only cause irritation in the father and mother, who taught you to speak sometime, and now you are trying to teach them something. And even if you say the right words a thousand times, but if there is no simplicity and confidence, if these words do not come from the fullness of the heart life, then only the letters remain.
Only the Lord heals the heart of man, one must remember this. So, you need to pray with pain for your unbelievers or unchurched relatives and yourself to be a living and true Christian. Confirm the preaching with your personal example, remembering that "there is no word that would be wiser than the deed" (St. Mark the Ascetic).