Q. My brother has told me he doesn’t believe in God anymore. I know he hasn’t told our parents, and he’s still going to Mass and Communion with us. What should I do?
A. First of all, it shows that you love your brother quite a bit to be concerned about this. That’s a good thing. Keep that love for him strong. Sincere love can often do far more than any words.
Without knowing the specifics of your brother’s situation allow me to offer some general thoughts on this in the hope that at least some of these thoughts will help.
Interestingly, going through a faze like this while growing up could actually be a sign of a good thing. Sure, it’s never good to lose faith in God. But I wonder if something deeper isn’t happening. What I mean is that, in some ways, this is a very normal part of growing up. As a child we are taught to believe in God and usually we do. We have the simple and authentic faith of a child. As we grow and mature that faith must also grow and mature and we must choose to believe on a deeper and more personal level. In other words, we must believe because we really do believe. The problem is that sometimes things get in the way of that process.
For example, something heard on TV or perhaps even said in the classroom may have had the effect of confusing your brother about some aspect of his faith. Though it’s not good to be confused, often the “confusion” one goes through is a result of trying to figure things out and understand. I think that this process of “doubting” is often more of a time a “questioning.” Perhaps your brother told you he no longer believes because he was looking for you to help him to believe. Perhaps it was even his way of asking for help in sorting things out.
If that’s the case then I suggest one of the best approaches for you to take is this. Wait for your brother to say something about this again and when he does simply smile and gently ask him to tell you more. And then just listen. Listen to what made him think this way. Let him explain it. Let him talk about it. Regardless of what he says I would encourage you to spend most of the time listening and trying to understand. If he makes some good points and you have a good answer then go ahead and offer that answer if he will listen. If, on the other hand, you’re not sure how to respond then simply tell him that. And then spend some time thinking, praying, studying and asking god for the right answer. If you need to you could even go ask your priest. Once you feel like you have a good answer look for another opportunity to share that with him. He may be impressed that you took his concern seriously and tried to come up with a good answer.
As for his continuing to go to Mass and Communion, it’s true that we should not go to Communion if we do not believe. But I’d leave that to your brother and God for now. Your brother may actually believe more than he has let on. And going to Mass may be one of the best things he can do during this time of struggle. But in the end, if you feel quite burdened by this it may be good to talk to your parents about it and let them prayerfully talk to your brother. They will most likely have some good ideas on how to proceed.