“They Make Me to Go to Church. But What about My Free Will?”

Question: Hello! When I was 14, my mother got churched rapidly and eventually she “churched” me as well. Both then and now my mom goes to the one and only priest, who is an unquestioned authority for her. And before I even knew it, I began to go to the same priest to confess and to partake of Communion. Moreover, I did it at least once a month, otherwise my mother resented me. While in my last courses of the university, I wanted to partake of Communion less and less, and did it mostly “for the record”. All that time, my mother was praising our priest very much, hinting at the fact that he was “particularly gracious” and all-knowing. I also took his advice for several times (on some not really crucial issues). He advised people in a very curious manner, namely, he did not listen attentively and did not think what to say for a while.

However, it seemed to me a sin to doubt that priest. When I was 25, I went to the USA; I wanted to try to stay there and again asked our spiritual father for advice (through my mother). Eventually I was ordered to go back and enroll in a theological seminary. This alerted me a lot. I tried to say that I had no such plans, but he did not want to listen and stood firm. I came back to my hometown, stopped partaking of Communion and minimized communication with my mother, then I moved into a rented apartment. I can add that for all these years this priest has not given any sensible and intelligible edifications, has not advised me what I can read specifically, he has only demanded the implementation of all the rules, fasts, etc. I did not have the feeling that I was taught to reason and think in a right way by myself.

In recent years, my mother has been trying to “return me to the Church,” or rather, to return me to obedience to this priest. She has been trying to make me feel guilty and to find any pretext for me to come back to her place.  Tell me, please, where are the limits of my freedom in this situation? Thank you.

Fr. Andrey Lemeshonok

Answer by Fr. Andrey Lemeshonok: The Lord does not suppress our freedom, He does not drive us into heaven, but gives us a choice. Still, the decision of any question is made by the person himself. One can hear some advice of a priest and then accept it or not – that is his right. The fact of some kind of orders or categorical attitude on the part of a cleric alerts me personally. I have no right to condemn either this priest or your mother, but, of course, there are some overreactions that could have been avoided.

I would like you to come to church and see something completely different – freedom. I would like you to meet such a priest, with whom you would be happy to communicate and trust your thoughts, with whom you would have good, warm relationship based on mutual trust and respect and who would help you to develop yourself properly in your spiritual life. I am sure such priests exist.

If being a child and then youngster you partook of the Communion, you need to enter the Church once more and try to pray to God, to establish a personal relationship with Him. Because how can a person live without God, using only his own wits and feelings? There are so many sorrows and hardships in the world that any person needs help. You are not an exception. In this situation, you cannot do without God just by yourself.

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