The answer to the question is a very definitive yes! It is never too late, you have never strayed too far to be welcomed back home.
First I need to define what coming back means. Anyone of any faith is welcome to attend Mass and participate to the degree that they are able. What that means is that Mass attendance does not necessarily include reception of Communion. In the Catholic Church reception of communion is researved for those who are Roman Catholic or in a faith that is in “Full Communion” with the Roman Catholic Church. For the Roman Catholic they must not be aware of any “serious” sin to be able to participate in the Eucharist.
The Catholic Church never closes her doors on lapsed Catholic. Everyone is always welcome to attend Mass and enjoy the fellowship of their fellow parishioners. Divorce is not a sin, divorced Catholics do not have to absent themselves from church or the sacraments. It is remarriage outside of the Church that is an issue. It then becomes necessary to obtain an annulment of previous marriages on the part of both parties.
Like many Catholics, I went through my own dark days of the soul. I was born and raised in a very observant Catholic family, well at least my mother was. My father was also a Catholic but he was not very observant.I went to Catholic High School, married in the Church and practiced for the first two years of our marriage. Then I had a still born baby. While I didn’t blame the Church I did blame God, and I didn’t want to see him anymore.
I went in search of answers to unanswerable questions. Why do things like this happen. Why didn’t my son have a chance to live. Would a loving God let this happen? Reincarnation seemed to be the answer, if he was going to get another life then okay maybe it was fair that he didn’t get this one.I didn’t ever leave the Catholic Church, I was just absent. I made sure my children received religious instruction and made their sacraments but I only attended church sporadically and I got nothing out of it. I attended more from fear of Hell than from love of God. Those teachings at my mother’s knee were hard to shake.
In 1984 my father developed a fatal illness. It was only a matter of time. The priests at our parish visited my father, gave him the sacrament of the sick and were a great comfort to my mother and to my siblings and myself. Something in me changed, I told God I was coming back and this time to stay.
I have attended Mass every Sunday and Holy Day since that time, unless I was deathly ill. At first I did it because I had promised I would . In 1992 I went to a Life in the Spirit Seminar and my whole life changed forever. Suddenly those beautiful words I had been hearing all my life had a meaning to me. They became relevant. I wasn’t just listening I was hearing. It was like the light suddenly went on in my spiritual life.
Now I can’t imagine not going to church, I need to go every week to get my nourishment for the struggles ahead. For quite a few years I belonged to a prayer group where I learned how to pray not just by rote but from my heart. What a great gift that is.
I am such a different person today than that poor little lapsed Catholic that I was so many years ago. My husband and daughter have come along on the journey with me. My daughter married outside the church because of her husbands previous marriage. For seven years she attend church every Sunday, raised her children as Catholics but never received communion because she recognized that until he received an annulment of the first marriage she was living in sin. Well it finally happened, his annulment was granted, they had their marriage blessed and she was beaming as she received Communion.
I want to point out that the Parish where I work does not have dwindling numbers. We are growing all the time. We have many young people and children. What we do have is an aging population since many families are having fewer children. Not all however, we have several families with 7 and 8 children and many with 5 or 6. The Catholic Church is alive and well in Southern Connecticut.