Q. How do I get my boyfriend to attend Mass with me?
My boyfriend doesn’t go to church. I’ve asked him to go with me, but  I’m afraid to keep asking him because he always gives me a deep sigh, and reasons why he doesn’t want to go. He believes more in science than stories in the Bible, so for him, church is a waste of time.  I want to go to church with him and build our faith in our  relationship. What can I do besides pray that God comes into his heart?

I am delighted that you are making Sunday Mass a priority in your life. We all need God and we need the sacraments. The Eucharist feeds us and nourishes us for our journey. Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ gives us the strength to continue his work in our daily lives.

There are several things you can do to help your boyfriend. First and foremost, set a good example; live your faith to the fullest. You will be blessed by the sacraments. So keep going, even if you have to go by yourself. You cannot give to others what you yourself do not have.

Secondly, it sounds like you and your boyfriend need to have a good and honest conversation about faith, as well as a conversation about your relationship. If going to Sunday Mass is a priority for you and a priority for your relationship, then there is no reason for the two of you not to share the experience.

I’m sure there are a number of things that you do together that would not be your first choice of activity, e.g., going to a ball game rather than a movie or going to his favorite restaurant rather than yours. Yet, you are willing to accommodate his wishes at times. Often, based on my experience, these events become a good time because you are doing them together and spending time with each other.

Well, Sunday Mass should be one of the most important things you do together. Even if he doesn’t want to go, he should go. He should go because it is the right thing to do, but he should also go because it is important to you. Hopefully then, when he does attend with you, it will give you an opportunity to enter into deeper conversations about faith and beliefs. When he does go with you, talk about it afterward, share your experiences, compare notes on what you heard in the homily, talk about the way the Mass made you feel.

Finally, get involved in other aspects of the church. Invite your boyfriend to go with you to a young adult event or to a meal program where you can serve the poor. By doing other things together it well help both of you grow in your faith. Then, as his faith grows, hopefully he will be asking you, “When are we going to church?”

Q. Is there a better way to think of prayer and the way it fits into my life?
When I pray, I feel guilty to pray for things that are connected to my life, especially when I know that there’s someone out there suffering more. I feel better praying for others and the serious issues in the world. I understand that God is bigger than all of our problems, but I don’t want to waste his time on little things.

There is a story about a woman who went up to her pastor and complained:

“Father, God never answers my prayers.”

The priest replied to the woman, “Maybe you’re asking for the wrong things.”

To which the woman quickly responded, “But Father, I know what I want.”

Finally, the priest said, “That is the problem; you are asking God for what you want, rather than asking God for what you need.”

There is no reason to feel guilty about asking God for the things that we need, but we should first take a step back and look at what it is we need versus what it is we want. I want a bigger house, I want a better car, I want more money, but do I need it? Our prayer to God should be about the things we need in life – love, faith, hope – and our prayer should be about the people in our lives. We need the love of God, and we need the love of others.

So our own personal prayer and petitions can be for both our needs and the needs of those around us. But prayer is so much more than just asking God for things. Prayer is also about building our relationship with God, spending time with him. Prayer can be reading the Scriptures to learn more about God. Prayer can be mediating or listening to uplifting music. Prayer can be writing a poem, keeping a journal, appreciating the beauty of nature.

The problem that most people have is that they think there is only one way to pray. The reality is that there are many, many ways to pray. It is all about drawing closer to God. So keep praying for others and the serious issues in the world. It’s OK to keep praying for your own needs, too. But most of all, keep praying, and allow God to enter into your life, forming you into the best disciple you can be.

(Fr. Jerry Herda, ordained in 1990, is pastor of St. Monica Parish, Whitefish Bay and St. Eugene Parish, Fox Point. If you have a question you’ve always wanted to ask a priest, e-mail it to and place “Ask Fr. Jerry” in the subject line.)