One Love, Two Faiths
Living a Mixed Marriage
By Kate Wicker
APR. 15, 2010 (www.faithandfamilylive.com) - In a best possible world, anyone who was called to the married life would find a faithful Catholic spouse. Yet, the reality is many Catholics end up marrying someone who does not share their faith.
While a mixed marriage is not the ideal, when two people are married in the Church, God’s graces pour down on them, perfecting their love for each other and strengthening them in times of weakness and uncertainty.
As someone who always assumed she’d be part of a “purist” marriage but ended up marrying an amazing man, non-Catholic man, I share some tips that have helped me stay true to my spouse and to the faith I love.
Seek out support.
I choose to not vent about my husband or our disparity in faith with friends or family. I want to build him and our marriage up in every way I can. On the other hand, I sometimes do need to talk about the special challenges I face in my marital life.
What I’ve learned to do is to confide in a few trustworthy and prudent people, including a priest, a spiritual director, and my grandma. My nana, in particular, has been a wellspring of wisdom for me since she was also a part of a mixed marriage.
Never underestimate the power of prayer.
Prayer - even if it never leads to conversion - is needed to nourish your own soul and faith life. I find that being in a mixed marriage demands I pray regularly and fervently - not only for my husband and children but for my own strength and wisdom.
When I’m wrestling with my own doubts, I cannot start to think there’s no hope for my children or my husband. I have to work through my spiritual dry spells. I have to spend more time in prayer and put myself before the Blessed Sacrament. I have to embrace my spiritual challenges as a way of becoming stronger in my faith instead of looking at them as leading my entire family down the path of non-belief.
Speaking of prayer, before marrying anyone - Catholic or not - it’s important to spend time discerning about your relationship and whether it’s God’s will (or your own desire to seize your “soul mate”) to enter into the bond of a sacramental marriage.
Let the little children come.
As Catholics, we must not only bear fruit; we must ripen it for Christ by leading our children to Him, training them in godliness, and nurturing their souls for an eternity in heaven.
Thankfully, the Sacrament of Marriage showers couples with graces that help them face this daunting task of touching the souls of our children and bringing them to know, love, and serve Jesus with all of their being.
But what about the couple in a mixed marriage? Can they really bear witness to this awesome responsibility? Can children grow in faith, embrace the virtues Christ imitates, and know the tremendous power of the Eucharist when only one parent is living the Catholic faith?
Some would say probably not. I say yes, but it won’t be easy. The good news is, while it’s essential the non-Catholic spouse agrees to raise the children Catholic and supports the faithful spouse in the spiritual formation of their children, even parents in mixed marriages aren’t really going at it solo. God is with you to guide you and to give you all the graces you need to reveal the faith to your children. I do realize the odds may be stacked against my children, but there are saints who overcame far greater odds.
What about when your children start asking questions?
The first time my oldest asked why Daddy didn’t receive communion, I explained it this way: “Daddy doesn’t have the same gift that we have or if he does, he hasn’t opened it yet and it’s our job to help him find it and unwrap it.”
Sure, this simple explanation may not work on a 16-year-old, but right now she’s very keen on helping Daddy get his present. There’s a reason Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.” Their humility and blind trust is a beautiful reminder of how we should all approach our faith. My children love to talk about God. They ask to pray a decade of the rosary and are curious about the lives of the saints. They’re wonderful witnesses to the faith.
While I’m not suggesting you goad your children to be pint-sized apologetics, allow them to share their love for God with your spouse.
Trust in Him.
Stop trying to change your spouse. Don’t nag. Do not get all “holier than thou” on him or her. Strive to be a spouse who tries to do right rather than be right. This means upholding your own obligations to the Church and leading a life of love.
As St. Ambrose advised St. Monica, “Talk less about God and more to God.” Once I said to my nana that if having a non-Catholic spouse, who was still a loving, good man, was my cross to bear, then so be it. She wisely reminded me, “It’s not your cross to bear at all. This is God’s business.” I can be a faithful, good wife. But it’s not up to me to convert him. That’s ultimately God’s work.
Release yourself from the burden of changing your spouse. While you’re at it, release him or her from a similar burden of fulfilling you when Christ is the only one who can satisfy your restless heart. It’s only when we place our complete trust in God, that miracles can begin to happen.
Don’t lose faith.
Stay hopeful. Persevere with humility and patience as St. Monica did.
And keep close these words from the Catechism:
“For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. It is a great joy for the Christian spouse and for the Church if this consecration should lead to the free conversion of the other spouse to the Christian faith. Sincere married love, the humble and patient practice of family virtues, and perseverance in prayer can prepare the non-believing spouse to accept the grace of conversion.” (CCC 1637)
—Senior writer Kate Wicker is a wife and mom of three living in Georgia. Find her online at KateWicker.com.
View this article in ParishWorld.net