An Anglican Asks: What About a Non-Catholic Spouse?

Last weekend, we posted a question from EPG, an Anglican reader of YIM Catholic. The question was, Do Catholics go overboard with Mary? Thirty of you answered, in a comment thread that is a virtual encyclopedia of Marian experience. Now here’s another question that some would-be converts might ask, and it’s not an easy one. It’s a question for those received into the Catholic Church as adults with a husband or wife who is not Catholic, not interested in Catholicism, or perhaps even hostile to Catholicism:

EPG asks: “How did you handle questions, biases, anger, misinformation, etc., in the middle of your own discernment?  Did resistance, opposition, confusion, feelings of hurt or betrayal from a husband or wife create difficulties in your process of discernment and reception?  How did you address the issues that did come up?”

Even if you aren’t in this narrow category, even if you’re a cradle Catholic married to another Catholic, I think you can shed some light on this for EPG. From my own experience, as a convert married to a cradle Catholic, I know that whenever two spouses practice their faith(s) in differing ways, it can create tensions in a marriage, sometimes simply through misunderstanding: She thinks she’s so devout! He thinks I think he’s not devout. . . .

So here’s message one for EPG: Converts discerning about Catholicism should not feel alone in this.

Your thoughts, readers?

  • alicia

    Great book on this, "When only one converts" by Lynn Nordhagen. Would be the first place I would send some one.

  • Mary P.

    I married a non-Catholic. Actually, he has a multi-religious background. His maternal grandmother was Jewish, which makes him, by Jewish law, Jewish. On the other hand, his father is Muslim, which makes him by Muslim law, Muslim. His mother is Catholic. I, on the other hand, was born Catholic. I had no idea, when we married, that the issue could be as difficult as it was or continues to be for so many.When we first married, my husband couldn't understand what my "draw" to the Church was, why abortion was wrong, why the Church considers contraception to be wrong, why confession is important, and a number of other things. He wasn't sure who he was, or which of these three religions he should embrace. Me, on the other hand, was "at home" in the Church. I'd never considered leaving it for any of the multitude of reasons that came up. But EPG's questions (as always!) made me think. I was really very lucky. Aside from the occasional, "Why?" questions, my husband respected my faith and the Catholic Church. Eventually, he started to come with me to Sunday Mass. When our first child was born, she was baptized, and my husband was baptized soon after, because he saw the value of having both parents participating and raising their children in the same religion. He continued to hold onto some of his previous reservations for quite some time. Fast forward to 30 years and six children later. He now won't move to a community that does not have a parochial school for our kids. He attends daily Mass with me whenever he can. And lately, he's become an enthusiastic participant in confession. In short, he's become an ardent Catholic, ready to defend and do whatever he can to preserve the Faith.Advice? As I said, I think it all started with my spouse. Although he didn't understanding my love for the Catholic Church when we married, at least respected my need to be a practicing Catholic. Then, lots of prayer, followed by God taking care of those many pesky details. EPG, all I can say is that the road wasn't easy, but it is very much worth it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    Mary P: The love between you and your husband, and the love of God for the two of you, shines through your account. May God continue to bless you.

  • Mary P.

    Thank you, Allison. God continues to bless us in so many ways. In fact, our fifth child, a daughter, is being confirmed tonight! We are so excited! And happy to share our excitement with all of you on YIMC!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    Wonderful! What is her saint's name? Our son picked "Isidore" (His confirmation is on the Feast of Pentecost)

  • Mary P.

    Her patron saint is St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Her middle name is Elizabeth, and she goes to Seton Catholic Central High in Binghamton NY. And her dad and I met at Mt. St. Mary's University, which is where St. Elizabeth Anne Seton lived and worked. We had just started school there the year she was canonized. Plus, since St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is her high school patron saint, the deciding factor was that she didn't need to do any additional research for her Saint's report, which is mandatory. What can I say? Adolescence strikes again!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10936303952493917859 Duane

    Another component to this is when your path of conversion rocks the otherwise steady boat. If you were married in a protestant church and you were "on the same page", but one has felt called to Rome it can be stressful.I'm presently in this situation and I've learned this much:* Grace calls people differently. While I may respond to apologetics another is more influenced by a respected friend.* It helps to explain it in terms of fullness of faith versus conversion, but this needs to be legitimate. Dig into the pearls of Catholic prayer life, such as the Liturgy of the Hours and permit the gospel to change you.* Choose between leading forward and leading quietly. In some situations you answer the call of conscience to charge ahead in RCC membership trusting that the pain is short-lived. In other cases one takes years to bring a spouse along with him or her. I'm conflicted on this point, but leaning toward the quiet method — unity in faith should be compatible with family unity.I would love to hear from others who made it there.

  • http://runswithangels.wordpress.com/ Jan

    Duane – haven't "been there" but you might want to read Scott Hahn's Rome Sweet Home, if you haven't already. He certainly rocked his 'family' boat…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09322135500288738561 Bender

    PatienceHumilityBe a faithful witness by your faithful, steadfast conduct, let the light of the Faith shine through you by your life, not by preachiness and argument.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09322135500288738561 Bender

    Blessed Mother Teresa of CalcuttaL'Osservatore Romano, April 8, 1991:Father Gabric, S.J., told me this story: A Mohammedan Mulvi was standing with him and watching a sister bandaging the wound of a leper with so much love. She didn't say anything but she did something. The Mulvi turned to father and said: "All these years I believed that Jesus was a prophet, but today I know he is God because he has given so much love into the hands of this sister." That sister even today, does not know that by her action she brought Jesus into the life of that man. Today Jesus walks through the world in and through you and me, "going about doing good."This is how we deal with non-Catholics in our family (note – the whole world is "our family").