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Anonymous Ariel wrote:

Dear AAC,

I'm a young woman who grew up not knowing much of anything about Catholicism (what little I was told was false or derogatory), but I've been feeling called to God in recent years, especially since I moved to the United States and have been exposed to more earnest Christians. I've been trying to learn more through online resources and prayer. At this point, I wish to become Catholic.

What worries me is that I've been engaged to a man who is not Catholic. We've had a long history together, and I view him basically as my husband, whom I've committed to for life (we plan on officially marrying once some financial and legal stuff is sorted out). He is a great man who lives by many good values even without spirituality, and we've always had much in common.

And it used to be that we were both atheists together, but now it seems like we're not entirely on the same page, which troubles me. While he's loosened his aversion to religion and accepted a vague theism (he believes in a creator but not necessarily in any particular texts, authorities, or traditions). He doesn't seem ready or willing to commit to a faith at this point and still seems to hold onto some skepticism and disdain.

It does seem like it bothers him that I've been making more mention of Christianity, especially since it appears sudden and out of character. Recently, I casually mentioned considering starting to go to church (on my own), and he was appalled that I even thought of it, then even more dismayed that I couldn't recognize and renounce it as a foolish idea. Part of why he found it offensive was that there are currently so many responsibilities and problems eating up our time and energy, and he thinks it's absurd that I'd want to throw out even more of my already limited time to pursue something he already thinks is nonsense willingly.

Of course, while it's disappointing that he reacted that way, I want to emphasize that we're otherwise very harmonious and similar-minded; please don't get the idea that he's one of those people who's just disagreeable about everything!

I've been struggling a lot with my desire to seek a deeper relationship with Christ and my desire to maintain my relationship with the man I love. On one hand, I'm scared of growing apart from my fiancé, who has supported me so much over the years and whom I've built so much with. Thus, I've hoped that maybe if I resume business as usual and don't push things too hard, maybe he'll be more receptive in the future once he personally feels ready. I pray that God will continue calling to him too but I'm also ashamed about how little I'm involved in my faith and worry that God is angry at my hesitancy and inaction.

I think of people who chose the Lord even under threat of death, and I feel like a failure for feeling unwilling to strain my (soon-to-be) marriage in comparison. While I'm sad at being apart from God because of a genuine desire to be close to His Light, I do also feel scared that I will die unexpectedly before I become Catholic and be condemned for not having acted sooner.

So, I have a couple of questions on this situation:

  1. Is God upset with me because I feel hesitant to answer his call?

    I've heard that Christ will always wait for us to accept His calls if we don't feel ready to seek Him fully, but I've also heard that knowing the truth and not doing everything possible to pursue it is a mortal sin.

  2. Do you have any advice for how aspiring Catholics can discuss their new desire with a spouse or partner who isn't fond of religion in a way that's sensitive to both parties?

    I think a concern that would be relevant to him is that some Catholic teachings would cause lifestyle changes that would affect him (attending Mass, no non-reproductive sex, going through the sacramental version of marriage, etc.) even if he doesn't have to share my faith.

  3. How can I stop worrying?

    I'm scared about a lot of stuff, like that my fiancé will never change his view, or that I'll go to Hell if I died suddenly, all sorts of things.

Thank you for your help,

  { Do you have any advice for how Catholics can share their desire for the faith with a spouse or partner who isn't fond of religion? }

Bob replied:

Dear Ariel,

I'm not sure if anyone has responded to you yet, so I am giving my thoughts just in case (I've been crazy busy for a few weeks).

There is no way anything I can say can make this easier for you.  Following Christ is a complete surrender of self, putting Him before all things — and people.  Consider how Jesus said things like,

  • Let the dead bury their own dead," (Matthew 8:22) or
  • "Anyone who loves father or mother ... son or daughter ... more than me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37).  or
  • "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62).  

I could go on, but you get the point.  Jesus is unrelenting when it comes to the decision to follow Him; He is either super arrogant, or He is the only one that can give you an eternity of happiness. And honestly, there is no guarantee of happiness in this life, but rather a promise of Joy that transcends circumstantial happiness.  This drama in people's lives has been going on for centuries and it never gets easier to make these epic decisions.

You are afraid, you are worried.  That is quite understandable.  I would listen to those feelings and give yourself pause not to enter in to something that could cause even greater pain down the road.  Too often in cases like this, one is only kicking the can down the road, and the underlying conflict rears its ugly head later on, which can be cancerous to a marriage.  I know several persons that had "concerns" or "red flags" but chose not to heed them and had serious regrets later (along with failed marriages).

So, the bottom line is this.  If you want to see if this potential marriage can work, you must express your terms in the clearest way.  For example,

"If we are to be married, I intend to become Catholic and want to be married in the Catholic Church, raise our children Catholic and go to church; and while I don't expect that you would necessarily share my beliefs, I would expect you to support me in my life of faith and our children."

  • If he says, yes, then you have a chance.
  • If he says, no, walk away, cry, go to God for healing and move on.  

You will heal and a blessed life will follow.  You were born to be a saint and nothing short of that will do.  This isn't going to be easy, but nothing worth it ever is.


Bob Kirby

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