In fifth grade, I met my future husband.
We met through a mutual friend. I went to public school with our friend, who lived a few doors down from Bob. Our friendships survived a childhood of sleepover shenanigans, hanging out at the mall, trick-or-treating together, and dating various friends without ever actually being romantically involved. He was cute, but sort of a jerk, until we met up again after my first year of college. That cute little Bobby was now Bob, and he was all grown up. He was kind but strong, decisive and direct, but loving and complimentary. He was smart and handsome and driven. . . and he became mine.
Faith was never an issue while dating because although Bob was Catholic and I was a non-denominational Protestant, he was a sort-of-almost-lapsed Catholic. Which in my unformed mind was sort of like being a Protestant. No conflict there. We would attend Mass with his family sometimes and attend church with mine on other days. For the first three years, we had a long distance relationship so church attendance was never really an issue.
And then we got engaged. And suddenly faith became a little more important. Issues of where we would be married, and who would officiate our wedding, and how we would raise our children suddenly needed to be hashed out. My not-so-Catholic fiancé started talking about things like having our marriage ‘recognized’ by the Church. The vows included promising to raise our children Catholic!
So what’s a girl to do? I had to seriously consider what was most important. Was it more important that I married this man and begin to embrace Catholicism a bit at a time because it was important to him? Or was it critical that I dig in my heels in and reject the Church teachings that I had dismissed before seeking to understand?
There was little room for compromise in our wedding ceremony because, well, rules are rules, but I knew that once we set up our home, I would have the influence over my children’s understanding of Christianity. Little did I know that five years after we were married the Holy Spirit would call me to be in full communion with the Church. I wrote about that already (here) so let’s just jump to what you can do to help your loved one be or stay open to Catholicism during the dating years.
Live Your Faith, Don’t Talk It
There is a campy song from my Protestant youth group days with the refrain “they will know we are Christians by our love.” When we live our faith in plain sight, the joy that comes from living a sacramental life is transparent to those in our lives.
Know Your Faith
You have to be able to answer the questions of why we do what we do. Why can’t women be priests? Why do we believe life begins at conception? Why don’t we support the death penalty? Why do we believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist? Why do we believe in a triune God? Why do we venerate Mary? What is the Communion of Saints? Why do we pray for the dead? There is beauty and consistency and reason behind all of the teachings of the Church. They can be hard to accept, but they make rational sense once you begin to explore them. If you are hoping for conversion of a loved one, it is a good idea to dig a little deeper into what your faith actually believes. Signing up to be a sponsor for RCIA is a great way to become re-catechized and this will help you to fully understand the personal process that is conversation.
Grow in Your Faith
Go to Mass, read the daily readings, and develop your prayer life. One of the biggest complaints of our faith from our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters is that Catholics don’t have a personal relationship with Christ, they don’t know Him or His word. Get to know Christ and learn to hear His voice.
Recognize it is a Personal Process
We are each on our own journey down an individual path towards holiness. Sometimes our paths intersect with others; sometimes they run parallel. As a wife, now my job is to help with the sanctification of my husband. I am called to help him in is path toward holiness. I am not there to make decisions for him, to force him to participate, or fill his world with guilt. Pray for your loved one to hear God’s call and then have the will to respond with courage when he is called.
Being called to the Faith isn’t something that you can will upon someone else. It is a personal thing. Dating a non-Catholic can spur you to a deeper understanding of your faith and help you to see what the aspects in which you need to study or grow. My actual conversion to the faith had very little to do with my husband. He introduced me to a priest who opened up my heart to the Holy Spirit. He let me know his faith was important. He prayed with me and for me. When I heard God’s call and told him I was converting, he didn’t make it about him, he knew it was all about God. He saw the beauty and goodness in the process and he supported it.
Written by MaryRuth Hackett. Find out more about her here.