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BIS LIVES Blog

Living Faithfully and Fruitfully When Your Spouse Doesn’t Share Your Faith

marry a non-catholic

So your spouse isn’t Catholic. Or he was, but he doesn’t practice anymore. Do you ever scroll through Catholic social media feeling as though you’re never going to live up to the standard? You can never be as good a Catholic as the women whose spouses pray the Rosary with them, take Insta-perfect post-Mass photos with them, and facilitate their children’s spiritual formation?

I know how you feel, and I’ve felt that too. But God has spoken into these feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. He’s shown me that my faith is just that: my faith. Although there are particular challenges presented by this situation, it does not need to limit your faith.

When Your Spouse Doesn’t Share Your Faith

Here are a few things I’ve learned things in prayer and practice about living faithfully and fruitfully as a Catholic woman whose spouse does not share her Faith.

Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) gives us answers to questions about faith, morality, and doctrine. This includes the topic of “mixed marriage and disparity of cult” (i.e. a marriage between people of entirely different faiths/beliefs, or between different denominations).

To summarise, the CCC tells us that although there are undeniable challenges presented by this situation, such marriages are licit (subject to dispensation from the Bishop) and can be conducive to a rich faith life for the Catholic spouse. The Church wants to facilitate such marriages by giving a clear model for success. For example, the Catechism states that the Catholic spouse should be guided by “sincere married love, the humble and patient practice of the family virtues, and perseverance in prayer” (CCC 1637).

I strongly encourage you to look directly to the Catechism for wisdom and guidance on this topic (CCC 1633-1637).

Look to the Saints

Find a Saint, or a few, whose intercession you can seek. A favorite of mine is Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur. Her husband was an atheist until he found her writings after her death. He then converted and became a priest!

Others look to St. Monica, St. Augustine or St. Rita. But it doesn’t have to be a saint who was in a comparable situation to you. For example, I’ve been drawn to St. Joseph Moscati lately, who was a celibate doctor from a faithful family. Although his patronage might not make him an obvious choice, I’ve been getting to know him and I know he’s interceding for me. Simply find a Saint you “click” with, and ask them for help.

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Check the “Rules”

The Church absolutely welcomes those whose spouse may not be Catholic. However, check with a priest whether you are in good standing to receive the Eucharist. In particular, if your marriage has not been convalidated by the Church then you may not be able to receive Communion. (However, you may explore the option of radical sanation with your priest if your spouse is not open to having your marriage convalidated).

Practical Tips

Be open about discussing issues that may be problematic. Think kids, sexual ethics, and participation in the Sacraments. How are you going to find solutions that respect your Faith without your spouse feeling confused or rejected? Approach these conversations with patience, charity, and humility.

Stay away from social media if it makes you feel bad. While many Catholic social media accounts can be encouraging and inspiring, sometimes it can cause “Catholic marriage envy.” Envy can compromise mental and spiritual well-being, so be smart about whether the accounts you follow build you up, or make you feel bad.

Don’t miss out. It can be easy to feel out of place at Mass, Bible studies, or other church activities. You look around and see couples kneeling together, jointly wrangling their children, or sharing about the verses they prayed over during family prayer time last night. You feel pangs of jealousy and ask God, “Why can’t I have that?” Many of us have been there! Try to remember that God wants you—not you as part of a devout Catholic couple. Just you. He knows your challenging circumstances and is delighted that you are pursuing Him in spite of them. Ask Him to deliver you from envy, and to grant the grace of gratitude for your faith and your family. Above all, keep showing up. Go to Mass, to Bible studies, and whatever you can manage that will nourish your faith. Don’t let self-consciousness or envy keep you away.

Surrender control. Ultimately, it is in God’s hands whether and when your spouse will embrace Catholicism. Sometimes it can feel like there’s a magic formula. If we just find the right prayers, the right Saints, the right novenas…God will grant our desires. Of course, these things are good, and they are pleasing to God. But He works outside of space and time as we know it. The best thing we can do is submit gladly to His will in the knowledge that His ways are perfect.

Respect your spouse and his beliefs. Don’t view him as “lesser” because he doesn’t share your beliefs. Avoid the temptation to consider yourself smarter, or wiser, or better because of your faith. Remember that faith is a gift and a blessing from God, rather than a personal accolade.

You are Not Alone

This cross can feel very heavy, and some days leave us feeling weary, even hopeless. God knows your pain, as does Mary. Ask them to use it to draw you nearer to the Cross. But rejoice! God loves you, just as much as He loves those in “perfect” Catholic marriages. He loves your spouse, too. And He can’t wait to show you the meaning of your trials once you reach Heaven.

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Gina is a SAHM living in Paris, France with her husband and young daughter. A convert to the faith, she feels blessed to live in a city full of rich Catholic treasure, where she can explore and grow in faith. You can find out more about her here.

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Janet Miller
    April 8, 2019 at 11:50 am

    My spouse was not Catholic and did not practice any religion for most of our 36 years of marriage. (I am now a widow.) I wish I had read your post or something like it years ago. Thank you for your insights. They are helpful to me even now.

  • Reply
    Kelly
    April 9, 2019 at 9:29 pm

    Thank you for sharing. It’s good to know that I’m not alone.

  • Reply
    Sue Kalnasy
    April 11, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    Thank you so much. Feeling less lonely after reading your post. My husband actually was confirmed about 5 years into our marriage, but never really embraced the faith and has not gone to mass in years.

  • Reply
    Kylie
    April 12, 2019 at 10:21 am

    I want to thank you for this post. It brought me to tears. My husband and I have been married for two years. Recently I began having thoughts that I married the wrong person, and that there had been a more suitable Catholic man out there for me somewhere. This post helped me remember what I so strongly believed at the beginning of this marriage: that I was called to marry a non-Catholic in order to bring the Catholic faith to him in hopes that he would one day embrace it and become Catholic. I had gotten away from praying a daily Rosary for his conversion, but this post has given me the courage to begin this devotion again. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Tiffany
    April 14, 2019 at 7:50 pm

    Thank you for this post. It is a topic that is not discussed often enough. It can be an extremely painful cross.

    • Reply
      Dianna
      June 20, 2019 at 1:18 pm

      With you sister

  • Reply
    Jen
    April 16, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    Thank you for this article. My husband was raised in what I like to say was a non practicing Catholic family. He was baptized and made his first communion, but was never confirmed nor does he have a desire to. He comes to church with us if it is convenient for him. I have always felt blessed that he supports me in my faith and raising our children Catholic, but I often feel like you described…that it would be nice to have someone to pray with, or won’t make me feel guilty for finding a mass to go to on vacation. Thank you for helping me to remember that I’m not alone and to just love him for who he is.

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