Once my husband and I gave up all hope we felt much better! They should have told us to surrender our sanity when we started contemplating marriage. Seriously, though, in the last few years, we have had to learn to let go and laugh at the concoction our marriage has made blending our once-separate lives. But in all this his row has perhaps been the harder one to hoe, as I think about it.
I am a Cradle Catholic from the Midwest. My husband is a military brat hailing from New England, having spent time living all around the U.S. Growing up in an agnostic home, he converted to Catholicism two years after we met, because I told him I would not marry outside of the Faith and then weather a mixed marriage. But we lucked out! We get the experience of living in a mixed marriage every day anyway, due to our radically different upbringings. Here are the top ten things (plus one!) he has had to adjust to from his previous life, coming to the 100% PURE AWESOMENESS that he has now since converting and marrying me:
- Sunday Mass–every Sunday You can’t sleep in till noon on Sundays when you’re a Catholic! (We don’t do Saturday Afternoon Anticipatory Masses–after all, no one did, before the ’60s or ’70s.) According to the Precepts of the Church we are obliged to go to Holy Mass each and every Sunday of the year, rain or shine. But wait, there’s more: we’ve got Holy Days of Obligation sprinkled throughout the year, too!
- Meatless Fridays Ah yes, observance of the Catholic Faith is not for sissies, and I’m not talking St. Lawrence- and St. Sebastian-level stuff here, either. Abstaining from meat on Fridays is an unremitting challenge for my meat-and-potatoes-for-every-meal-even-breakfast (!) husband to observe. And every Friday morning I get the hang-dog expression and the plaintive question, “Is chicken a meat?”
- Praying Learning to talk to God as a Real Being Who hears you and responds to you can take a vast attitude shift. My husband doubts his prayer-aptitude. Constantly encouraging him, I remind him that prayer is best when it comes naturally and unwaveringly, trustingly and lovingly from the heart.
- Faith in God’s active Providence and direction As a kind of corollary to the above, it’s often hard for a former-agnostic to think of the events in our lives as planned or permitted by the Almighty for our good and our sanctification. Nothing is random, everything has meaning and purpose. Since it is hardest to have faith and hope in times of pain or loneliness, this is something all Christians have to continually learn and relearn. I guess I’ll give him a few more years to wrestle with this one!
- Adjusting to music and manners at Mass The movies, attempting to represent something Catholic (at various functions, liturgies, funerals, etc.), play echoing organ music and Gregorian Chant while panning the solemn faces of priests and altar boys in cassocks. My husband’s ideas of what a Catholic liturgy would be like were shaped by the solemnity and beauty of what he saw in the films. Sad but true, this was only the glitter of Hollywood–nothing like the reality of the local parish church with drums, guitars, and mediocre ’70s music that he had to get used to when actually attending Holy Mass each Sunday. I tried to prepare him for this, but he had to witness it and experience it to believe it. (A change-for-the-better has been creeping into parish churches in America since the last decade, though, so there is great hope in this area these days!)
- Developing friendships at church When you spend so much time worshipping with your neighbors, it is only natural that you socialize with them OUTSIDE of Sunday Mass. This has thankfully been a pleasant adjustment for him!
- Religious art around the house The poor man married a woman who believes, when it comes to sacred art, “More is more!” I purchase it, purchase more of it, scrounge it, collect it, and display it. Right now we have a teeny apartment, so I have to continually explain that objects on our walls are actually smaller than they appear.
- Valuing man’s law as part of God’s law After many years of harangues from me about the imperative on Catholics to obey all just man-made laws as if they were from God Himself, my husband finally feels a twinge of guilt about speeding on the highway or going through a red light. I am still working on getting him to understand why I exhaustively count up every penny of out-of-state-purchases to make up for in paying our state sales tax though…
- Confession When he was a boy, my husband actually asked his (completely non-religious) father why Catholics go to Confession. His father told him that in the Middle Ages no one visited psychologists for help, and that the priests provided the needed counseling and advice. Satisfied with this explanation as a youngster, upon conversion he found out this wasn’t just for Medieval folks! This sacrament is a regular and necessary part of our married life. Neither of us thinks that Confession is really fun, but we both feel great when it’s done!
- Planning our travels and vacations in terms of churches & religious sites “Look, honey, there’s a minor basilica across the street–let’s stay in that hotel!”
- Hearing me and my mother talk about religion Truly, I fear my mother and I could bore the Pope. When she and I get together, we find an outrageously obscure topic of Church history or liturgical practice and dissect it for hours (the more arcane and abstract, the better!) When we are visiting my family, my husband exits the room as soon as he hears words like, “Did you see on Fr. Z’s blog…” or “Can you believe what they just did in the diocese of ______?” It’s particularly hard on him when we go on trips with my family–there’s no ejector seat for him or for me.
As you can see, I’ve married a man with the patience of a saint! Hopefully he’ll help get me to Heaven, since that’s one of his main jobs now that he’s a Catholic and a husband. Please join us in praying that God pour out His graces upon all married couples! Our Lady and St. Joseph, Sts. Joachim and Anne, Bls. Louis and Zelie Martin, ora pro nobis!