A few weeks ago, Katherine at Having Left the Altar and I were having a conversation about facebook and since I have no idea what the topic was on, I have no idea what brought this up but I mentioned Jeff not being Catholic. Her response was, “I didn’t know Jeff wasn’t Catholic.” And while I have brought it up here and on facebook and a few other places, I tend not to make a big deal. Because it’s a HUGE deal and it isn’t at all.
I had the super great idea about marrying a Catholic husband. The only problem: that wasn’t God’s plan for me. I met lots of nice Catholic guys, who were mostly considering the priesthood or were zero interested in me and I wasn’t into them either. My heart was open, however, to the fact that I may not find a Catholic husband (and for a long time, my heart was certain there was no husband but I wasn’t being called to the consecrated life, although I tried very hard to be…that’s a story for another time) because I’ll let you in on a little secret: my dad wasn’t Catholic when my parents got married, he wasn’t even baptized, he and I were baptized in the same ceremony in December of 1979 and my mother’s parents are his Godparents. There wasn’t RCIA back then, so I always get a kick out of my dad saying that he met with an old retired priest who lived in the rectory each week. This poor old priest would sometimes not remember my dad’s name from week to week and sometimes would be in his bathrobe when my dad would show up (leading the housekeeper who answered the door to wonder if my dad really was supposed to meet with him), and I want to say he forgot to put his teeth in one time…I may be confused on that point though. Also, in another funny aside, some cursillstas (sp?) happened to be returning and came and sat in the back of the church during the baptisms (I wasn’t the only baby there…however my Dad got to go first because as the priest said, “If the first baby doesn’t cry, the others won’t follow”) and upon seeing my Dad get baptized they made some kind of joyful noise unto the Lord and my mother said she was shocked her sisters didn’t faint dead away because they did turn an interesting color of white. Moving right along then, when I was sure I met “the one” and we got engaged and then married, I was totally unprepared for the latent hostility of some Catholics and many, many Protestants toward this kind of “mixed marriage.” Most people were great, but when they weren’t wow. Would Jeff become a Catholic like my dad and my uncle Ed? Well, we just didn’t know. I didn’t know. I’d force him to come to mass with me (wow was that a dumb thing to do looking back on it, perhaps just inviting him would have been more appropriate). A devout friend told me to simply pray and not to needle, so I backed off.
And after Shelby was born and diagnosed, well, I really backed off. All our kids were baptized and there was no real discussion, they were Catholic. I was Catholic, they were Catholic. There was no real discussion (despite a lofty theoretical one before we were married) because Jeff professes to be Christian but has never belonged to any denomination or church since I have known him. He was raised a cultural Protestant in a Presbyterian church (you were Christian, because that’s what people were) and briefly attended a local Baptist church as an adult shortly before I met him (he has definite opinions on Baptists…again, a discussion for another time). He didn’t dislike anything particular about Catholicism or Protestant Christianity…he just never found a place he loved. So, okay, he was supportive of me and our kids, that’s what mattered (and matters) most.
I won’t discuss in details Jeff’s issues with Christianity in general, but he often comes to mass with us, sitting in the vestibule with Shelby where they can see and hear without the entire congregation hearing and seeing Shelby and her antics. I know they receive grace just by being there. And we’ve become much more focused at home at the boys learning prayers and grace etc.
Over Easter weekend, we let the boys stay with my parents and at lunch on Saturday, I silently began to cross myself to say grace when out of my peripheral vision, I saw Jeff doing the same. I was going to silently say grace (Shelby had dug in already…it’s very much a work in progress) but seeing Jeff’s Sign of the Cross, I began to pray our family grace out loud. And he prayed it with me.
It’s no Rosary or even a Hail Mary. It’s definitely not an expressed desire to join RCIA. But it’s there. It’s a baby step. It counts. I’ve read countless accounts of husbands choosing to become Catholic, and they all have this in common, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is such a powerful gift Christ gave us at the Pentecost. When we are able to trust in the third person of the Holy Trinity, we find that all our acts of faith are mere baby steps moving closer to Him who saves. Some of us move more quickly but still with baby steps. Because God knows our hearts and our individual ability to do what we can when we can, and He is infinitely patient with the skeptical and the stubborn. But it is incredibly difficult to not want to “fix” things ourselves and stand back and let the Holy Spirit do His work. But that’s another baby step of faith, particularly when it involves someone we love and we can see so clearly how something can be improved…but we have to trust and obey. We have to take our baby steps and move closer and closer to eternity.