***This is the first of a three-part post chronicling the spiritual journey of our marriage. Born and raised a devout Catholic, I didn’t take my faith as seriously in college and began dating a pro-choice agnostic. This is the story of how we balanced the yoke. If you’ve ever wondered if a Catholic can marry an agnostic without compromising the Catholic’s faith, read on. Our story may help you discern whether a marriage of “mixed cult,” or between a baptized and unbaptized party, is a good idea.
I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the first of my parents’ six children. My dad worked as an engineer, and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. My parents were cradle Catholics, married in the Church, and all six of us were baptized as babies. My dad had attended 12 years of Catholic school, and was well-formed in his faith. Though Catholic, my Mom’s family stopped attending Mass when she was a teenager. As she got older and without a supportive foundation at home, Mom fell away from the Church. My Daddy always went to Mass, even when he was sick. Momma chose to attend a Protestant church, and my brother and I always chose to go to church with her. It was more fun, after all. The preacher sent the kids to “children’s church,” where we got grape juice, goldfish crackers, and talked about God. It was SOOOO much more fun than Daddy’s “boring” church!
When I was in third grade, my dad invited me to attend First Friday devotions with him at his parish. I will never forget those special nights with him. We attended Adoration and Benediction together, and I was mesmerized by the incense, the chanted prayers, the Latin, and the solemnness of this type of prayer. Even though Dad’s church was “boring,” those Friday nights really stirred my soul. Looking at the Blessed Sacrament in the beautiful Monstrance, I was transfixed. I didn’t know it yet, but I was falling in love with Jesus.
One Sunday, my mom announced she was going to church with my Dad. I was SO disappointed. Have I mentioned that Dad’s church didn’t give out goldfish crackers? Eventually, though, Mass on Sundays as a family became our new norm, and I really loved it. After much research and God’s gentle guidance to draw her to Himself in the Eucharist, my mom has been “home” in the Catholic church ever since. Thanks to our family’s unity, and with my mom and dad’s encouragement, I realized I wanted with all my heart to become a saint. I even considered becoming a nun, because it was the way I thought I would be able to focus on God the best. Reading biographies of the saints consumed my free time. Praying the Rosary at night became a source of comfort. My birthday money was happily spent at the Catholic bookstore. I couldn’t get enough of learning about God.
A few years later, my dad got a job offer in Houston. Houston wasn’t like New Orleans, which had almost as many Catholic schools as public ones. As a result, my parents prayerfully decided that homeschooling would be the best option for us – their only familiarity with public school was what they’d seen in New Orleans. Homeschooling was a mostly positive experience for me. Theology and English were my favorite subjects. Writing assignments about aspects of the Faith made me feel alive and on fire for Christ.
When college rolled around, things changed. I fell away a bit from my Faith. I was mad at God for a few things, and though I felt guilty about it, I began making poor choices in matters of faith and morals.Tipping the scales at 180 lbs on a 5’3″ frame, I was fat and felt unlovable. It was around this time I met Superman – though he was a lonely, angry, pro-choice, wounded agnostic at the time.
We started out as friends and then we began dating. I kept telling myself that it didn’t matter that he held radically different views – it’s not like he’d make me stop being Catholic. He didn’t, but our relationship didn’t help my faith crisis at all. Not long after this, Superman moved two hours away. I didn’t want him to break up with me, so I made the decision to sleep with him, in an effort to keep him from breaking up with me. By that time, I was a wreck. I was miserable at home and at school. I hated myself for who I’d become, and I distanced myself from my God as much as I could. Though I had sex, I somehow couldn’t allow myself to use contraception. I knew that most hormonal birth control caused early abortions, and I didn’t want to inadvertently kill a child. I agreed to using condoms, since in my mind they were the least offensive to God – though they separated the procreative and unitive act of sex, at least they didn’t have the potential to end a life.
Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long to be suddenly faced with a crisis pregnancy.
Superman and I had talked of marriage, but I was hesitant because he wasn’t Catholic, he wasn’t pro-life, and he wasn’t on board with NFP. When I read that pregnancy test, I was jolted back to reality, a reality where God needed to reign supreme in my life again. I needed to put Him first, because putting Him and His loving plan for me at the bottom of my priorities hadn’t worked out so well for me. So I was determined to get things right, moving forward.
I knew that I loved my boyfriend, but I also knew I couldn’t marry a man who wasn’t at the very least supportive of my beliefs. I knew that raising a Catholic child with a non-Catholic parent is at best a challenge, at worst a danger to that child’s faith. So, one day shortly before I knew he was going to ask me to marry him, I told him I would say no if he couldn’t agree to be married in the Church. I also told him that part of the vows were promises to raise any future children Catholic. He was silent. I told him I would give him all the time he needed to think it over, and that he could call me with his decision.
It was the scariest time of my life. Here I was, pregnant and 21 years old, not married, and about to potentially close the door on marriage to this man. Yet, I knew it had to be this way. I cried my eyes out, and begged and pleaded Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and our Mother Mary to please give me the strength to stay strong in my resolve. I wasn’t afraid of him saying no – I was afraid of not having the courage to walk away if he did. I cried, and I begged, and I prayed. Oh, how I prayed. I offered my anxiety up for him. It was an agonizing time.