***This is the secondof 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.
He called the next day and said “I have been thinking, and I am ok with getting married in the Church. You were raised Catholic and you’re a good person, so it can’t be all that bad.” I was overjoyed! I promised God I would thank Him for that grace the rest of my life. Superman also agreed that we would use Natural Family Planning (NFP) in our marriage for the times we had serious reasons to avoid pregnancy. Although he didn’t understand the moral consequences of artificial birth control, he knew that he didn’t want me pumping my body full of cancer-causing hormones. That September, our precious daughter was born, and we were married in the Church three months later. I offered up the pain of my first childbirth for my husband’s conversion. Since I waited a *bit* too long to get my epidural, well…I’m pretty sure his soul made some decent progress because of that! Hah!
The first years of our married life were tough for me spiritually. Though I had made much spiritual progress from the place I was when I resented the Lord, I was now resenting our disunity in faith. Because I resented it, I didn’t go to Mass every Sunday. I went once a month, maybe. I reasoned that my infant didn’t know we were missing Mass, so did it really matter? My prayers were sporadic at best. My love for God was more like a wimpy tealight candle than a blazing inferno.
In the spring of 2008, my husband was deployed to Afghanistan. Two days after he left, I found myself staring at a positive pregnancy test. OK, so I was married this time, but COME ON, GOD! I’m supposed to do this pregnancy thing by myself, AGAIN?! With an 18 month old?! My family was there for me during this time, but I felt so alone. My prayer life floundered and was practically nonexistent. I wanted to have the benefits of a good relationship with the Lord, but I wasn’t willing to put in any effort. I did offer up my depression, my loneliness, and my pregnancy aches and pains for my husband’s safety and conversion.
I was so worried that he’d die an agnostic. That was enough of a reason for me to pray, even if it was only sporadically. During this time, I met Cardinal Daniel diNardo at an event at my parents’ church. I asked him to please pray for my husband, who was deployed to Afghanistan but wasn’t yet a Christian. He assured me he would. I found out later that around this same time, Superman was reassigned from being the driver of a general to solitary guard duty in a very safe guard shack. He was bored stiff, thank goodness. The Cardinal’s prayers for him to be safe were working quite well!
I started going to Mass on a more consistent basis, but not every Sunday. My husband was able to come home for 10 days during the deployment, and during that time our second child was born. I again offered the pains of my childbirth up for his complete conversion. He went back to Afghanistan. On one of our sporadic Skype calls, I told him I was planning the baby’s Baptism. I was stunned when he requested that I put off the Baptism until he returned a few months later. Was God slowly working to change his heart?
They say that when a member of the military returns home from deployment, it can take them between 12-18 months to fully reintegrate into their civilian life. It took us the full 18 months to get reacquainted and relearn how to live as a married couple. It almost killed our marriage; we just didn’t understand each other. To make matters more difficult, I made a mistake with my NFP charts, and a short time later discovered I was pregnant. To make things tougher, Superman couldn’t find a civilian job for months, and when he did, it was a bartending job 30 miles away that didn’t pay very well. I went into labor at 39 weeks and again offered up my suffering for my husband’s conversion.
Not long after, my husband fell and was injured at work. It was during his rehabilitation that we made the decision for Superman to become a stay at home dad. We discovered that we’d actually been losing money with him working. After a while, Superman discovered he truly enjoyed caring for the kids while I worked. Slowly, things began to improve, in our marriage and our finances.
It was about this time I had an epiphany. How could I ever expect my husband to fall in love with God if I wasn’t in love with Him myself? I read a quote by Bishop Fulton Sheen that said “Each child, when they are born, are reserved a crown in Heaven, and woe to the parents who prevent that child from receiving his crown!” Ouch. I knew what I had to do. I couldn’t change Superman’s mind about God; that was God’s job. I’d never been pushy about him converting; in fact, I went out of my way to avoid discussing it. When we were preparing for marriage, the deacon that married us told me I should go into the marriage never expecting him to convert, because especially where Faith is concerned, change needs to be on God’s terms and not mine. But here and there, I’d make a comment about what Catholics believed about certain things, and I would share positive articles about aspects of life in Christ with Superman. I was hoping to plant seeds in his mind. “…the spirit of Truth will guide you to all truth.” (John 16:13)
Meanwhile, I got serious about my own Faith. Mass attendance was the first priority of my week. I made the sacrament of Reconciliation a priority, too, and Superman started to notice a change in my attitude when it had been too long between Confessions. He saw a difference in me when I went, so he started encouraging me to go. It was then that I radically ramped up my prayer life, too. For years, I’d said that I was “praying” for Superman’s conversion, but truth be told I only ever prayed occasionally, when the thought crossed my mind. I knew about St. Monica and about how she prayed for her son for 30 years, and then he went on to become one of the greatest saints and Doctors of the Church in all of history. I figured I was already six years in, and it was time to get serious. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:16-1) I began praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for Superman on my way to and from work, specifically for his conversion and openness to God’s grace. I asked the Holy Spirit to knock down the walls of doubt around Superman’s heart and to open his mind, eyes, ears, and heart to God’s grace and call. I also asked for Our Lady’s intercession to help me become the kind of wife and mom that God wanted me to be.