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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Splitting the Atom

Sorry about my absence. We've been spring cleaning.

I know. We were supposed to do that before Easter. It makes for a terrific Lenten sacrifice and all the more enjoyment of the Easter season.

We couldn't find the broom.

I'm joking. We have found the broom and Amelia Earhart. But not the top of the desk. Only parts of it are sticking out. It feels so good to get things cleaned out, and so sad the way things pile right back up again.

Here's an easy question to start our day:
Hello Sister, I really enjoy your blog and especially your quirky way of saint matching. My husband works in an international student's office at a university. (Making sure everything is in order for them to go to school in the USA, etc...) Who would be a good patron saint for him to call on to help with his day to day tasks? Thanks!

A breeze! A snap!

St. Raphael,
the archangel, is the patron saint for young people leaving home for the first time. Done and done!

Not so fast, Sister Mary Martha. Not all questions are so easily answered.

Sister, I am having a bit of a problem. actually it's a big problem: the person that I am probably getting engaged to later this year is Lutheran- and has no plans to convert. Without a shadow of a doubt I know that I want to be with this person for the rest of my life- but I also know that I cannot marry a Lutheran in the eyes of the Catholic church and God. Do you have any advice for someone in this position? This is less a question and more of a cry for help!! :(

Where did you get the idea you can't marry a Lutheran? I won't pretend we would rather you didn't marry a Lutheran.

But you can.

But should you?

That's where the problem arises. Why? Because you still have to be Catholic around this Lutheran. You still have to go to Mass every Sunday and not 'compromise' by going to his services every other week. You'll need two cars, or a Catholic church within walking distance.

That's doable, right? Sure it is.

It's going to get more complicated, though, when you have kids, because you have to promise to raise the children as Catholics, and so does he. Is he down with that?

Isn't that the expression? "Down" with that? I believe it is. You'll take the minivan to Mass with the kids and he'll walk or drive by himself to his Lutheran Church every Sunday.

That's doable, but little lonely for him.

Here is the official word of the Catholic Church on the subject from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (so you don't have to take my official word on it):

1634 Difference of confession between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in common what they have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ. But the difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated. They arise from the fact that the separation of Christians has not yet been overcome. The spouses risk experiencing the tragedy of Christian disunity even in the heart of their own home. Disparity of cult can further aggravate these difficulties. Differences about faith and the very notion of marriage, but also different religious mentalities, can become sources of tension in marriage, especially as regards the education of children. The temptation to religious indifference can then arise.

Don't get confused that we are talking about 'cults'. We don't mean people who believe a giant asteroid is coming to take them to a new home in another galaxy. Seriously, don't even think about marrying those people, not because they are in a cult, but because they are crazy. Don't marry a crazy person. It won't work out.

By 'cult's we mean people who are Christian, but not Catholic. Those are all cults.

I'm especially enamored of this sentence:
The temptation to religious indifference can then arise.

Yeah, howdy. Everyone just gives up altogether so they don't have to fight about it. Or you end up being a Lutheran because it's easier and they serve cookies all the time.

I remember reading the famous Father Z's answer to this question once. He began with, "I won't sugar coat it..." and then when on and on about how dangerous and impossible it would be.

I won't sugar coat it either, but there is much evidence to the contrary that it's not impossible or even necessarily dangerous when two people love each other and they love Christ.

I hope some of my readers, who are in mixed marriages, will weigh in on the subject.

The men who split the atom were very happy they could do that, and very unhappy with the resulting bomb.


Camille said...

I have some experience being married to a non-Catholic. It is very difficult. I think Lutherans are a lot closer to Catholics in what they believe than, say, a Baptist or other protestant religions. So, you have that going for you. My Mother married a Lutheran and he converted right after my First Holy Communion because he recognized Christ in the Eucharist. As Sister said, he has to agree to the terms...well you both have to agree to the terms. If he agrees to go to Mass with you on Sundays, then you definitely have a good thing going. If he doesn't, then at least try to pray together regularly (before the wedding). If neither of those things are to his liking, you may have to think about this marriage thing a little longer. Call your parish and ask about the pre-cana classes to get started. :) God Bless!

Anonymous said...

after all of these years i am not exactly sure why i was under the impression that a catholic could not marry a lutheran-
and i didn't get sorted out on that notion until brought it up to someone in my family the day i wrote that comment. i felt embarrassed for even thinking that in the first place- it seems so silly now but i honestly do not know any one that is in a mixed marriage so you only know what you are exposed to i suppose.

thanks for elaborating on the subject- i know it will not be easy but no marriage is easy- they all take work and compromise.
oh and to reiterate your points about being lutheran- my soon to be fiance chose to be lutheran instead of catholic when he was younger because it was "easier" and they had more fun activities.
so your cookie comment made me laugh!

(all this time my boyfriend's parents were in a mixed marriage and i didn't even realize it. his dad is catholic, mom is lutheran)

Christy said...

I'm also a catholic married to a non-catholic. And yes, "it will not be easy but no marriage is easy- they all take work and compromise" is a very true statement. I was prepared for lots of work on the religious front and our children are Catholic (and attend parochial school, no less, at least the older one) but I was not prepared for how very lonely it can be sometimes. I love my husband. I don't want to be with anyone other than him ever. But on Sunday morning, when I am sitting at Mass with my kids and my husband is 4 blocks away, I am lonelier than I have ever been before in my life. That's the part I didn't realize ahead of time. Sometimes, I feel like a married single mother.

bearing said...

You are incorrect, Sister, that the Lutheran spouse in a Catholic-Lutheran marriage must agree to raise the children Catholic for the marriage to take place. The Catholic spouse must agree to do all she or he can to raise the kids Catholic, but the Church doesn't place this restriction on the non-Catholic spouse.

From this link,
"The following conditions must be met to permit a mixed marriage or dispense from disparity of cult (canon 1125): • The Catholic party must promise to remove of dangers of defecting from the Catholic faith. • The Catholic party must promise to do all in his or her power to baptize and raise all offspring in the Catholic Church. • The non-Catholic party must be informed of the promises that the Catholic party must make; however, no formal written or oral promise is required of the non-Catholic party. • Both parties must be instructed on the purposes and properties of marriage, which neither of the parties is to exclude. “[This instruction] is in addition to the customary marriage preparation program and should be done on a direct and individual basis” (NCCB, Faithful to Each Other Forever, p. 81).

Jennifer said...

I'm in a mixed religious marriage, and come from a line of mixed religious marriages. So far one has lasted 60+ years, one 38+ years, and my husband and I just celebrated 9 years of wedded bliss. Sure it is not always easy, but we are making it work. It might be easier for me though, because he wasn't very religious before we got married. He goes to mass with me about 50% of the time. Even when we go home to see his parents, he still goes to church with me, instead of them. I keep hoping he will convert when we have children, but I'm not pushing him. The hardest thing to over come was the use of NFP. He didn't want to believe in it. We over came. The second hardest thing is the holidays, when his parents want us to go with them to church. I usually end up going to an early Catholic mass, and then the later Lutheran service. Good luck with your wedding plans. Oh wait, we aren't supposed to believe in luck :).

dre said...

My mother is Presbyterian, my father was Catholic. She had to promise to raise all their children Catholic, and she did everything possible to fulfill her promise. Sometimes it was painful for her (she was more "religious" than Dad, I think), but she helped us memorize our prayers and the Baltimore catechism.

When Dad died, Mom brought me some of his things--rosaries, missal, etc. "And what's this?" she asked. "I found it under the mattress."

It was a Green Scapular.

Mom is still Presbyterian at age 86, and I doubt she'll convert now! So I resisted the urge to tell her to put it right back! (And I hid it under my oldest daughter's mattress, on her husband's side).

All this to say that Mom and Dad had a marriage built on integrity and mutual respect. While it wasn't always easy (Dad took us kids to early Mass on Sunday morning and we made breakfast for Mom while she was at church later in the morning...Mom cried privately before every baptism, but put a smile on her face for the ceremony...Mom took us to catechism classes on Saturday mornings and picked us up afterward), they made it work.

The beliefs of the Lutheran church are closer to the Catholic belief than the Presbyterian church...it may not be all that difficult if both parties talk about their common belief and respect any irreconcilable differences.

Erika said...

I am a recent convert to Catholicism (joined the church this Easter!), and am getting married in 6 weeks to a cradle Catholic. I actually started the conversion process before we got engaged- my fiancee invited me to go to mass, and not long after, I felt called to explore RCIA, etc. Since you are not engaged yet, I would suggest inviting your fiancee to mass. It's a simple way to evangelize, but you never know what will happen!

Claudia said...

My husband and I are both Catholic, it was not something I planned, it was something that just happened. WE have been married 38 years (WOW) Can't imagine where that time went.

I think it would be easier to marry someone who is Christian as opposed to someone who is of another belief such as Jewish or Muslim.

Paul Blake said...

I was the Lutheran of my Catholic/Lutheran Marriage. Early on I didn't really care too much about going to church, hers or mine. Except maybe an Easter or a Christmas here and there. BUT....when the kid came along and I remembered about the raising him Catholic thing I started praying for some help on the subject. Eventually God wispered the answers straight into my ear and I drove straight to Catholic Church the next day to sign up for conversion classes. BEST DECISION I'VE EVER MADE. (I sure do miss the Lutheran Pot-Luck Suppers but daily communion vs. monthly = no contest.)

gradchica said...

I was the non-Catholic part of the pair (Presbyterian, sort-of) and before my husband and I got married--or even engaged--I realized that since he was a strong Catholic we'd have to figure out this religion thing asap. We started going to both churches every week (with donuts in between). I think he made the effort to come with me not bc he had any intention of converting but to support me (and to get me to come to Mass!). This worked for a while, but going to both each week wasn't feasible for us as a longterm plan, both bc of the time it took and bc it didn't sort out any underlying issues--like children. I knew I wouldn't have to promise to raise the children Catholic, but essentially the non-Catholic spouse, if they act in good faith, promises not to block the Catholic spouse from fulfilling his/her obligation. I knew I wanted our family to be united in faith--to pray together without tension, to be "together" at baptisms and holidays--and eventually I found myself drawn to the Catholic Church and signed up for RCIA. I'm sure a mixed marriage is doable, but I'd definitely think of ways to subtly test the waters on conversion / his attitude toward raising children Catholic / how this would play out for your family before you get engaged so you both go into this with your eyes wide open.

Jane said...

Another aspect you have to think about is the in-laws. My husband converted to Catholicism a few years before we married, and he was already well on his way into the Church before we met, but for the first few months that we were together and he was in RCIA, his mother had a very difficult time with it. She partially blamed me, I think, for pulling her son away from Lutheranism (though he would have converted eventually even without me). That was difficult. After a while, though, she got to like me, and realized that I wasn't going to tell her she was going to hell for not being Catholic, and was happy to go to the Lutheran church with her in the morning when we're at her house (and the Catholic church in the evening, of course!).

My dad converted to Catholicism fourteen years after he married my mother. His parents, who were evangelicals, were very upset when he married a Catholic, and it took them a couple of years to get over it, too.

So, be aware that you might be setting yourself up for more conflict with your in-laws, at least temporarily, than other people might have, when there is a disparity of religion.

dre said...

Sister, I have a question. One of my confirmation students chose St. Anne...who is the patron saint of equestrians! Why, oh why, would the mother of Mary be patron saint of people who ride horses?

Anonymous said...

I married a non-Catholic man, but he agreed to bring up our children Catholic as this was important to me and he was fine with this. We were married in the Catholic church. He would attend Mass with me some Sun. and one day after our first daughter was born told me that he wanted to become Catholic and when I asked him why, he said that he observed that I had a peace about myself especially during Mass and that he wanted that peace too. Pretty cool, uh? He took RCIA classes and has been growing in the faith ever since. We have 4 children and have been happily married for 29 years now. I think you have to trust love, after all God is love and He gives us the passions of our heart. Just make sure it is love, for love means loving that person for who they are and doesn't ask them to change. He didn't ask me to change and I didn't ask him to change, love and God brought us closer together and made our marriage stronger. We haven't been without issues, but our faith in God has helped get us through the difficult times.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely that a lot of the difficulty over this can come from the in-laws. My mother-in-law is a lapsed Catholic and holds some very conflicting emotions and views about the church.

Bear in mind, that like it or not, you're going to be representing what Catholics are and what the church believes. So educate yourself very well, not just about the rules we follow, but about the reasons behind the rules.

My husband wasn't Catholic, but he converted a few years back. Religion wasn't ever a problem for us because he's always felt like he should have been Catholic in the first place.

My sister's husband wasn't Catholic, and they've been since divorced (not saying it's related, just giving the facts) and recently at my niece's First Communion, I saw how awkward it can be for everyone when the in-laws have a fear and hostilty for the Church but want to celebrate milestones with their grandkids. My ex-bil's mom is very fearful and resentful in any situation involving the kids' church stuff. She thinks that she shouldn't be there, was very worried when her son went to the altar, like he wasn't allowed up there, and is very resentful that she can't have communion. She brought it up to me, and I tried to explain about how communion is a time of unity, and having separate beliefs about transubstantiation and a not-yet unified Christian church is what keeps us from offering communion to other denominations, but she told me that should be between her and Jesus. If it were my mother-in-law, I'd try again, harder next time, to explain, but I didn't feel it was my place that day.

So those are some sides of the issue that I've experienced personally. Many people learn very false things about Catholics, so you'll have to pray and ask the Spirit to fill you, that you can represent to them the truth of our faith. Most of all, you'll want to talk to your boyfriend about how he truly feels about Catholics and the Church and find out if he'll object to your children being Catholic. If he agrees grudgingly, that can be almost as bad as out-right denial.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Catholic married to a non-denominational Protestant and we've never had any problems with it. However, we do have two cars so that makes it easier. I could attend services at his church if I wished because of the multitude of mass times at my parish. I just don't care for it.

The only conflict we ever had was when our alma mater had a spring football game on Good Friday and one of the cars was in the shop. Even then, he understood that it was much more important that I attend Good Friday services than for him to go to the football game. Minor grumbling, but I suspect we would have had that even had he been Catholic. Football crosses all denominational lines.

Unknown said...

Well, I have a few experiences relating to this issue, but one was annulled so I'll let that sleeping dog snore. I married this hubby when my older daughter was 5 yrs old. I was already a member of a parish and she was starting kindergarten at the parish school. Given those circumstances it worked out well for us to continue going to mass there and Hubby went with us. Majority rule. We loved the school, had another daughter, and hubby wanted to convert to Catholicism and did. In fact, he may be more Catholic than I am. Presently he works every weekend so mass is a solo event for me or includes the teenage daughter most weekends. We've found that Sat. eve now works out best for us, but it's been a transition as the kids have gotten older. I find I like the quiet and the alone time.
I've said it here before, the in-laws say we're all going to hell because we're Catholic. I say as long as I'm not with them, hallelujah.
There are many, many things hubby can find to disagree on, but I try to confine it to the games of politics and sports and find points of commonality everywhere else that I can. There's more of that around than we think.

Denise said...

(Three weeks short of) 30 years ago, I married a Methodist. I felt that if my fiance could not receive Communion, I wasn't going to have a Mass, just the wedding service. He offered to convert to save the hassle of it all. I told him that if he wants to be Catholic, great, but not to convert for "convenience". He'd be lying when he said he believes all the Catholic teachings.

Things were pretty weird in my parish in 1979. The pastor decided my fiance understood the Sacrament and could receive it (!). He didn't even require him to go to Confession (!). I doubt the pastor consulted the Bishop about this. (This priest eventually left the priesthood and married. He thought it unfair to to be held to his vow of celibacy.)

Since then, he and I have attended RCIA. He doesn't want to convert because of the Marian Doctrines -- the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Virgin.

Should I have let him convert for "convenience"?

(With tongue firmly in cheek and ready to duck the inevitable smack of the ruler)Can he receive Communion now? After all, children receive and only need to be baptized, go to Confession, and know the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Our Lord.

Michelle T said...

My husband and I initially had a disparity of cult. When we married fifteen years ago I was Lutheran, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, and my husband was not only a cradle Catholic but had considered becoming a priest. There were several things that helped us respect our differences while avoiding spiritual indifference: the similarities between us were emphasized--such as prayer, the Bible, tithing, sacramental living, the liturgical calendar, etc.; my husband didn't back down from obedience to the church which told me he was convicted about his beliefs, sacrifice of the mass, loving Mary, the saints, etc.; and he patiently and compassionately answered my questions and supported my ideas, though he may have disagreed. He didn't have a problem saying 'the church was wrong here, but right here', or agreeing that Lutheran fellowship is, hands down, better!

As for what has taken place since, seven years into our relationship and 3 1/2 years after we were married I agreed to use NFP. A year later I went through RCIA (four years later he got a master's degree in theology), and 11 years later I'm a committed and convicted Roman Catholic. Finding the path together was important. He said he never tried to change me, but prayed that we would make a home to God's glory.

Parents, in-laws, and holidays were the toughest situations to deal with for both of us, but ultimately we're all interested in God's plans for us, not our plans for each other. Again, patience and compassion helped.

God's Blessings!

Sister Twister said...

I think some of those Lutherans have been sneaking into our church and playing poker on the back row during the service. Is poker a cult activity?

Rebekka said...

Hi Sister,

I'm married to a card-carrying but non-attending member of the Danish folk church (which is I believe Lutheran in nature). Actually we just got married in the Catholic church a month ago after being civilly married for almost 7 years. Admittedly I have been non-practicing for about half that time myself. He doesn't go to his own church but he does come with me to Mass sometimes and is supportive enough that it's important to me, although he still has lots of misconceptions. It's hard less because he's not Catholic but more because what he knows about any religion you could put in a thimble. We have had Discussions about various things. (About the only good thing I can say about infertility is that it means we don't have to fight about NFP.)

I actually have a saint-matching question for you. We were talking about patron saints and my husband wants to know if there is a patron saint of people who don't believe in saints. I told him I didn't know but I knew someone who could find out if there was one. :-)

Henry said...

I'm a mormon, but I'm still allowed to comment, right? You are an exceptional humorist! Truly this is one of the funniest blogs I've found and it's a pleasure to read.

joannaB73 said...

I like the doughnuts - one of our local churches used to supply free doughnuts after church - a crowd puller no doubt!

Sarah - Kala said...

I was raised Lutheran, married a Catholic, agreed to raise the children Catholic, converted to Catholicism just before child two was born . . . last year my dad (age 68) joined the Catholic Church, just shy of six years after my mum. So . . . it's never too late. We're praying for my brother and sister (and her daughter) to convert, too. We are encouraging our children to know their Faith and to find good, active Catholics to marry one day. One of our sons feels he's being called to the priesthood - so life is good.

Marriage is difficult enough . . . being the same religion and ACTIVE in it makes marriage a little easier.

Arkanabar T'verrick Ilarsadin said...

@Henry of LDS,
of course you are welcome here! The Catholic Church welcomes everyone.

An Imperfect Mama said...

I am married to a non-Catholic. I do NOT recommend it. Clearly some of you have wonderful conversion stories. But what if the other person never converts? I pray that my husband will convert some day but until that day we will struggle with vital differences and this is very, very difficult, to put it mildly.
We fall "in love," we think that we cannot live without this other person in our lives or we just don't care about our religion at the time... but it isn't preferred and honestly it is only God and the Church that we cannot live without.
I suggest to at least insist on RCIA classes to the one you wish to marry - prior to marriage. Does the Church do that? Allow people to attend without intending to convert? Not sure. But if RCIA won't convert them then nothing but divine intervention will convert them! At the very least if you "must" marry they will have a better understanding of your faith prior to your marriage.
AND discuss, discuss, discuss all things important to the Church... is he/she pro-life, willing to practice NFP and the whole child rearing...?? You may find that the other is unwilling to budge on crucial issus such as the children going to mass and their religious education and nothing is worth risking the souls of your children, (or your soul for that matter) not even being "in love!"

Anonymous said...

Saint of the day: Blessed Cesar de bus

I'm Catholic and married a Lutheran. Initially,
it did not seem to be a problem and it was easier to attend his services for 13 Years than church (out of convenience).
Our 2 children are baptized in the Catholic church and now attending religious education. I am teaching them everything Catholic so that one day they can marry a Catholic. Although similar, our religions are sufficiently different (Christ's actual body and sacred blood at Communion, the Marian doctrine) to make me very sad about our differences. Almost 1 year ago I returned to my Catholic church and now see everything I had Been missing. I must pray for his conversion.
If given another opportunity, I would marry a devout Catholic. Most of my day is filled with prayer and evangelization. We agree on most issues and he occasionally attends mass with me but it burns me to ser him receiving communion when he knows he shouldn't.

If a person is a devout Catholic, I would hold out to find and marry someone who shares their faith. Life will be immensely richer and more fulfilling.