In the morning, I drop Vince off at school. I sign him in at 8 AM. John picks him up between 3-5 PM depending on the day and signs him out.
We've begun leaving one another notes in the sign section. Instead of leaving our initials (like we're supposed to), we've taken to leaving each other tiny phrases:
It makes me laugh because no one ever checks this thing, so these tiny scribbles are like secret notes passed back and forth between class.
This particular morning, he'd been feeling rough on account of his wisdom teeth being removed the day before. I knew seeing "Feel better" would give him a smile when he picked up Vince, but imagine my surprise when I saw "Thanks beautiful" in the box to greet me the next morning. Such a small, tiny gesture, but those are the gems that make me happiest.
He and I might not see eye-to-eye on religion, but we do love one another deeply, take our responsibility as parents seriously, and are committed to one another and our family.
I truly believe John and I were made for one another. We met young, fell in love young, and married young. I believe this was by design, and I am grateful for the spouse I've been blessed with. He is a good man, a good father, and a loyal friend. While I know the religion issue is a tough one, I hope you don't use that as the only stick to measure him by.
If tomorrow he decided to teach Vincent all about Atheism and telling him that Stephen Hawking agrees that there's no need for God when science explains everything, I'd be incredibly upset. He feels the same way about Catholicism. Because he views it as something akin to a fairytale, he sees it as a crutch... something fine for children to believe but necessary to outgrow (like Santa Claus). Adults can't rely on God for things. Adults shouldn't need direction in things from a book predating most civilization. Adults also shouldn't base social lifestyle choices on religious rationale.
I understand his mindset; I do. However, I simply don't share that viewpoint and, though he doesn't understand my point of view, he vowed to support me, so he does it as best he can. I must recognize the difficulty he faces as well when he watches me teach our son what he views to be fantasy and unnecessary superstition. At the same time, he recognizes his promise to allow me to raise our children Catholic.
Believe it or not, this is what love looks like. Love isn't always the romantic, happily-ever-after fodder you see in the movies. In reality, love is dirty, sweaty and yes, even tearful at times. It is also beautiful, and the appreciation we have for one another... the trust we've developed precisely because of our struggles... the knowledge that we've survived the dreaded "D-word" and come out stronger... this is love, because love endures.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated; it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests. It is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrong-doing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Cor 13: 4-8)
These words were chosen by me for our wedding Mass. I recently read them, myself, at the marriage of two other friends. These words of Saint Paul are so crystal clear to me whereas before, I'd only understood them in a sterilized, Disney-shaded sense.
The day I married John, I heard these words as "Be nice to one another because that's what lovers do. They aren't rude or arrogant, they don't hold grudges and they don't act selfishly. The lovey-dovey feelings you have today will carry you through everything because love never fails."
Oh, Gina... Saint Paul was no Nora Roberts. How naive of me to fancy him one! When I read those words now, I hear something so much richer... so much deeper. Saint Paul might not be Nora Roberts, but if the above snippet doesn't embody the truth of love, there is no such thing as truth and no such thing as love.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
~Shakespeare, Sonnet 116~
Advice to a Catholic Woman Dating an Agnostic Man and an Admission of Omission
I must've written and rewritten this entry a dozen times. I've come to the realization that there's simply no neat and tidy way of being fully honest, especially given the circumstances. Thus, I apologize for the mess you're all about to find yourselves in.
A lovely woman named Anne is a Catholic woman who is dating an Agnostic man. She believes they are a perfect match in all things but religion. He was born and raised Catholic but now views Catholicism as something akin to a fairytale while she obviously has deep reverence for her Catholic heritage.
She asked us for our advice on what to do given she's looking to marry this man.
I've been wrestling around a lot with this one. She commented her plight at the end of August to my "I Married an Agnostic" post from 2011, and I'm half afraid she thinks I've forgotten all about her!
Anne, I promise that I haven't. I just didn't know how to write this without upsetting you. My advice, I fear, is not what you're hoping for.
My advice, in fact, is to get out now.
I realize you might be surprised to hear that from me, but I've walked in your shoes. For miles. I'm STILL walking in them which is precisely why I'm telling you that unless you know for certain you are being called to convert this man through a lifetime of marriage (which, itself, carries the reality of conversion not happening and your struggle having an adverse effect on future children), cut your losses, give your heart a healthy time to heal, and ask God to put the right man in your midst.
You might be wondering how I could say such a thing when my own marriage hasn't fallen apart and my son is a (mostly) willing participant in the Faith.
This was not without toil, tears, a very real threat of divorce, and an intense overhaul of my entire relationship with John. That's not even counting the amount of prayers and work that still go into it.
Am I saying I wish I hadn't married John? Of course not. I got two children out of the deal and undoubtedly grew closer to Christ. However, I was significantly less spiritually mature than you currently are when I answered the call to marriage.
You fully understand the importance of your faith and the necessity of a father to be a spiritual leader for his family. I didn't understand that; worse, I didn't even think such a thing was necessary! As a result of my ignorance, my family started out with a distinct disadvantage. We were not a cohesive unit in what would become a very large and important part of our lives. That friction reached its tentacles into everything, especially as I matured in my faith and realized the depth of my ignorance.
John's refusal to accept my religious beliefs as valid directly - DIRECTLY - correlates to his refusal to be open to more children.
So Anne, if you plan to have children, be prepared for a similar fate. It is an excruciating,
at-times-unbearable, cross to shoulder.
Readers who have been following me for a while might be incredibly unsettled by this.
When I first learned that this was the driving reason behind my husband's reluctance to have more children, words couldn't possibly express the emotions that coursed through me. In fact, it's been over a year since I learned that this was my reality and this is the first time I've voiced it beyond my two closest friends.
It's also the prime reason why responding to you, Anne, has been so challenging. I couldn't be honest with you without being honest about the depth of my own struggle. This is a tragic, brutal and incredibly bigoted reality, and it's a reality I want so much to protect you from. I wouldn't wish this sort of sacrifice on anyone.
It's a sacrifice that I willingly make, yes, but it's a willing sacrifice only because I've already made my vows. You have not. Please understand that this is what you'd be saying "I do" to... not just for yourself, but for your future children.
And before you think to yourself that your boyfriend would never do such a thing, again, I've walked in your shoes. My husband said he accepted my Catholicism.
Seeing Vincent's participation alongside me must've shifted that for him, because Catholicism was no longer some harmless fairy tale. To John, it became a bitter irritant. Prayers at bedtime are nails on chalkboard. Sunday Mass can solicit anything from an eye-roll to not-so-secret vindication when Vince cries that he doesn't want to go.
Catholicism has become such a hated thing to my husband that he does not want to see it replicated in his children. Because he cannot love that part of me, he cannot love that part of our children. Thus, the only way to stave off such irritation is to stop having children. To poison one is enough... to poison more than one is unthinkable to him.
And that is his mindset. Through tears, I demanded to know how he could hold such a bigoted notion in his head. He is not what I'd consider a bigot. He's otherwise incredibly tolerant and accepting. In fact, should any of his friends read this, they'd probably think I was somehow mistaken - that I'd misunderstood his motivation.
I assure you I have not. I had him spell it out for me. That was one of the most painful and damaging conversations I've ever had with anyone in my entire life. It still stings when I think of it.
I couldn't understand. I still don't to a certain degree. I asked him what part of Catholicism bothered him so much that he couldn't stand to see it played out in me... in Vincent. He couldn't answer me. He noted prayers at bedtime or his little sayings of "Jesus loves me" irritated him, but our son is wonderful. Him being baptized Catholic has not somehow made him less wonderful, but for John, it was enough to make him resent and yes, even hate, Catholicism. Hate it to the point where he willingly allows me to suffer an enforced infertility so as not to bring forth any other children who would suffer the fate of *gasp* Baptism and a Catholic education.
It is not fear of finance... fear of time constraints... fear of love or capability that has condemned me to this cross of infertility. It is my husband's hatred of Catholicism.
He shared this in a moment of deep and unfiltered honesty just over one year ago. I appreciated his honesty, because it showed a level of trust that we'd never come close to understanding. However, I've lived with this knowledge, completely unsure how to proceed. When I thought his decision was based on finances and such, the cross was easier to bear. At least his rationale made sense. This, however, was almost insurmountable. It is still a daily struggle.
It is a struggle I want to preserve you from, Anne. It's a struggle I want to preserve your future children from.
My husband and I have since discussed things. We both agree that had we known then what we know now about the importance of faith to one another, we likely would not have gotten married. I had, after all, broken off the engagement at one point when he tried to get me to agree not to baptize our future children. We should've known then that faith was more important than we were giving it credit for.
But we didn't, and we publicly vowed to love one another every day for the rest of our lives. Love doesn't begin and end with tummy butterflies. It is an active choice to respect, honor, protect, nurture and support your spouse - every day.
So that is how I find myself in this situation. I love my husband, Anne. I love him, respect him, support him, and do my best to nurture him in ways that will ultimately make him a better person. He obviously tries his best to do the same for me. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't warn you of the heartache that comes with this sort of union.
Take my story to heart. For as much as you love your boyfriend (and I have no doubt you do), you will also love those children you create, and you need to be thinking of them. The best decision you can ever make for them is who their father will be.
In all things, you have my prayers. Other readers, please feel free to chime in with your advice for Anne.
In Jesus' Name...
The Name of Christ is mighty
Apparently the Name of Christ is more dangerous to the public than concealed weapons (which are perfectly legal) in N. Carolina.
I found a seed on Father Z's blog this morning detailing a new policy enacted in N. Carolina regarding police chaplains' ability to use Christ's name while praying at public events.
One chaplain's response was like an arrow to my heart... a beautiful, wonderful arrow of integrity and wisdom.
Pastor Terry Sartain, upon learning of this change, withdrew from the event because, "Jesus is the only thing I have to bless people with."
This man understands what so many others do not. The Name of Christ is one of our greatest blessings. It's why we always ask for everything "in Jesus' Name." Christ left us even the grace of His own Name to help shield us from harm.
Other religions treat the names of their gods / prophets as unspeakable or curse-inducing utterances. Not Christianity. We were blessed to understand that our God is a loving God who WANTS a personal relationship with us. He WANTS us to know Him intimately. Thus, He blesses us with the comfort of His Holy Name.
To remove our ability to call out His blessing through using His Name, this policy effectively steals from us our ability to properly pray. It also forces us to deny the God who gave His Life for our salvation.
And I can't help but know with certainly that the developers of this policy fully understood that. I believe Satan and his demons coated this with the sugar of tolerance and unity, but in reality, this is just one more step towards a global "religion" that is no religion at all.
It is a dismantling of Christianity in lieu of agnosticism. It is a stifling of our faith... another gentle inoculation to prevent the spread of Christ's Name to new generations of souls. This has nothing to do with tolerance. It is INTOLERANCE that has paved the way for this desecration of religious liberties.
But few will see it this way because so many are grateful for the chance to cast aside the trappings of religion. Their own opinions on religion cloud their ability to see beyond the "Don't use Jesus' Name" and realize that it is a tiny cog in a bigger machine that is shooting down a person's individual right to practice their religion as he or she sees fit.
Chaplains are VOLUNTEERS. They are volunteering their time to give comfort to the men and women who serve. At a prayer service (if one is requested by the police force), folks EXPECT to hear names like Jesus, God, Buddha or Mohammad. These words do not point a finger at atheists, Jews or Spaghetti Monster believers in an attempt to say "You're going to a naughty place for not believing!" If you invite a volunteer chaplain to one of these prayer services, you're inviting their brand of religion. If you don't want to be stifled by Christianity, find a volunteer who will speak what you're looking for. But do NOT, NOT, NOT attempt to tell someone how they can and cannot pray (publicly or otherwise!).
These chaplains (whatever their religion may be) are looking to offer comfort in the form of a universal blessing. Christ does not just bless Christians. He blesses all, regardless of their belief in Him.
If someone were to say to me, "May the Spaghetti Monster's blessing be upon you always" I'd say, "Right on, good sir. Thanks for having my back with the warm fuzzies."
I would not respond, "Dude, I believe in JESUS, okay? Stop insulting me with your well-wishes!"
And yet that's exactly what is being done by this policy. It is ludicrous and is once again an attempt by policy makers to stifle the religious freedoms of folks... folks who are VOLUNTEERING THEIR TIME for goodness sake!
It reminds me of this yearly mess... Will this sort of foolishness have no end?
This is a perfect time for the Golden Arrow Prayer. It was given to St. Gertrude the Great by Christ, Himself, who said, "It will wound My Heart delightfully and heal the wounds inflicted by blasphemy."
As I said on Fr. Z's wall, I hope in this case it will heal the wounds inflicted by arrogance, silence and betrayal.
May the most holy, most sacred, most adorable, most incomprehensible and ineffable Name of God be forever praised, blessed, loved, adored and glorified in Heaven, on Earth, and under the Earth by all the creatures of God and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.
Another Quote... From an Embryo
True photo of an in-womb child.
_The below text is taken from Richard Wurmbrand's Tortured for Christ. For those of you who have not yet read this book, please avail yourselves to its contents here.
I've been thinking about this a lot recently. It's probably one of the most thought-provoking moments in his memoir (and he's got a LOT of those!). Ever since first reading it (several months ago), I've been unable to parray it from my mind for very long. It swooped in and enveloped my conscious again yesterday, when a friend asked me how I could possibly be sure there was an afterlife.
"Suppose that we could speak with an embryo in his mother's womb and that you would tell him that the embryonic life is only a short one after which follows a real, long life. What would the embryo answer? He would say just what you atheists answer to us, when we speak to you about paradise and hell. He would say that the life in the mother's womb is the only one and that everything else is religious foolishness. But if the embryo could think, he would say to himself, ‘Here arms grow on me. I do not need them. I cannot even stretch them. Why do they grow? Perhaps they grow for a future stage of my existence, in which I will have to work with them. Legs grow, but I have to keep them bent toward my chest. Why do they grow? Probably life in a large world follows, where I will have to walk. Eyes grow, although I am surrounded by perfect darkness and don't need them. Why do I have eyes? Probably a world with light and colors will follow.'
"So, if the embryo would reflect on his own development, he would know about a life outside of his mother's womb, without having seen it. It is the same with us. As long as we are young, we have vigor, but no mind to use it properly. When, with the years, we have grown in knowledge and wisdom, the hearse waits to take us to the grave. Why was it necessary to grow in a knowledge and wisdom that we can use no more? Why do arms, legs, and eyes grow on an embryo? It is for what follows. So it is with us here. We grow here in experience, knowledge, and wisdom for what follows. We are prepared to serve on a higher level that follows death."
This truly is a beautiful insight... an inspired insight. May it touch you as it has touched me.
I Married an Agnostic
One of my favorites
It's true, it's true. I married myself a non-Catholic. Sure, he was born and raised in the Church. And sure, his mom has pictures of him dressed up in a chasuble pretending to be a priest. The truth, however, is that my husband is agnostic.
I was well aware of his agnosticism when we first dated. I respected his beliefs, and he respected mine. Sure, he'd tease me now and again, but back in those early days, I didn't really feel as though he looked down on my devotions. He just accepted them as a quirky part of who I was.
I had been surrounded by enough atheism and agnosticism that his lack of belief structure wasn't a big deal. Nor did I think it would pose much of a problem for our married life, either. After all, my parents were similar. My mom is Catholic and my dad is... well... nothing. My dad never cared that my mom took us to Mass and raised us with the faith, and I assumed the same would be true of John. After all, he had always said, "Sure, teach 'em whatever you want, but I plan to teach them about other religions and stuff, too."
I was agreeable to that. I appreciate other cultures and think it's important to be aware of the various belief systems out there. I had made it clear, however, that I'd be raising them as Catholics (the sacraments, Catholic schooling, Sunday Masses, etc), and that I wouldn't tolerate his eye-rolling or subtle snark directed towards my chosen set of beliefs. John agreed that was fair, especially when I granted the compromise of consent. When our children are ready to be confirmed, it will be their choice to move forward or not. At that point, they should be able to make the choice for themselves (and if I teach them properly, that decision, I'm hoping, will be the right one!).
So the years went by and religion didn't really come up between us. John balked a bit when I baptized Vincent, but as soon as I reminded him of the promise he made to allow me to raise our children Catholic until they were able to decide (properly) for themselves, he stopped.
Now that I've had a resurgence of faith, however, he's getting extremely antsy about my beliefs. He confronted me about my threads (again, readers not connected with me on Facebook, commentary abounds there), and said, "It's like I don't even know you anymore." He accused me of going insane, and very plainly worried about how my religion would affect our son. I guess he was marginally OK with my tepid religious beliefs before... but now that I actually voice those beliefs, it's an entirely different ballgame.
He's struggling with this. It's just as difficult for him as it is for me. He's afraid I'm being brainwashed by religion, and that I'll spread the "infection" onto Vincent. He's also embarrassed because my religious beliefs conflict very much with the anti-religious stance of our mutual friends. Even those friends of ours who ARE religious are very much gun-shy when it comes to talking about their faith. So for me to be so vocal about so taboo a topic as religion is scandalous, apparently.
I'm trying to be patient. I'm trying very hard to see this from his perspective as well. I understand that I really have "changed" in his eyes, but at the heart of it, I'm still the exact same person. I just happen to be more secure in my faith and much more willing to teach others about it. My faith has done nothing to change my political views, to alter how I treat others (except for an attempt to be more gentle and loving), or to disrupt my daily obligations. But all these exterior forces are weighing heavily on him. The most I can do is pray to St. Monica. May her intercession melt his heart.
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