This post is part three of three in the series 3 Paths of Prayerful Discernment: the importance of prayerful discernment in dating and marriage, stories from 3 Catholic women.
Anni from A Beautiful Camouflaged Mess of a Life shares her story of discernment, a journey from religious life to married life, and the way God’s inspired growth in her faith through interfaith marriage.
I grew up listening to stories of how my paternal grandmother, a devout Roman Catholic, would cry as her Methodist husband would only attend Mass on Christmas and Easter, and would ‘t convert. She would cry for his soul, convinced he wouldn’t go to heaven, since he was not Catholic.
They were married over three decades.
On his untimely deathbed, he kicked everyone out of his hospital room except the priest. He made a deathbed conversion, but swore the priest to secrecy until after he had passed away. His family heard of his conversion after his death, when my grandmother was inconsolable at not having “saved” her husband.
Growing into adulthood, I was insistent I would marry a Catholic man.
As an engagement with a non-Catholic ended, and I began to re-learn more of my Catholic Faith, I also began discerning a call to religious life. I had felt a calling to religious life several distinct moments during my life; however, I didn’t want to answer that call.
I wanted a family, and was dismayed at the idea I was being asked to give up having my own children and family, while taking on the children and families of the world.
I spent hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament, attended Mass almost daily, and began researching religious orders.
Given mountains of college debt, I was faced with some seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
I met with a discernment director for the priesthood, who acknowledged he had no experience helping young women discern religious life and didn’t know where to refer me in our diocese. It did little to help me. So I continued to pray.
At the time I was discerning this call, my sister introduced me to a young man at who kind of swept me off my feet.
He was the answer to all my prayers. . .
Except, he wasn’t Catholic.
A couple months after beginning to talk to this young man, God provided me with a religious Order who was willing to take me on with my loans. They’d allow me to teach for them and live with them, as they would pay down my debt. Upon the debt being lifted from my life, they’d accept me in their entry-level novitiate.
I had felt a calling to religious life… but I didn’t WANT to answer that call. Tweet this.
I distinctly recall sitting in the pew the day after the call with the nun in that Order. I cried my heart out to God, telling Him I didn’t want to let Him down, but I also wanted my own sons and daughters with a great man who would be loving, Catholic, and good.
As I poured out my heart and tears, the young man’s name—whom I had spent a couple months forming a friendship with over the phone—came to my heart.
And I felt in my heart, clear as day, “It’s your choice. You choose.”
I’ve been told since then that when one discerns God’s will, there will be peace in your heart.
I felt peace when I chose marriage.
Both my husband and I clearly recall the conversation where I insisted, “I will raise my children Catholic. And, if you have a problem with that, then we should end this relationship right here and now. But, I won’t ask you to convert – I refuse to cry for your soul.”
My (now) husband accepted my ultimatum, and I accepted his marriage proposal almost a year and a half later.
Why is it important to seek God’s will first in dating and marriage?
Like every major life event, God has His hand in everything, and He’s directing. It’s up to us to seek His plan for our lives, and to be able to hash things out with Him.
For years leading up to meeting my husband, I had placed myself in various situations where I hoped to meet “the good, Catholic guy” to marry. But most of them were nominally practicing, or going to church because they were told to go.
Furthermore, I lived in a part of the country which is known for having poor Catechesis and little emphasis on organized religion.
This meant most of my “Catholic” friends – men and women alike – didn’t even understand the concept of the Real Presence, let alone how to defend those beliefs. So as I struggled to find my way back to the Catholic Church, I was met with no eligible suitors who were prepared to commit to intense study of the Faith.
Looking back now, I see how God’s plan has been working to fully bring me back to the vibrant Faith life I have – I wouldn’t be where I am today, had I not first heeded His words and His guidance as I discerned my path.
How did you discern what model of dating relationship to pursue?
I always knew dating was for the purpose of prospective marriage.
If I couldn’t see myself with a person forever, then we had no business being in a romantic relationship.
I have some pretty spectacular role models in my older siblings – although they all found their respective spouses at a Jesuit university. I, on the other hand, attended secular schools, and met my spouse a couple years after graduation.
I think God played His hand at the dating relationship my now-husband and I pursued, because my now-husband was in the Army and lived a country away. Until he deployed, and then he lived half a world away. It forced us to learn early on the importance of communication, friendship, and tenacity.
What does your prayer life look like as regards to dating?
I never prayed for my future husband. I never even thought to!
All I would ask was that God send me, “a good Catholic man.” As I grew older, and less mature in my faith, I would create wish lists with specifics. Oddly enough, my husband meets the “less mature faith requests” of a younger me. Everything (from height, to eye color, to profession, to character, to how he loves his mom) meets the list – except that he’s not Catholic.
In regard to my marriage, I pray that my husband will see the beauty and the richness the Catholic Faith offers to me, and what I hope it offers our children someday. I pray that he will find his own way to that beauty and richness, on God’s time.
I firmly believe God reveals His wishes to everyone on His time, not ours.
I also recognize the blessing I have in my husband, for while he’s not Catholic, he attends Mass with us every Sunday, ensures our son goes up for a blessing at Communion (and receives his own blessing), and helps me teach our children their prayers.
He also believes in the Real Presence of Christ during the Eucharist, although the differences in our faiths come out when we get down to the “nitty gritty.”
How has God revealed His will for you?
When we’re discerning and following God’s will for us, our hearts will most likely be at peace with the decisions made.
When I discerned my marriage, long before a proposal was on the books, I felt nothing but peace. I didn’t even know at the time that my husband would propose someday.
But God gave me a choice, and I chose marriage.
With every pregnancy, with every move, with every decision we make as part of a Sacramental Union, I truly feel His will unfold.
What role does God play in your relationship?
God plays the most important role in my relationship.
I strongly believe had I not married my husband, and instead had chosen that “perfect Catholic man,” I would not have been forced to grow in maturity of my Faith.
I truly believe I would have continued to remain the poorly catechized, lazy Catholic of my young adulthood and I wouldn’t have learned the beauty and richness of my Catholic Faith.
Being in an interfaith marriage can be difficult at times, especially as I learn more about my Catholic Faith. As I grow in my faith, I’m growing as an individual instead of a couple.
However, my husband graciously entertains my thoughts, musings, ponderings, and challenges me (whether he knows it or not) to learn more on almost a daily basis.
It’s given me the courage to reach out and grow my personal relationship with God – not centered on rote prayers, but inviting Him in to my day in a more spontaneous way, handing my concerns, fears, anxieties over to Him, surrendering my will to His.
I think having God as such a central player in my marriage allows us to continue to live the lifestyle the Army provides: keeping faith in my spouse during long separations, recognizing the “little things” my husband does as a loving Christian spouse (attending Mass, helping with prayers, and supporting all of my faith-based activities at whatever local chapel we attend), and learning to give my husband more credit where credit is due (learning to recognize my role in arguments, learning to recognize my husband’s strengths, etc.).
As I told my husband early on in our dating relationship: I won’t cry for his soul. Unlike my grandmother decades prior, I won’t cry for his conversion from his Methodist Faith as she did for her own Methodist husband.
I won’t insist upon his conversion.
Instead, the offer is on the table if and when he ever wants to attend RCIA – I will go with him if he desires.
I truly don’t feel I would be the fervent Catholic I am today, had God not placed my husband in my life. I don’t believe I would be as faithful, and faith-filled, if I had not been challenged to grow my faith during my marriage. Interfaith marriages are not easy, but then again, all marriages have their difficulties – we all bear our own crosses in our individual and marital lives.
Interfaith marriages are not easy, but then again, all marriages have their difficulties. Tweet this.
I am blessed with my husband, who’s not Catholic.
Every day, I give thanks for him being in my life, even if I fail to let him know on a regular basis. In looking back upon our relationship, I see God’s hand in the entirety of this relationship.
And, that makes me a truly blessed wife and woman.
Anni is a proud Army wife to her husband Chris and mother to their young children. She has a BA in History, a Masters in Social Work, and has worked with disabled veterans, troubled teens, and in early childhood intervention therapy. Since the birth of her children, she has dedicated her time to volunteering with several military chapel communities. She blogs about topics of Catholicism, parenting, and military life at A Beautiful Camouflaged Mess of a Life. You can also follow her on Instagram at beautifulcamouflagedmess, or on Facebook at A Beautiful, Camouflaged Mess of A Life.
3 Paths of Prayerful Discernment
Read part 1: The Catholic Couple
Read part 2: The Cradle and the Convert