A Catholic, a Methodist, and a Happy Marriage – 3 paths of prayerful discernment

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.

anni wedding

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.


Guest Anni Harry

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

Annie 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.

 

The Cradle and the Convert – 3 paths of prayerful discernment

This post is part two of three in the series 3 Paths of Prayerful Discernment: the importance of prayerful discernment in dating and marriage, stories from 3 Catholic women.

Today I (Sara) am sharing with you the story of my discernment process in dating and marriage. I started with a strong desire to date a good Catholic boy, but God had different and beautiful plans for my life.

Sara wedding (1)

Why is it important to seek God’s will first in dating and marriage?

Sometimes I get so focused on what I want and what I think is good for me that my limited view can block out God’s plans for me entirely.

I tend to see the future with wishful thinking. I imagine everything exactly how I want it to be. The perfect house, the most amazing husband who helps with all the chores and always has a smile on his face, well behaved children playing quietly on the floor.

But real life hardly ever looks how I imagine it will.

It’s filled with its shares of troubles and sorrows, struggles and arguments, mixed in with all the beauty and joy. And God knows every moment of it. So I need to trust Him to provide what I need – in terms of goods, graces, and relationships – to live a real life. Not just the one I imagined. I need to seek the path He knows will lead to holiness and eternal happiness, not just path I think will make me happy.

I learned this lesson in a big way in my journey to dating and marriage.

How did you discern what model of dating relationship to pursue?

I always had a love/hate relationship with those dating checklists girls sometimes make.

On the one hand, I thought it was a cool idea to make sure your heart doesn’t run off without your head. But on the other hand, I worried that my narrow view of the “perfect husband” would prohibit me from finding the very real, humanly flawed man that God intended for me in His perfect plan.

So instead of focusing on what I wanted my future spouse to be like, I focused on who I needed to be, in order to be a daughter of God. And I reflected on what that would mean in my relationships.


Instead of focusing on what I wanted my future spouse to be like, I focused on who I needed to be. Tweet this.


I needed to be chaste. I needed to be prayerful. I needed to be compassionate, understanding, and forgiving.

And above all I needed to put God first.

To me, this meant that I absolutely needed to marry a Catholic man. Someone who would respect and support me in my beliefs and lead our future family in the faith. And since the purpose of dating is for marriage, I had my heart set on dating only good Catholic boys.

And I told God that’s the one thing I wouldn’t budge on.

He’d better find me a faithful Catholic man to fall in love with, or else I’d be single forever. I knew what I wanted and I challenged God to bend to my will.

Dear single ladies, take it from me: God laughs in the face of our pride.

He had different plans for me.

How has God revealed His will for you?

When it comes to vocations and relationships, my pastor always told me that God leads us by our heart, but we check our desires with our head.

So in my friendships, as I considered potential boyfriends and crushes and serious interest, I allowed my heart to speak first. And the first thing my heart screamed out for was sincerity.

I knew I could never marry someone who was Catholic in name but didn’t agree with or strive to live up to the Church’s teachings. Such a man could never infuse in our children the love for God I desired them to learn.

So: no insincere Catholics. That okay with you, Reason? Yep. Good to go.

And there went pretty much every Catholic I knew in my social circle at a secular college. So in order not to get too involved and attached to those friendships, I let my circle widen.

I let myself develop “no-risk” friendships with guys of different faiths… well, mostly the norm seemed to be “no specific faith.” No risk there, because not being Catholic, they’re just passing friends. Not marriage material, right?

Ha. Ha. Ha.


God leads us with our heart, but we check our desires with our head. Tweet this.


In my desire to let God lead me by my heart in my vocation, I grew in friendship and began to grow attracted to a protestant-in-name-but-really-has-no-faith-affiliation man. I’m sorry, God, what? Let’s check this attraction with reason. He’s not a practicing Catholic, so I can’t marry him, so I won’t date him. No way.

God continued to draw us closer together. And because of “reason,” I continued to resist. But I couldn’t get over the profound respect he held for me. The genuine interest he expressed in what I found important. The support he had for my faith and my beliefs.

God continued to push us together through the strongest movements of the heart.

Movements I couldn’t deny any longer.

What does your prayer life look like as regards dating?

So I called out to God in prayer. I begged Him to lead me and show me His will. I was bold and bossy and demanded signs from God, which He gave me loud and clear.

So I followed His guidance. But I did it with anger and petulance and bossiness and demands.

I cried when we started dating. I felt like I had taken the first step towards giving up my dream for a solid Catholic marriage. At the same time, I knew God had led me this far, and that His plans are always for our eternal good. So I sat God down and told God He’d better know what He was doing.

I told Him I was sticking firm to my “only marrying Catholic” rule, even though I’d violated my “only dating Catholic” one for Him. It was on His shoulders to do something about it.

And what’s more, I wasn’t going to help Him. I wasn’t going to tell my boyfriend what to do, think, or believe. I wasn’t going to try to convert Him. I was just going to do my Catholic thing and let God take care of His part if He ever wanted to see us married.

I was a feisty pray-er. I treated God with all the 19 year-old know-it-all attitude I could muster.

And despite all my petulance, God pulled through.

What role does God play in your relationships?

God held first place in my life. I prayed constantly for Him to do the same for my boyfriend. And He did, without me pushing or nagging or even knowing.

God was my boyfriend’s lead and guide. He moved his heart to see, recognize, and love the truth.

One day, my boyfriend told me he decided to join the Catholic Church. I stared at him in shock, then I hugged him and cried.

I’m glad I left his conversion up to God. I know God could do that which was beyond me. God led us through the doubt and confusion of submitting to His will against our own. He navigated the rough waters of our interfaith (if only temporarily) relationship.

And He showed me that above all, He knows what He’s doing.

Following His plan can be confusing and heartbreaking, but as long as He’s central in our lives and relationships, we have nothing to fear. His plan for my  eternal redemption is better than any perfectly laid or idyllic plans I could come up with myself.

God allowed me to live my dream of marrying a good Catholic man although He led me down the path of dating a “heathen” to get there.

And I’m so grateful I did the difficult thing and let God lead me in His will. My husband is a faithful leader of our family. He supports me and inspires me to become a better person. Even though I’ve been Catholic all my life, and he’s been Catholic only a few years, he’s far surpassed me in faith and devotion. He’s my leader and my role model.

I couldn’t find a good Catholic boy to marry. So God made one for me, special order.

And He gave me better than I ever hoped for.

3 Paths of Prayerful Discernment

Read part 1: The Catholic Couple

Read part 3: A Catholic, a Methodist, and a Happy Marriage

great post

Today I'm sharing with you the story of my discernment process in dating and marriage. I started with a strong desire to date a good Catholic boy, but God had different and beautiful plans for my life.

The Catholic Couple – 3 paths of prayerful discernment

This post is part one of three in the series 3 Paths of Prayerful Discernment: the importance of prayerful discernment in dating and marriage, stories from 3 Catholic women.

Lexie from 4 The Love of Lexie shares her story of discerning her decision to date only faithful Catholics. Lexie truly believes that God is leading her to pursue marriage with a man loyal to the teachings of the Catholic Church, and committed to loving Jesus with his whole heart. Continue reading “The Catholic Couple – 3 paths of prayerful discernment”

3 Paths of Prayerful Discernment

The importance of prayerful discernment in dating and marriage.

In a perfect, sinless world, everything would be the way God planned it to be. Man and woman would be naked and not ashamed. They’d love Him with their whole hearts. They’d join together in the union of marriage, with perfect self-sacrificing love, and endless bliss.

But since the fall, things became a bit more difficult. It’s no longer a matter of lounging in the garden, eating ever-ripe fruits straight from the Tree of Life. Now we have to work hard for our living, our holiness, our vocation. God’s will isn’t as cleanly spelled out as it was in Eden days: “Don’t eat the fruit of that tree.” Not only do we have to choose between right and wrong as laid out by the Commandments and the precepts of the Church. But we also have to choose between good, better, and best. Continue reading “3 Paths of Prayerful Discernment”

NFP Week 2017

My husband Chad and I share our story as an NFP teaching couple.

Sara:

Chad and I met in college. Just a couple of nerds studying math together.

We began dating in September 2007. Around Christmas time that year, Chad took me aside and told me he’d decided to join the Catholic Church.

I was so excited! This was a huge moment for me. Continue reading “NFP Week 2017”