Playing on an Interfaith Team
When Dad and Mom Are on Different Paths …
By: Margaret Procario
It would be great if husbands and wives were always at the same place along the same spiritual path, but life is often much more complicated. Ecumenical, or “mixed” marriages have become commonplace, and even couples who are both Catholic can find themselves growing apart spiritually.
There’s no doubt that couples of different faiths or spirituality face additional challenges—and deciding on their children’s religious education is only one of them. But with a little extra effort, many find that sensitivity to each other’s differences can bring them even closer to each other, and often, to God. Here are a few tips my husband and I have found from our own experience of being “team players” and supporting each other spiritually.
Welcome your spouse to church functions, but don’t push. When your faith is an important part of your life, it’s only natural to want your husband or wife to participate in faith-centered activities with you. If this works out, great! But remember that some people are more comfortable than others at the idea of attending religious services other than their own. Even if it’s only a church social event, your spouse may feel awkward at not knowing many of the other guests.
Be supportive of your spouse, too, by trying to attend events at his or her church. Over the years, you may both find good friends in each other’s communities.
Resist the temptation to feel sorry for yourself. Particularly if your spouse has left the faith, you may feel that you’re missing out on the kind of spiritual closeness that other couples in your parish enjoy. You may feel awkward or out of place at church activities you attend by yourself. Even volunteering at your parish can seem to be a lonely endeavor when you see other husbands and wives serving together.
Chances are, though, that you’re not as different as you think. Others in your parish may also be in some type of ecumenical marriage. And sometimes, singles feel excluded too, because of the perception that parish functions are just for couples. Perhaps you could use your situation as an opportunity to get better acquainted with a single member of your community of the same gender, or to attend a parish event together.
Keep in mind that even if you don’t share your spiritual life with your spouse, you share in many other ways. You undoubtedly have many of the same values. Maybe you work together on social or political issues. You probably also have similar goals in raising your children.
Watch your time. If activities at your different churches leave you and your spouse few opportunities for each other, you might have to make more of an effort to spend special time together. With family life already so busy these days, this will probably not be easy. But make the extra effort, knowing that your relationship will benefit.
When volunteering and other parish activities take you away from home, be sensitive to the effects of your participation. Your spouse may be sacrificing time with you or taking on extra responsibilities at home to make this possible. Be sure to express your appreciation for this support in your faith, and consider how to reciprocate.
Respect your spouse’s freedom. Loving your spouse unconditionally means giving them the freedom to pursue their own faith journey—even if you disagree with the choices. Learn about your spouse’s beliefs, but without criticizing, nagging, or trying to convert him or her. You may find that you have more in common than you ever thought. If your spouse is enthused about his or her faith, you may be surprised to find yourself inspired to a greater appreciation of your own. A marriage like this can be a wonderful example of ecumenism in microcosm—both to your family and to the broader community.
Wives and husbands whose spouses have left the church often worry about them and feel it’s their responsibility to bring them back. It may, in fact, be God’s plan for your spouse to return to the faith through you. Then again, it may not. You should always pray for your spouse, but let God “call the plays.” Whatever God’s plan, the best advertisement for what your faith offers is the way you live it through your life together.
Be a model of love. You may also worry about the effect on your children’s faith development if your spouse has stopped going to church. Many parents dread the inevitable question, “Why doesn’t Daddy (Mommy) have to go to church, but I do?” There’s no easy answer, but as in other areas of life, even young children must come to understand that parents decide what their children will do, but adults decide for themselves.
Do what you can to teach your children about their faith and to help them connect with it. If they are old enough to understand, you can even express your wish that the other parent will someday decide to come back to church. But don’t disparage your spouse or push him or her to attend Mass. More harm will be caused by the discord than by their absence. Instead, work at modeling love in your relationship with each other and in your family. This is a far more effective way to teach your children the message of the gospel.
Don’ts and Do’s
• Don’t push your spouse to attend church events.
• Don’t speak negatively about your spouse.
• Don’t nag or try to change your spouse.
• Don’t sink into self-pity.
• Do pray for your spouse and children.
• Do cultivate your relationship with your spouse.
• Do support your spouse’s faith journey.
• Do talk with your children and help them connect with the faith.
• Do make love your aim.
• Do get all the help you can.
Margaret Procario is a writer and editor living in Frederick, Maryland.
Author: World Faithful Catholics
It's all about the True Teaching of the Catholic Faith contained in the Holy Scriptures. We need knowledge as Catholics to survive as His Faithful Children. The Word of God says: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me.And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. >> Hosea 4:6 (RSVCE) We are proud to be part and core members of the World Faithful Catholics. Join us by liking the page to enable you contribute your quota towards the spread of the Gospel of Christ our Saviour. View all posts by World Faithful Catholics