Ever since I was a little girl, I always dreamed of marrying the man of my dreams. I imagined being romanced by an amazing young man, and we would live happily ever after. This is the simplicity of a young girl with high, long-awaited hopes of marrying her knight in shining armor.
When I was in high school, I was part of a home school group that consisted mostly of non-Catholics. Association with Catholics was limited, and there were non-Catholic boys who took interest in me. Of course, my mother said, “You don’t need to get involved with them because they aren’t Catholic!” I responded, “I don’t care, it really doesn’t matter. They’re Christian; it’s okay.” As an immature 17-year-old girl, I thought she was crazy. I really didn’t understand the importance of faith in a relationship or in a marriage at that point in my life.
When I entered college, I finally realized my mother was right—I realized the importance of marrying someone within my faith. My parents raised me to value and understand the faith, but I never came to realize the importance until after I went through my first real break-up and turned to Mary and the Eucharist for consolation amidst my pain. I had to connect with God on my own to understand what the Church had to offer. I had to learn to value my faith to the point where it was the core of my being—the reason for my existence. So, I decided to share with you the following benefits of marrying someone of the same faith.
Benefit #1: No pressure to convert to another faith
Faith in God should be our very reason for living. As Catholics, we are blessed to be untied to the truth given to us by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. So many times I see one spouse fall away because the other is not Catholic. It becomes very difficult to maintain one’s faith, particularly if the other spouse is not supportive. This is not to say that remaining Catholic while marrying outside of the Church is not possible, but the possible pressure of leaving the Church is lessened if one marries a devout Catholic. I have two friends whose parents married non-Catholics and remained Catholic, but I also know many more that fall away because their spouse is not of the same faith. Fr. Kyle Walterscheid , pastor of Blessed John Paul University Parish in Denton, Texas, compared this circumstance to that of the Jews in Biblical times. “The consequences of marrying outside the faith was devastating; causing even the destruction of their nation, being exiled, being enslaved, causing war, and breaking their covenant with God,” he said. “What happens every single time is a compromising of both self and faith.” This, in turn, he explained, can lead to the abandonment of the Church, and even one’s own faith in God in general.
Benefit #2: Keeps children from confusion
I am not a mother just yet, but I do know that children can become confused about the truth if each parent is of a different faith. As Catholics, we are morally obliged to raise our children in the faith. That is the vow we make before God on our wedding day. If one parent is Catholic, and the other is not, whose example will the child wish to take after? How will the child know exactly what the truth is if he/she is taken to different churches every week? As I said before, I’m not saying it cannot work, but this can become a challenge for the couple and the family as a whole. Fr. Walterscheid said it can cause tension within the marriage. “The children learn to hate both the faith of the believing parent and that of the other,” he said. “Faith for parents of mixed religions is impossible to be transmitted to the next generation no matter the good intention of the faithful spouse, husband or wife.”
Benefit #3: Who is the spiritual leader?
Having a strong spiritual leader, particularly the husband as the head of the home, is absolutely vital. If the woman is Catholic and her husband is not, but they have agreed to raise their children Catholic, how can the husband properly maintain the spiritual foundation for the home? If the Catholic faith is the center of the home, but Dad isn’t able to create that center, it also can create confusion and questioning among the children. Therefore, marrying a devout Catholic man who can lead the home spiritually greatly benefits a household that desires to put the Catholic faith at the center.
Benefit #4: Extended family unity
I know from personal experience that marrying someone of the same faith makes the parents happy. Especially if the parents are serious about their faith, it is important that their children carry on the faith to the future generations. It can break the hearts of those parents who did their best to raise their kids in the faith, but they marry a non-Catholic and fall away from the church and/or raise children non-Catholic or with no faith at all. Sometimes children fall away regardless, but if the home consists of a strong, Catholic foundation, there is a less likelihood of spouses or children falling away. It also prevents family rifts, unites the family in faith, and helps create an atmosphere of peace within the family unit.
Benefit #5: Unity in faith as a couple
This is probably the most important of all the benefits I have mentioned because it affects the marriage as a whole. In his book “Three to Get Married,” Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen says, “Without the Love of God, there is danger of love dying of its own too-much; but when each loves the Flame of Love—over and above their two individual sparks, which have come from the Flame—then there is not absorption, but communion.” Many times, when one marries outside the faith, faith becomes something ignored within the marriage because it is a topic to be avoided. Faith should never be avoided in marriage. If I had to avoid talking about faith with my husband, I would be empty. If I couldn’t pray with my husband, there would be a hole in our marriage. Marriage without God is no marriage at all, because it is a sacrament and God must be part of it to work. This is not to say that a couple cannot be unified through the Lord in an interfaith marriage, but it is much more difficult when your spouse does not understand the most important part of who you are as a person. In his book the ABC’s of Choosing a Good Husband,” Steve Wood writes, “One frequent cause of loneliness is a husband unconcerned, uncommitted, and unconnected with the faith of his wife…Think about never being able to truly share your love for God with your husband.” This quote really hits home because it targets the most important aspect of the marriage: unity in faith. It is so important to be able to connect with your spouse on a faith level, because as Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen says, it takes “three to get married,” and a marriage can only be great if God is the center.
From personal experience, I know that I would not be happy if I had married a non-Catholic. My faith is the core of who I am, and if my husband wasn’t Catholic, I would be lonely. I wouldn’t be able to connect with him in this most intimate way because he wouldn’t understand me and I would have to explain why I do the things I do. Yes, there could be room for conversion, but I didn’t want to go into a marriage trying to convert my husband with the off-chance that he doesn’t. “Marriage ought to be and in many ways is meant to be a journey of mutually beneficial reliance on one another through faith and growing together in that faith through the Holy Spirit,” said Fr. Walterscheid. Because I waited and trusted God to send me a good Catholic husband, we are unified in faith and keep it the center of our lives. This blog is not to say that interfaith marriages cannot work, but gives light as to why marrying in the faith makes the marriage much more unified. Fr. Walterscheid said, “In all of this one must weigh, from the very beginning: What do we have in common? How different is our faith? And is it worth a two year investment of my time, energy, and life to determine if the other person believes what I believe and will support what I believe so that the children see the unity and the reflection of Christ that binds us together for life?” Ladies, if you can help it, wait for a man who can share your faith with you. It is well worth it.