Shortly before Andy and I were due to be married, my future mother-in-law took me aside and said, “You don’t really want to marry my son, do you?” I heartily assured her that I did. I am sure Andy’s mum was hoping for a good Catholic girl for her son. Instead he was marrying me. I told Andy I wanted to marry him but I would never become a Catholic. Andy followed his heart and married me anyway.
Looking back, my mother-in-law must have prayed earnestly for me. Over the first years of our marriage, my heart gradually softened and by the time we’d had our first child, my thoughts were turning to God: did I want our children to be baptised and if so, would they be baptised in the Catholic Church? I phoned our parish priest and told him I needed to know more about the Church in order to decide if baptising our children was the right step to take. After reading a selection of books and literature provided by this priest, the baptism went ahead and before too long I was taking part in the RCIA program of a neighbouring parish.
The overwhelming feeling I had at this time was a yearning to belong. God was calling me. I would sit at the back of the church watching the congregation celebrate Mass and feel I was on the outside. I wanted to be on the inside, with our family worshipping together as part of the Church’s family. So Easter 1991, I entered the Church.
The first five years of being a Catholic were fraught with difficulties. Many times I wondered if I’d made the right decision entering the Church. If you have read A Confession about Confession you will understand a little about these problems. But with the help of caring friends and good priests I came through this trial and I have come to love our Faith and feel very grateful I was called into the Church family.
I think about my own children. We have three young adults in the family. Soon they will be thinking about marriage themselves. What do we want for them? Do we want our children to have ‘good Catholic’ spouses. Some say it is better for a Catholic to marry a Catholic. This is the best foundation for a successful marriage, the best environment for children to be brought up in. And I can see this is true. But does God always want us to take the ideal path?
Some time ago, my eldest daughter said to me, “I’m going out with someone really special. He’s not a Catholic but that’s OK isn’t it? You weren’t a Catholic when you married Dad and everything turned out fine for you.” Yes, Andy and I have a very blessed marriage.
What could I say? How can I refuse to welcome a non-Catholic into our family when I was welcomed? So many of my friends are converts married to cradle Catholics. So many of us have been drawn into the fold through our marriages. All of us accepted, despite our lack of Faith.
I am sure, twenty-seven years ago, when Andy and I were married, the future did not look very promising to his mother. How were we to have a successful marriage and bring up children in the Faith when I was so set against the Church? But God had plans for me she couldn’t see. I couldn’t see them myself. But Andy’s mum quietly accepted our decision. She welcomed me. And then she must have prayed constantly for me. Finally, she was rewarded with her ’good’ Catholic daughter-in-law and the knowledge that Andy and I have a strong and happy marriage.
So I am not praying that my children will marry ‘good’ Catholics. No, that is not my prayer. Rather I pray they all do God’s will. If they end up choosing non Catholic spouses then I will remember my own experience. I will welcome them into the family and, like my mother-in-law, I will pray. I will have confidence that God will bless their marriages. And who knows what the future will hold?
I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Andy had not had the courage to follow his heart and marry me. Where would I be today? Perhaps, still outside the Church.
Congratulations on your engagement Felicity and Graham.