Pam is an active Catholic attending Mass every Sunday, while Joe comes from a “Christmas, Easter, and funerals” family. They are both Catholics, but theirs is also a mixed religion marriage. Although they were both baptized in the same faith tradition, they are coming to realize that the similarity of their religious practice ends there.
“Mixed religion” usually refers to a marriage in which the couple is of two different faith traditions, but actually each person approaches God in a personal as well as an “institutional” way. While some people have no religious tradition, they may be curious about religion and open to learning more. Some, often with reason, are hostile to organized religion themselves, or may be mystified that church means so much to their spouse. Still, the religion and conscience of each partner is to be treated with respect.
Successful couples, whether same or interfaith, have found common spiritual values – common ground – to celebrate and pass on to their children. Each partner should try to be a better member of his or her own religion in the process of building spirituality as a couple. The way a person, and a couple, decides to grow closer to God – to be holy – will vary from family to family. However, with humility, we can find common ground. Investigate your own, or your spouse’s, faith tradition and learn about one custom or prayer practice that is new to you.
Try praying with your spouse in his or her tradition. Invite your spouse to pray with you. Build bridges of understanding. Learn about a religion that you know little about now. Ask a neighbor or friend whose religion is different to tell some stories of their own religious upbringing.
Lauri Przybysz is the Coordinator of Marriage and Family Enrichment for the Archdiocese of Baltimore