How Much Does Faith Matter?
by Susan Vogt
Mary’s faith has always been very important to her. Her husband, Ted, was raised Christian but now considers himself an agnostic. He’s not anti-God; he just doesn’t know that God has anything to do with his life here on earth.
This didn’t bother Mary when they first got married since she knew Ted to be a good and moral man who did not interfere with her practice of her Catholic faith. Mary and Ted, however, now have a child who is preparing for first Eucharist and asking why Dad doesn’t join them at Mass. Mary also finds herself a little resentful that she and their son go to church every Sunday while Ted sleeps in or plays golf.
Ted has also been dealing with stress at work lately and seems depressed at home. Mary thinks that it would help Ted cope if he had God in his life. She’d feel they had a much more cohesive family if they could share faith and go to church together. What should Mary do?
- Mary could talk to Ted about how important faith is to her and ask Ted to join her in faith for the sake of their marriage.
- Mary could leave pamphlets around the house or ask Ted to join her for faith-sharing or enrichment talks sponsored by the parish or diocese.
- Mary could ask Ted to go to RCIA to learn more about her faith and perhaps decide to embrace it for himself.
- Mary should accept the fact that faith and God are not important to Ted and not try to change him.
- All Mary can do is pray.
It certainly is painful when something important, indeed something core to one’s being like faith, is not shared by your spouse. It is difficult enough when a spouse belongs to a different faith tradition but even more so when Ted not only rejects organized religion, but also does not seem to value a spiritual life.
While no one can or should force another to believe in God or practice a religion, that doesn’t mean that God might not work through the believing spouse’s example of a faith-filled life. Assuming that Mary has already asked Ted to join her for worship and he has declined, another step might be to attend something together that is less directly religious but focused on parenting or marriage enrichment. Often parishes or dioceses sponsor such programs that are value based.
Also, Mary could look around for an inspiring speaker who talks on faith issues and ask Ted to accompany her–not for conversion but for support. Another route would be to find short, inspirational articles that address common human concerns such as depression, living a more fulfilling life, or communication in marriage. She could start with an article on this ForYourMarriage website or other resources such as CareNotes (www.onecaringplace.com). Although Ted probably would not yet be receptive to having a chat with a priest, perhaps there is a respected friend who could talk about why he or she is a person of faith. If Ted can find encouraging insights through spiritual talks or reading it might stir him to take another look at organized religion.
So Mary can do a number of things to introduce Ted to a healthy, meaningful spiritual life, but the most important question is, “Is Ted a good man? Does he live by values consistent with the gospels even if he does not claim Jesus Christ or any particular religion?” If indeed he has a strong moral compass but is not ready to join Mary in religious practices, leave the rest up to God. Who knows path God will use to draw him close. Of course, Mary should continue to pray that she might be a worthy instrument of God’s grace in their life together.