Help with non-Catholic girlfriend

Status
Not open for further replies.
M

montanaman

Guest
First of all, I want to say that I am so glad Catholic Answers got this Forum online. Even though it’s a disgusting orange color, I’ve been coming here several times throughout the day. It’s SO good to have a place full of people of a like mind who are, at the same time, human. (I used to go to another Catholic Forum, and you’d get banned for asking tough questions). As far as I can tell, everyone is incredibly knowledgable and compassionate. Before, I’d met one Catholic who was both intelligent, thoughtful, orthodox and yet completely, well, “human.” Now here’s a forum full of people like that.

I don’t know how to phrase my question quite right, and I struggled with the title because it seemed so trite. Also, I’m slipping into a cynical despair where I can see no solution to the problem. So, I guess I’ll just lay out the situation and any help will be greatly appreciated.

It seems ridiculous to write about a girlfriend, but I love her very much and we are talking seriously about marriage. She’s 31, I’m 30. I’m a cradle Catholic, she’s “nothing.” I was a hard-core apologist back in the early 90’s (I started my own Apologetics Club on campus), but after a year at Franciscan U., I sort of overloaded and wandered for a while. I was still a Catholic snob–I couldn’t imagine being any other religion–but I had no faith and I, um, well, didn’t exactly live up to Church teachings.

Now, with a little age and a trifle more maturity, I’m trying to come back. Generally speaking, I know what needs to be done, but that’s where the trouble is. My girlfriend is “basically good” as the modern conventional wisdom goes, but she’s almost hostile toward Catholicism. She knows I’d raise the kids Catholic, but she says she’d want them to go to Protestant churches for balance. (I know–it’s odd, considering she has no real “belief system.” In fact, she’s not even sure the Church has a compelling refutation of polytheism–it’s part of the collage of fashionable things she’s “believed in” through her college years).

The basic problem: I love her. We had some rocky times in the beginning, but nowadays we’re sickeningly cute and cuddly. We even use the “L” word with reckless abandon. But as I was driving to her place yesterday the contradictions and hypocrisies of my behavior hit me all at once. I realized that going into a marriage without a strong partner would just be utterly impossible. “I” don’t want to “convert” her, but I do want her to see what I do in the Church, and God, etc. So, how DOES one present things to a somewhat hostile unbeliever with all the fashionable pretensions about other-worldly questions in a compelling way?

Anyone? Anyone? Is there a book I can get for her? Has anyone had similar experiences? I’ve been a poor example of a good Christian, mainly because of what she sees as “arrogance.” She’s absolutely right–I HAVE been arrogant, but I’ve mellowed and I’m always willing to discuss.

I know that when it comes down to it, no one, not even someone I love as much as her, can stand between me and God. I just don’t want it to come to that choice, and I’m willing to break my back to avoid it.

Thanks all,
MM
 
I’m in a somewhat similar situation. I have a serious girlfriend who I am very much in love with. She was raised Lutheran but is now “Non-Denominational” (which ironically is a denomination!). We have had several serious discussions about marriage sometime in the future, and she has agreed to raise the kids Catholic (which is great). She is not hostile towards Catholicism, but there are a few misunderstood obstacles that stand in her way…such as the saints, the Eucharist, and the Mass (she doesn’t mind going with me, but she prefers the generic Protestant “worship services” that are mainly just singing and a sermon).

Anyway…I suppose my question isn’t very different from Montanaman’s. What is the best way to convert someone? Is there a book that is known for it’s persuasiveness? I try to handle each misconception gently and delicately (because there is SO much to explain sometimes)…but what is the best way to bring a loved one home?
 
Why don’t you consider talking to a priest as sort of a mediator, either alone or together, if you could find one with some diplomacy? I’m sure it won’t be the first time they encounter “non-Catholics” so this should be nothing new to him. I would think he would be genuinely complimented and encouraging that you as a couple are discussing the future religious facet of your life.

(and we all know there are undiplomatic priests so be careful)

How far apart on the spectrum are you? You said she is “nothing”. Does that mean athesist or no formal method of worship?

Is she hostile because she sees Catholics as prosletyzers?

I have encountered hostility at times too, so I can relate but I don’t think they spit out as to exactly the reason why (maybe it is arrogance or “holier-than-thou” attitude).
 
BTW, my father and mother lived as Protestant and Catholic respectively for 34 years, in peace. I was raised CAtholic by my mother and Dad didn’t really go to church (was a Christeaster attender).

It was his illness (he has rheumatoid arthritis) and the priest visiting him and praying to him that got him to convert at 63 years old. He was confirmed 6 years ago.

Anyway, I think it is the people that get you to join, not the laws, catechisms, etc. The church is the people; not the rich oramented houses.

People make decisions based on emotion. We are emotional creatures for better, for worse and that’s how you are going to have to persuade. In fact, I would bet anything an intellectual argument will not work.
 
Thanks for the quick replies, guys. (I apologize if you’re not guys. 🙂 )

She’s actually suggested a priest friend of the family to talk to. I suspect he’s a flaming liberal, but what the hay, it’s a start. (You give a little, you get a little).

A main source of problems though, is this virus of an idea that saying something is incorrect is the same thing as saying it’s evil. When we have discussions, she thinks I’m saying the worst about Protestants when all I’m trying to do is explain differences, and why we differ. I’ve tried to explain to her that my differences are much like baseball or football fans have with other teams–we rib them a bit, but in the end there’s no REAL animosity. Of course, our team is still going to knock the spit out of yours…
 
::is a guy:: 😉

I’ve had the same problem myself. Many times a simple discussion can go in the wrong direction because many Protestants have a completely different “faith-vocabulary” than us Catholics. It’s a pretty sensitive issue sometimes.

Anyway…thanks for the advice about talking to a priest. I’ll have to try that sometime.

Oh…and this is a little off-topic but somewhat related, I suppose-

What steps need to be taken in order to marry a non-Catholic? I’ve heard that you need the Bishop’s permission and some other things…anyone like to clarify?
 
Well, I can’t tell you whether a woman is the right person to marry or not. But what I can suggest is to stop having sex if you are sexually active. I believe we can far more clearly discern whether a partner has the attributes that are important to a lifelong committment if my thoughts aren’t clouded by sex. After all, sex is bonding, so why should we be surprised when people get into a relationship that has serious warning signals, yet they are enmeshed and entangled.

The other thing I can tell you is I had absolutely no understanding whatsoever until after I had children how much easier everything was because my wife and I share the same Faith.

Here is a different post that is kind of related: forums.catholic-questions.org/showpost.php?p=14801&postcount=18
 
I would recommend “Search and Rescue” by Patrick Madrid. This issue is the entire focus of the book and I have found it very helpful in my own relationship with my wife. (I left the Church in my adolescense and returned a few years after I married.) I pray everyday that God will give me the grace to accept His plan for my wife and the role He wants me to serve in her journey to the faith.

I hope this helps you both and I will include you in my prayers.
40.png
SwissGuard:
What steps need to be taken in order to marry a non-Catholic? I’ve heard that you need the Bishop’s permission and some other things…anyone like to clarify?
You need a dispensation from the Bishop if YOU (the Catholic) wish to get married outside of the Church. I think that you may also need this if your intended spouse is not baptised. If you fail to do this, you cannot receive communion until you reconcile the situation. If you will be marrying within the Church, your spouse must agree that you can teach the faith to your children. I am unclear of whether or not you both have to agree to raise your children in the Church but you have the obligation to do everything in your power to raise your children as Catholics and the priest is supposed to make sure that she realizes and accepts this before approving the marriage.
 
40.png
rfk:
The other thing I can tell you is I had absolutely no understanding whatsoever until after I had children how much easier everything was because my wife and I share the same Faith.
That’s exactly what I’m talking about. It would be the greatest day of my life if my girlfriend became Catholic and we could share our faith together. I’m working on it (and I whole-heartedly believe that it could happen someday)…but wow, that would be great. I’m sure it makes things a lot easier on the kids too, eh? Not being confused about what to believe?

Some excellent points about sexuality as well. I am committed to my girlfriend at this point, but I refuse to jeapordize our relationship with selfish desires…and thankfully she feels the same way.
 
Yeah, that “faith dictionary” comment is right on. And it goes beyond the differences between Protestants and Catholics. She’s been influenced by that post-modern goo that dictates everyone should just get along. Concepts like “truth” are so foreign to many people, and sometimes my girlfriend, that they’re offensive.

About the sex…Yes, yes I know. That’s definitely part of the problem. We started dating when I just didn’t care one way or another–I made a real effort to shed myself of Catholicism. But now that I realize the only thing worse than being Catholic is NOT being Catholic, it’s tough to “just stop.” She would understand, though, I think. In fact, that may not even be that big of a problem since she’s started a new business and I live 50 miles away. We never see each other, really.

But please, no lectures about the sex. I know. I know oh so well. It’s got to stop. It will. For me, it isn’t even about uncontrollable urges. But perhaps that’s for another thread…
 
I’m not sure how willing people are to read books and be converted. Do you sacrifice for her? —KCT
 
Yeah, I don’t think a book by itself is going to do anything. You have to WANT to read it.

What do you mean by “sacrifice for her,” though? Do I? You bet. Little sacrifices every day. But what do you mean?
 
No compromises can be made on your part. You have to be catholic all the way. Strengthen your prayer life and be the best man and potential spouse that you can be. Your holy example will do more for this woman than any book that you might give her.

One last thing…consider the possibility that this is not the woman God has in mind for you. Discernment in this area is difficult, and you need to be in a state of grace at all times while asking for the Lord’s guidance for your life.

You are in my prayers.

Pax
 
40.png
KCT:
I’m not sure how willing people are to read books and be converted. Do you sacrifice for her? —KCT
Actually, I was planning to read the book myself and use whatever I got from it in our “religious discussions”.

What kind of sacrifice do you mean? I absolutely sacrifice for her…but like Pax said…being Catholic is something that I will not compromise on. My faith is the most important thing in my life.
 
That’s the thing–intellectually I know the score, but realistically, being a faithful Catholic is a very lonely life.

I know she may not be the one, and if she isn’t, then whoever is will be incredible. (Then again, if there IS no “The One,” then I can jump on my plans to get that sailboat and float around the Keys drinking Coronas and saying rosaries…Did I mention I’m a Catholic freak?) I think before too long I’ll know, though. It’s a very long story, (look for the novel), but our lives could potentially be diverging quite far apart soon…
 
When you talk about sacrificing for your loved one, I would like to suggest e5men.org/I heard about it from Catholicity and it seems like it would be great for you. I am also in the same situation as you. My gentleman friend (we are into our 40’s, so I use that term instead of boyfriend) is an Evangelical. He is open to the Catholic faith, has gone to Mass with me, and asks questions about things I sometimes take for granted like genuflecting and the Sign of the Cross. Prayer is the best thing, especially praying and reading scripture together. Keep praying, I will pray for you too.
 
I think it is definitely important that the non-Catholic member of the relationship is open and committed to allowing the Catholic practice his/her faith and raising the children as Catholics. If there is animosity involved, then it could very likely wedge itself between the two of you and become a dividing point. However, if the non-Catholic disagrees with Catholic doctrine, but is not hostile and will allow the children to be raised Catholic, then it is much less of an issue (but still an issue nonetheless).

As far as converting your significant other, it’s important to let them approach Catholicism at their own pace. Many times when I was still leary of the Church, it’s teachings were “forced” upon me by my fiancee, and that made me even more stubborn and resistant. Regardless of her own intentions, I came to the Church in my own time with the help of God. One of the men in my RCIA class this past year had been attending Mass with his family for maybe thirty years and finally came home. Different people need different amounts of time, and many times all you can do is pray for them and be a living example of the faith.

Peace
 
40.png
chemcatholic:
Different people need different amounts of time, and many times all you can do is pray for them and be a living example of the faith.
That is a very good point…and something I need to remember. That, along with the fact that prayer can be a powerful ally. Thanks for the insight.
 
40.png
Pax:
No compromises can be made on your part. You have to be catholic all the way. Strengthen your prayer life and be the best man and potential spouse that you can be. Your holy example will do more for this woman than any book that you might give her.

One last thing…consider the possibility that this is not the woman God has in mind for you. Discernment in this area is difficult, and you need to be in a state of grace at all times while asking for the Lord’s guidance for your life.
Very wise. Converts are attracted to the Faith when than can see Christ in your everyday life and how you treat others.
 
Be very careful about marrying someone who does not share your faith. My husband is not Catholic, but he is as accomodating as possible. He goes to Mass with us and shows every respect to the Sacrament. Our son is five and has not realized that Daddy is different. I think a non-believing spouse with this much support and respect is rare. I have high hopes for his eventual conversion, but pressuring him would be the worst thing I could do. I pray for him daily, and I’m ready whenever he wants to discuss even minor points about faith.
It has to come from inside, no book, or conversation, or counseling with a priest will flip a switch and make someone believe. God calls, they answer. Everything else is just spadework.
Get yourselves right with God and His Church and everything else will fall into its proper place in your life.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Back
Top