Rich’s reception into Roman Catholic faith in 2005 led to a bewildering set of events that left us both at odds. Rich attempted with loving care to mitigate the unexpected consequences his conversion brought into our home. Meanwhile, a great emptiness had entered my life. How could I support my husband and still serve Jesus, while I felt so estranged from Rich and from the Lord?
Although I began to experience a renewed joy after the Lord offered me Spiritual Communion, the heartache of those past months weighed heavily on Rich. He suffered in silence with each obstacle I encountered. His were the hands that held me close when I wondered how I could fit in. In the privacy of our home, his were the words of anger and desperation in response to those who continued to hurt me. His were the promises to protect me from as much anguish as he could.
And his was the heart that broke and bled one morning at Mass.
October had turned into November and I continued to grow closer to Jesus. Each Mass took on new vitality because of the gracious inclusion Jesus offered me. I found myself carried away by His love and would often feel like standing in awe of Christ as I perceived Him through the Holy Spirit.
One Sunday I whispered to Rich that I would not go forward for a blessing. I wanted to stand at my pew instead, and praise and pray. (From the first time I attended Mass with Rich, I had struggled with the point in the Mass when I processed forward for a blessing. I often felt silly or angered to receive a blessing instead of Communion. For Catholics, it was a time of celebration (Eucharist); for me, it seemed demeaning or pointless – depending on my attitude at the time. I struggled with this issue until 2006, when Jesus helped me see the blessing in a different light).
Knowing my struggle with the blessing, Rich nodded and moved into the aisle. As he stepped into line, he looked back at me and suddenly felt as if he had lost something very precious. He said later, ”I felt with each foot-fall forward that I had turned my back on you, our marriage, and our life together. It was as if I was being ripped from our marriage bond.”
When he returned to our pew, he stood very close. After Mass, he looked squarely into my eyes and declared he would never do that again. When he explained what he had felt as he walked forward, I immediately understood. I remembered having a similar response the night he professed himself a Catholic at the Easter Vigil. I assured him from then on I would go forward and ask for a blessing, no matter how I felt about it.
My husband loves me. Any rudeness or unkindness directed by others toward me reverberates in him. When well-meaning Catholic acquaintances happily counseled him that I’d “come around soon” and become Catholic – all while I was standing there as if I was a naughty child needing to be corrected, Rich cringed. When in some social settings others ignored me altogether, Rich hurt even more.
Repeatedly, Rich vowed to leave the Catholic Church. His frustration with the rudeness he’d seen displayed toward me had grown intolerable. He decided we would attend a Protestant church, and he would meet his Catholic obligations as best he could. I knew he was serious. My emotional pain increased as I watched him straining to help me heal and bring me comfort.
By this time, though, I had become convinced it was God who had opened Rich’s understanding of Catholicism, and it was God who called him to the Roman Catholic Church – and I told him so. We talked many times about the pointlessness of leaving the Catholic Church. Leaving was not the answer. Surely, our Father does not make mistakes. And I reminded him that God had called me to be there at his side.
We were united. We would follow Jesus. And we would follow Him together.
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