Ever since my junior year in high school when I had my reversion, I knew that I wanted to marry a Catholic. There were things I knew and hoped for in my heart, but I never really gave voice to them. I simply wanted to marry someone I could share the faith with, who understood the basics of being Catholic and didn’t have any big hang-ups about the Church.
What I really wanted, what I was afraid to give voice to – much less ask God for – was a man who was unabashedly Catholic. I wanted a man who not only understood the basics of the faith, but took time to go beyond the basics and learn more. I wanted a man who went deeper still, who went beyond understanding and tried to live out the faith, difficult thought it may be, in his every day life. I wanted a man whose faith permeated his being. I wanted a man who, like me, was and is striving to be as holy as possible, who didn’t settle for being a sinner just because he is a human. I wanted a man who put in the effort, who struggled against sin, who learned and read about the faith and the teachings of the Church. I wanted a man who knew who the pope was, not just by name, but by his teachings and writings. I wanted a man who loved his faith. I wanted a man who went to Mass more because he wanted to than because he had to, but a man who would still go to Mass even if the mood didn’t strike him. I wanted a man who was unafraid to live out his faith outside the Catholic bubble, who wouldn’t be afraid to share the beauty of the teachings of the Church. I wanted all of these things of the man I’d marry and yet they seemed so lofty that I never bothered to speak of it.
Much worse, perhaps, is that I don’t think I ever really prayed for it, at least not consciously. Sure, I prayed for my future husband and I prayed about him, but I never took the time to pray for these specific qualities in my husband. They were there, the unspoken prayer, but I never brought them to God, much less anyone else.
So I dated. And, for the most part, I dated Catholics. Catholics who understood the basics of the faith, Catholics who didn’t have big hang-ups about the faith. But they had little hang-ups. Things that were sins – definitively so – they didn’t see as a big deal, much less an actual sin that warranted a trip to the local confessional. I dated Catholics who would listen to me yammer on about the pope’s latest encyclical, though I knew they had no interest in reading it themselves. On the surface, I was fulfilling everything I said I wanted in a man: a Catholic who knew the basics of the faith and didn’t have any big hang-ups. Good job, self.
As Anthony and I sat in our childbirth class a month ago, I realized that I got the man I really wanted to marry, even if all of those hopes and dreams remained unspoken in the depths of my heart. We sat there in the class with couples we’d never met before and he talked about praying for our child and encouraged other couples – regardless of their backgrounds – to pray for their child throughout labor. The instructor, who worked for a religious hospital, had yet to mention anything about God, and yet she latched on to this idea of prayer during birth. I was so proud of my husband for bringing up prayer and God well beyond the comforts of the Catholic bubble. His suggestion was and is proof of who he is: a prayerful man, one who strives to live out the faith and challenges me to do the same, one who will challenge our children in the same way.
The class went on and we were each told to grab an item from a bag and talk about whether that item was “fact or fantasy” with regards to the first six weeks after childbirth. One couple pulled out a condom. It took no time at all for this to send up flags for Anthony and I; condoms are against the teachings of the Church. The instructor talked about condoms and birth control, but gave no mention to Natural Family Planning (NFP). At the end of class, Anthony took ample time to write on the evaluation form how this fell short of what the class should teach and how we have a moral obligation to present all options for family planning. He even went so far as to cite sources and statistics on the effectiveness of NFP – these were things he didn’t even need to look up. I read his paragraph at the end of the evaluation sheet and was blown away. He was honest and challenging, but held to his faith and stood up for what we believe in.
As I sat there reading his comments I realized that all of my hopes and dreams – unspoken and perhaps even unconsciously wished for – had been fulfilled in Anthony, my husband and the father of our child. The road to him was longer than I’d anticipated, but seeing it all now, there’s not a doubt in my mind that God was answering my prayers, even the ones I was too shy, too timid to pray.