About Faithful and Fruitful

I have a lot to thank the world of Catholic social media for – above all, my faith. I had always been interested in, or even drawn to, Catholicism, but it was not something I ever envisaged as being for me. The only Catholics I knew were my grandma, and a few other lukewarm Catholics amongst my friends and family. I credit my grandma’s prayers with my ultimate conversion, so I don’t want to downplay her significance in my faith life, but the ‘real life’ Catholics I encountered were not the people who drew me to the Church.

I can’t remember exactly how I got drawn into the Catholic blogosphere, but it was sometime in 2014-2015. I was totally fascinated by the lives of bloggers like Rosie Hill, Kendra Tierney and Haley Stewart – mainly, because they seemed so normal. And yet, they were living out the fullness of the Church’s teaching, including such crazy notions as NFP and going to church even when on vacation *shock horror*.

Over time, I could not push away the feeling that they possessed some truth, some peace, that was missing from my life, and from the versions of Protestant Christianity I had encountered. I read more and more, not just of their blogs but about Catholicism more generally, and found a depth and beauty there that I had not previously encountered. I became sure that this was the Fullness of Truth.

Fast forward a bit. In 2016 I was received into the Church, and in 2018 I am writing this as a lover of the Faith, still hooked on Catholic social media (although now it’s mainly on Instagram and private Facebook groups). I still love that community and am inspired by it. But. As my own little family has started to grow – we welcomed our first baby daughter in January – I’ve started to feel that there isn’t a place for people like me in the world of Catholic social media. Although a devout Catholic myself, I am not married to one. So as I scroll through pictures of Catholic families in their Sunday best at Mass, or daddy teaching the kids about St. Lawrence, or reflections on how NFP is really hard but it made their marriage and their faith stronger – I think, do I have a place here? Can I ever be a good Catholic in the absence of a Catholic spouse? Do my kids have any chance of encountering the truth and beauty and depth of Catholicism, when dad rarely comes to Sunday Mass with us?

With a lot of prayer, study and inner struggle, I have come to genuinely believe that the answers to all those questions are ‘yes’. I have come to believe that this is a cross that God has asked me to carry, and that if I align my life properly, it can be my path to holiness. It will be hard and frustrating, but it can still be beautiful and joyous. I want this blog to encourage others in similar situations to keep pursuing their faith as fully as you otherwise might, and not to let Satan trick you into thinking that if your life isn’t as perfectly holy as the big names of Catholic social media appear to be then you can’t get to Heaven. I believe that Jesus meets us where we are, whatever our circumstances, and that our God is a God of infinite love, mercy and compassion. He will never abandon us if we don’t abandon Him. When you approach the gates of Heaven, you will not be turned away in the absence of a spouse who spent 18 months in seminary before finally discerning that he was called to marriage, and to you.

Finally, I want to say that I am not here to tell you that you should go ahead and marry your atheist boyfriend and everything will be fine – those decisions are between you, your boyfriend and God, and you should be honest and realistic about the challenges that lie ahead. I am here to tell you that it’s possible to have a fulfilling faith life in the absence of a Catholic spouse – if that weren’t the case, the Church wouldn’t allow it (more on that later). In the meantime, keep loving your spouse truly and deeply regardless of their feelings about the Church, and of course, pray – for your spouse, for your kids, for yourself. No one on Earth is close enough to, or far enough from, God that they don’t need your prayers.

Vision

For a while, I was afraid that I was the only person experiencing the struggles that come with not sharing my faith with my spouse. It was a lonely place to be – I assumed that my non-believing friends and family would be unable to understand why it’s a problem, and my fellow Catholics would wag their fingers disapprovingly and tell me it’s my own fault for getting myself into this situation. I even felt like God would be mad at me, disappointed that I didn’t wait a bit longer or try a bit harder to find a spouse who thought Just Like Me.

Gradually, I began to connect with other women in my situation. A friend engaged to a Muslim man; someone discerning her future with a non-practicing Catholic; many who converted after marrying Protestants or atheists. We each face unique struggles, but share a common experience: we want to live our Catholic beliefs faithfully and fruitfully. That is to say, we want to stay true to the beliefs and teachings of the Church, and also for our faith to bear real, tangible fruit in our lives and the lives of those around us. We don’t want the fact that our beliefs are not shared by our spouses to inhibit our own practice and love of the Faith.

Yet sometimes, that seems easier said than done. Jesus, through the Church and the Bible, made it clear that He not only wants us to live our faith in community, but that it is necessary for our growth as Christians. Whilst some of us may have church communities or friends who share our faith, I sensed a need for community among women who share the cross of a marriage which is not united by faith. That is what I hope this will be.

I hope that this will be a space for encouragement, counsel and prayer. I hope that women are able to connect with others who understand their circumstances. Above all, I hope that this will become a community that brings the hope needed to cling to the Truth AND stay true to our marriages, even when it isn’t easy.