Catholic marriage envy

I think we all have sins that we know we’re guilty of, that we bring to Confession again and again – gossip, anger, judgement. But we also have sins that we think don’t apply to us, that we have never struggled with. For me, one of those is envy. I’ve never really envied the wealth or beauty or intellect of others – not because I’m totally happy with my own performance in these areas, but because any insecurities I have do not manifest themselves in the cardinal sin of envy.

Or… so I thought. I realised recently that I am guilty of envy. I’m guilty of envying people with ‘perfect’ Catholic marriages. I look at their blogs or Instagrams and think, “Why not me, God? Why can’t I have a faith filled marriage?” And then I start telling myself that maybe those couples aren’t as happy as they look. Maybe they suffer in areas of their marriage that I do not. Maybe it’s all show.

And maybe I’m right. But that’s the danger of envy, and why it’s so bad for our souls. It makes us whine to God, “Why can’t I have that? What you have given me isn’t enough!” And then we start wishing bad things on other people, hoping that their blessings aren’t really so much greater than ours as we perceive.

This is something I’m working on. Now that I’ve recognised that I am, in fact, guilty of envy (and pride to boot, for thinking that I was above envy!), I need to figure out how to combat it. Perhaps I need to unfollow certain accounts on social media, or say a prayer of blessing for anyone I have uncharitable thoughts toward. Furthermore, I need to focus on gratitude for a life which is, in fact, abundantly blessed. I offer a decade of the rosary each day for my marriage, but from time to time, I say it in thanksgiving for the gift of marriage, for my loving husband, for my beautiful daughter.

Envy is ugly, and it feels horrible. It makes us feel like stroppy children who aren’t satisfied with their offering of birthday gifts. God doesn’t want us to feel that way about our marriages; He wants us to rejoice in the gift of our spouses, to pray for them, and enjoy His gift to us! Yes, matrimony is meant to sanctify us, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t also meant to enjoy it. I think us Catholics forget that sometimes – that although redemptive suffering is a beautiful dimension of our faith, it isn’t the only one. God also meets us in joy and thanksgiving, and above all, in love.

A blog for those in mixed marriages

I started this blog because I couldn’t find a voice in the Catholic social media sphere that spoke to my position as a devout Catholic, married to someone who does not share my faith. I suspected that I am not alone in this situation.

I converted to Catholicism in 2016, a few months after I met my husband. I began the process of RCIA before I knew him, and once I met him, I explained my religious journey and he was supportive of my conversion. He attended the Vigil Mass in which I was received into the Church even though we had only been dating for about three months at that time, which is a special memory for me. Although that is when I officially became Catholic, I would say that much of my love for, and commitment to, the faith has grown since then.

My husband is, in fact, Catholic by baptism, and would consider himself as such. However, faith is not an important part of his life: I go to Mass alone (with the baby) 90% of the time, our daughter’s faith formation is entirely my responsibility, and we certainly don’t pray together as a family. On the other hand, we agreed that our daughter should be baptised in the Catholic church, and he generally is not resistant to me encouraging a faith life for her.

I mention all this to demonstrate that my situation may be ‘easier’ than that of others, whose spouses may be more antagonistic towards their faith. I want this blog to be for anyone who feels that their faith is not shared by their spouse, but I recognise that there is a spectrum of difficulty and that my situation is not the hardest. However, I strongly believe that God wants us all to delight in our relationship with Him no matter our personal circumstances, and that He absolutely does not want any of us to give up on faith simply because we do not have families that are perfectly unified in belief.

There have been times when I’ve felt that God is disappointed in me because I didn’t wait for a practising Catholic spouse, or that He must think I just didn’t love or trust Him enough to break off my relationship when I realised that we may never be on the same page about matters of faith. I feared that I was doomed to a life of imperfect faith because I had failed to find a man who shared my beliefs 100%. I even worried that I would have to choose between my relationship and my faith, and was afraid that God would abandon me if I stayed in the relationship.

But here’s the thing: despair does not come from God. Yes, God asks us to do hard things. Yes, God sometimes wants us to walk away from things that make us happy because He has a better plan for us. Only you know what God is asking of you, and you must be honest with Him and with yourself in order to discern what He wants from you and your relationship. I can promise, though, that He is not going to abandon you because you went off-script from His plan. And I can also promise you that the Catholic mommies of Instagram, Facebook and the blogosphere do not know better than God does what is good for you. 

I believe fully in Christ, His Church and Her teachings. I am not here to promote heresies. I am here to tell you that you can live your faith fully and fruitfully no matter the circumstances of your marriage or relationship.

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.