“I don’t want to feel guilty about not going to Mass.”
I go to Mass on Christmas and Easter with Marybeth. But, I really don’t feel the need to go the rest of the year. I don’t appreciate Marybeth making me feel like a bad person or a bad Catholic because I don’t go to Mass.
“I’m sad he is not beside me in the pew at church.”
I go to Mass every Sunday, and I wish Sam would go with me. I really love our parish, and it bothers me that Sam doesn’t really practice his faith. How can I invite him to come to Mass without making him upset?
WHAT DO THEY DO?
Every person’s faith journey proceeds at its own pace, and, although Marybeth and Sam are united in marriage, they are clearly at different places with how they view their faith.
Marybeth has found in her parish a place that nourishes her spiritual life. Of course she wants to share! Marybeth, your very first step is to pray for Sam, and let him know you are doing so in a way that is loving, never judgmental. Prayer and presence are the two most effective ways to evangelize the ones we love. Find something meaningful to him to pray about, and then check back in with him about the situation for which you are praying. For example, if he is having a difficult time at work, let him know you are on his side and will pray for a resolution. Remember to ask him how things are going, and that you have been praying about it. You don’t have to have a solution to his problem; just a listening ear and a prayerful heart.
Share what brings you joy and meaning from Mass. Perhaps you and Sam can have breakfast after Mass on Sunday. You don’t have to pile on. But, you can share a meaningful moment for you that you took away from the homily. Maybe something moved you about the liturgy about which you could share your enthusiasm. And Sam, since this is a core part of Marybeth’s life, it is important that you listen to her and have an open mind about what she is telling you. It’s possible that she has found something at church that might change your life!
Also, Sam, would you be willing to commit to attend Mass when Marybeth specifically requests it? For example, she particularly might be wanting you beside her on Mother’s Day, her birthday or World Marriage Day, in addition to Christmas and Easter. Part of a good marriage is acknowledging what is important to our spouse, and trying to accommodate that. If your parish has small faith-sharing groups or other activities that you could do together, perhaps both of you could look at doing more of that. For Sam, this can be an opportunity to talk about doubts and concerns that are keeping him from sitting next to Marybeth in the pews on Sundays.
Most of all, try to find a way to incorporate praying together into your daily routine. Start with something simple like grace before meals, and include moments of thanksgiving and petition. Praying together is a wonderful way to grow together in love of the Lord.
Steve and Bridget Patton hold master’s degrees in theology and counseling and serve as family life ministers for the Diocese of Sacramento.