How Will the Catholic Faith Change Your Marriage?

Most adult Protestants are married and value marriage. Nevertheless, Protestants are adamant that marriage is not a sacrament. Hence, Protestants and Catholics have a fundamental disagreement over the nature of marriage. So then, one of the most neglected considerations regarding a conversion to the Catholic Faith is how it will affect your marriage. How?
I will say with 100% certainty that every convert that I know (perhaps up to 100 of them) have each said that Catholicism has enriched their marriage. The difference of course is that Protestantism sees matrimony as regulated by the State as a rite situated in the created order, but the Catholic Church teaches that matrimony was raised to the dignity of sacrament and that it pertains to the supernatural order. This places holy matrimony under the watch of the Church just like baptism or the Holy Eucharist.
This also entails that there is explicit theology about marriage and explicit rules about marriage in canon law. It’s not up to the local pastor to use his view of the Bible to decide if a couple can marry. Instead, canon law is used to determine everything – just like the other sacraments.
Yet this is a rather stuffy explanation. What you probably want to know is how will Catholicism change your life. Right?
Here are five ways in which it will change your marriage for the better:
1. You will be going to confession regularly and so will your spouse. Guess what? Your spouse will be confessing all the sins that they commit against you: losing tempers, complaining, not taking care of the children, fighting in front of the children, complaining about money, arguing over budgets . . . you get the picture. Meanwhile, you’ll be doing the same. The priest will be in your grill (and your spouse’s grill) all the time about it. He will know the details you reveal and he will begin challenging you (and your spouse) about it. Suddenly you have secret referees that are challenging you to be a better parent and spouse. Whenever I go to confession, I usually come out thinking, “I need to go apologize to Joy about that last week.” And my wife does the same when she goes to confession.
2. You will cease from contraception and other illicit actions. You marriage will be rightfully ordered to the procreative act. Intimacy will not be just for pleasure. This may strike you as a negative, but trust me, it will radically improve your marriage. Just ask anyone on CtC or any convert who lives the Faith.
3. You may start having more children. The old adage that you cannot take anything to heaven isn’t entirely true. You can, by the grace of God, take your children with you. Your portfolio, your house, your car, your boat, your everything will cease to be. But children are forever. Their souls will never be snuffed out. The procreative power is very powerful!
4. You marriage will become your vocation. I don’t want to make a caricature here, but my experience is that Protestants are usually very interested in their vocation being related to a role at Church – Sunday school teacher, women’s ministry coordinator, small group leader, music minister, pastor’s wife, youth minister, deacon, elder, etc. For Catholics, it is commonly understood that your vocation is marriage, which is to say, your vocation is to your spouse and children. I really do think the Catholic way expresses the Biblical notion of matrimony. Take this verse as an example:
“Yet she shall be saved through child bearing; if she continue in faith and love and sanctification with sobriety.” (1 Timothy 2:15, D-R)
As a Protestant, I didn’t know what that meant. Yet if our salvation depends on faith and works, and a married woman’s vocation (the way she primarily expresses her good works) is through being a wife and mother – then this verse makes perfect sense. On judgment day, Christ will judge a mother primarily on her work as a mother, not on her small group Bible study. The same goes for husbands.
5. Fifth and last, your children will be united to your devotion as parents. Catholicism doesn’t have the divide of “Big Church” and “Children’s Church.” The Holy Mass is for everyone. This means that babies, toddlers, children, and teens sit with their parents. They have years of seeing dad kneel, fold his hands, pray, genuflect, receive Communion, etc. It makes for a strong family.
Taylor Marshall, Ph.D.
PS: This is the last one for the “Becoming Catholic Series.” Please take time to look at the other posts: click here and scroll down.
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How to Describe Confession to Protestants (Part 5 of Becoming Catholic)

For Protestants, the most unknown aspect of Catholic devotional life is confession. Unless you’re Catholic, you cannot experience it. A Protestant can attend a Catholic baptism, confirmation, wedding, ordination, and Holy Mass; however, he cannot attend a confession or know what it’s like until he actually makes one for the first time.
Now most Protestants have seen it in movies. You go into the wooden box, a door slides behind a screen, and the Catholic says, “Bless me Father for I have sinned, etc.”
Okay, that’s pretty much how it begins, but let’s look at it from a devotional point of view – how it really goes for a Catholic.
Ideally, a Catholic makes a nightly examination of conscience every evening. This means that he prays to the Holy Spirit in order to remember his faults during the past day. He then prays an act of contrition at this moment with the intent of confessing these faults in confession.
Before entering the confessional (that is, the box), he prays to the Holy Spirit (and to Mary and other saints) that he might make a good confession and be given the gift of true repentance and contrition. My practice is to ask the Holy Spirit for the light to see all my sins. Then I ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to obtain for me the grace to be truly sorry for my sins. You see, confession isn’t just about forgiveness of sins, it’s also about growing in sacramental grace.
In the confessional, there is sometimes the option to go behind the screen or face to face (I always choose the screen). The priest will recite a prayer and then you say, “Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been # weeks since my last confession and I accuse myself of the following sins.”
Next you list all your sins in kind and number. If the priest cannot hear you or understand you, he’ll stop and ask questions. When you get to the end, you say, “For these sins and all those that I cannot remember, I humbly repent and ask for absolution, counsel, and penance.”
The priest will then give you some advice or encouragement. He may make a general judgment that your struggles are related to a common vice. If you cry, he will comfort you. If you are scared to confess a sin, you say, “Father, I’m afraid to confess something.” He’ll walk you through it. If you are unsure if something was a sin or not, you ask him and talk it out. It’s very pastoral and safe. Then the priest gives you your penance. The penance is the sign that you wish to start a new life in Christ – that you’re going to make a change. The penance also shows a willingness to make reparation for the harm you’ve caused (for example, to return stolen money or apologize to a wounded spouse). A common penance is “Three Hail Mary’s” or “a decade of the Rosary” or “Three Our Fathers so that you’ll grow in the virtue of temperance.”
Then the priest says, “Now please make an Act of Contrition.” This is a prayer you say to God out loud and the priest listens to you say it. It’s proof to him that you really are sorry for your sins and not just playing “pinball Catholicism” (click here to see what I mean by that).
The Act of Contrition goes like this:

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen.

Then the priest gives you absolution: “I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father and of Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
The priest then tells you to go in peace and usually asks you to say a prayer for him.
After that, you leave the confessional and go into the church where you pray your penance quietly and pray about anything else that is on your heart.
That’s confession. It is certainly one of my top three favorite things about Catholicism.
Taylor Marshall, Ph.D.

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Salvation Pinball & the Devotional Life of Catholics (Part 4 of Becoming Catholic)

Last week, we examined difficulties that Catholic converts experience in the context of family life. Today we look at how how your devotional might change when you become a Catholic. What would change?

For a Protestant looking in from the outside, it might appear that Catholics are mechanical about their devotional life. I remember seeing Catholicism as a giant machine with handles and levers. Catholics scurried around it pulling levers and pulling knobs hoping that grace would come out. As a Protestant, I thought that being a “good Catholic” was like working a soft-serve ice cream machine or a soda fountain. If you learned how to use the system, you can get grace and hopefully earn salvation.

More accurately, I suspected that the Catholic salvation was more like a pinball machine. The ball was grace and Catholics were constantly mashing the buttons to keep the flippers moving and the ball in play. However, all pinball players know that eventually the ball gets past you and your game is over. How could Catholics honestly believe that human effort could keep the ball in play for decades and decades of human life? Why can’t they just trust in the finished work of Christ and relax…?

So now that I’m Catholic, am I playing salvation pinball?

I don’t think so. Salvation only appears mechanistic to Protestants because they haven’t experienced it. For example, the sacrament of Penance is not at all like getting your time card punched. There is a real human being behind that screen! He asks questions. He challenges you. He loves Christ. You love Christ. You’re both praying that you will grow in Christ. It’s extremely intimate and the opposite of mechanical.

Take the Holy Mass. Most Protestants are not familiar with liturgical worship. What they see seems robotic. But when you know it, it’s like an elegant waltz. You can even do it with your eyes closed. If you don’t know how to waltz and you’ve never seen it, one might look at people waltzing and say: “This is so hard and those people are slaves to this music. How could they be enjoying this?”

Yet the couple might be having the dance of their lives…the formal aspect makes it all the more intimate.

All important things in our lives are ritualized – Sunday dinner, weddings, sports, and anniversaries come to mind. The repetition makes them more important and more intimate.

In order to understand Catholic devotion, don’t think of it as a machine…think of it as a mother. Mothers and babies seem to have a mechanical relationship. Baby sucks milk from breast. Spits up. Mommy cleans it. Baby cries. Mommy bounces. Baby poops. Mommy changes the diaper. Repeat cycle, non-stop, for nine months. But that is not all there is. They are the cues. There are the moments when the mommy gazes with love on the nursing baby. The nursing baby caresses the hair of the mother. The mother smiles and talks to the baby during the diaper change. It’s all very loving and intimate. To an outsider looking in from the outside, it could appear like an endless hell. But ask any old lady and she will tell you that those were great days. And all of us are grateful for the maternal care. None of us think of mom as “mechanical.”

Of course, you won’t ever experience this if you don’t become Catholic so you won’t ever really understand. I hope that if you’re reading this, you’ll take a moment and pray to Christ and ask Him to give you special gifts of the Holy Spirit. You have to deal with the Catholic question, so you be sure that you pray to Christ at every step of the way.

Please read Taylor’s Parts 1, 2, and 3 on “Becoming Catholic” by clicking here and scrolling down.

ad Jesum per Mariam,

Taylor Marshall, PhD

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What Would Your Family Say…If You Became Catholic? (Part 3 on Becoming Catholic)

In the last two posts, I’ve shared personal aspects of becoming Catholic. Today I move to one of the most difficult parts of that decision, the judgment of your family. For most people, this is the largest obstacle to becoming Catholic.
For others the most difficult part of Catholicism is losing their job or their career if they are employed by a Protestant congregation. I’ve been there, too. Perhaps I’ll share some personal thoughts on that in the days to come. Today, I want to focus on family. I get emails and phone calls from Protestants considering conversion. I’d say that most of them experience difficulties with their families and usually with their spouses.
I’ve also noticed that some people have difficulty with how their parents will perceive them if they are Catholics. Cradle Catholics (those raised as Catholics from the cradle) might find this odd. What they do not understand is that Protestant denominations have their own customs and expectations when it comes to holidays, meals, and important life events like marriage…and the Catholic Church has her own customs.
Let me give just ten examples that will likely come up. If you have others, please share them in the comments:
  1. At Christmas and other holidays, you will have to go Holy Mass with your family. This creates problems with scheduling wider family events on Christmas.
  2. When you pray at meals, your family and children will make the sign of the cross. This will startle your extended family.
  3. When the grandparents pray with your children, your children will at some point innocently and rightly start praying to Mary or to some saints. That might cause grandma to go into a conniption.
  4. You won’t contracept. This means you’ll start having lots of babies. This means your family will constantly say things like, “Aren’t you finished?” or hurtful things to your wife, “Don’t you want to do something more important than have children and pack lunches?”
  5. You will have a crucifix in your house which will draw comments.
  6. Marriages will be Catholic and Catholic only. That means no weddings at the family’s favorite chapel.
  7. You won’t be able to attend a family wedding if Catholics are getting married in Protestant chapels and in sometimes in difficult situations where there is divorce.
  8. If you’re practicing, you’ll be praying the Rosary daily. I invite Protestant family to join us, but that may not be comfortable for everyone.
  9. On Fridays, especially on Fridays during Lent you’ll have to ask questions about dinner before accepting an invitation, because you cannot eat flesh meat (beef, pork, chicken, etc.)
  10. You’ll have one family member who is very aggressive and challenging. They’ll be playing Johnny Apologetics every time you gather as a family. There will the be uncomfortable debates about sola fide, sola scriptura, Mary, the Pope, Catholic history, and more.
And there’s more. So why be Catholic? Well, it’s the true Church of Jesus Christ and it is a cross to be a member of Christ’s visible and historic body: “And he said to all: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23, D-R).
Many Catholics have even had to abandon their family altogether – even wives and children – for the sake of Christ. Saints Felicity and Perpetua come to mind. Saint Peter is another:
Then Peter said: Behold, we have left all things and have followed thee. Who said to them: Amen, I say to you, there is no man that hath left home or parents or brethren or wife or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, Who shall not receive much more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting. (Luke 18:28–30, D-R)
Hard words, I know. Yet when we consider the gift of the beatific vision of God’s essence and our union with Him for ever, all created happiness and goods fail to compare. Everything is worth it. Catholicism is the pearl of great price. Also, think of it this way. Early Catholics struggled with becoming martyrs. When they were martyred they offered their deaths for the conversion of their accusers and enemies (St Stephen martyrdom and St Paul’s conversion is an example).
Today we do not worry about martyrdom (yet), but we do worry about the disgrace we will experience from our families. That is a small price when you think of it. Moreover, whenever your family ridicules your mocks your for being a Catholic, you can offer that pain for their conversion. It might be the trigger that releases graces upon their souls.
To read the two previous posts about becoming Catholic, click here and scroll down.
ad Jesum per Mariam,
Taylor Marshall
PS: If you have personal experience with conversion and family, please helpful advice below in the comments.
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