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.