Dear Pope Francis,
On Monday, I wrote about why I think it’s a bad idea to flirt to convert. What I didn’t really look at was the larger issue of whether or not Catholics should date non-Catholics to begin with.
Looking at it from my own experience, I’ve gone out with a couple of baptized but not-practicing Catholics, a few pick your own protestant Christians, and a handful of atheists and agnostics. I’ve only gone out a couple of times with a practicing Catholic. He was a good date, but we both figured out pretty quickly that we were more suited to friendship than romance. Based on these experiences, I think I’m pretty well-qualified to argue both for and against dating outside the faith.
As someone who aspires to eventually marry and become a mother and foster parent, it’s really important to me to be able to include Christ in a relationship with my significant other. (How exactly it works is yet unseen. God stuff is a lot easier to talk about with Christian girls than Christian boys.)
As I’ve mentioned before, I wouldn’t even be here had my own parents not been open to dating outside their sects. Two friends with upcoming weddings are engaged to Christian-but-not-Catholic men.
When I look at what it means to be a Christian, the things that divide us and the things that bring us together I think marriage is the most unifying thing we can share as Christians beyond the passion and resurrection. When I was 12 or 13, I altar served at wedding masses pretty much every weekend from June-September.
Fr. Maderak had a really good homily he often gave about how a couple can help each other develop the fruits of the spirit, both by consciously trying to be more patient or more kind or more prudent themselves and by striving to see and reward the gains their spouse was making in whichever area.
One of the parts of the ceremony I always really loved was the lighting of the unity candle. Tara, the choir director and soloist at St. Leonard’s when I was there would sing a really beautiful piece which I think was called “When two become one” while the mothers of the bride and groom each lit a candle, and then the bride and groom lit a third candle together with the two flames. (I’d link the song, but I can’t find one that has the same tune as the one I’m thinking of.)
That image of the unity candle and the literal bringing together of two people, with all their faults but more importantly with all their gifts has always stuck with me. When two people get married and start a family together there’s two extended families being brought together too. Those extended families may have different cultures and different faiths, but they get exposed to each other over the years as the couple has kids and they grow up and eventually marry. That exposure helps breed not just tolerance, but acceptance which is I think much better. There’s so many opportunities for learning about what still makes us different from each other, but also about how at the core of it we believe in the same triune God.
Yes it hurts a little, but only because I’m smiling so big because my heart is so happy. Yes, I would like a tissue thank you.