Bring it Up.
Waiting until you’re emotionally invested in someone isn’t the ideal time to find out they’re atheist or against religion. When my husband and I first met (in a group setting), we were all sitting around talking casually. During a pause in the conversation, he asked me about the saints bracelet I was wearing. Talking about my bracelet lent itself easily to casual conversation regarding my Catholic faith and upbringing. Once we started dating, we frequently delved deeper into discussions about my Catholic faith and his Protestant faith. Being intentional with our conversations helped us both understand where each other was coming from and how our faith experiences influenced our current beliefs. We both made it clear that our faith was the most crucial part of each of our lives. From these conversations we were able to learn more about and respect each other’s beliefs.
Seeking to understand where your significant other is coming from in his faith is crucial to moving forward in a relationship. Learning about his upbringing helps you understand more about his theology and even his perception of Catholicism in general. Ask him questions about why he believes what he does. When you come across differences in belief, explore them, don’t ignore them! Don’t be afraid to have difficult conversations. Discuss his understandings versus yours. Challenge each other, and discuss why it is that you don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye. When done respectfully and out of a genuine interest to understand where the other is coming from, this will inevitably lead to some fruitful conversations. As a cradle Catholic without much exposure to Protestant beliefs, I had never really considered the major theological differences between Protestants and Catholics. When my husband and I were first dating, we were discussing the Bible and my husband mentioned “Jesus’ siblings.” I looked at him quizzically, and replied, “Jesus didn’t have siblings!” We both looked at each other, confused at the difference in what we thought was obvious theology, and laughed! This began a whole new direction in our conversation, as well as serious spiritual growth for me! My husband respectfully asked me many questions regarding Catholic doctrine on Mary and her perpetual virginity. We discussed in depth the Church’s teachings on confession, the Eucharist, the pope, saints, etc. Having taken so much of my faith at face value, I was now looking at it from a Protestant perspective and asking myself, “Why DO Catholics believe these things?” Having faith in these beliefs was one thing, but defending and understanding them was another. Fortunately, there are so many amazing apologist authors, and I quickly delved into reading their numerous books and articles. This gave me a better perspective of where Protestant beliefs come from and why certain teachings of the Church were hard for my future husband to understand.
Focus on common ground.
Sharing your Catholic faith with someone outside the Church can seem overwhelming at times. After all, Catholicism holds some pretty radical teachings! While sharing about the sacraments and traditions of the Church is part and parcel to sharing your faith, it is also important to focus on common ground and discuss beliefs that you both share. For example, we were both committed to a strong Christian faith, loving Jesus and keeping him at the forefront of our lives; striving always to live as he has instructed us. The focus on our shared beliefs as Christians allowed us to continue growing together spiritually while also challenging one another. It also forced us to take a look at the differences and discern if these differences were things we could live with moving forward in our relationship.
Read books together.
Choosing a book on Catholic teachings or theology to read independently and discuss together was a great way for my husband and I to connect and continue our discussion of faith, especially when his job took him away on trips. Books by converts on the teachings they found most difficult as Protestants and how their beliefs evolved were particularly helpful to us both. The idea of reading together was truly to share my faith and help my husband understand my beliefs as a Catholic, and was never at any point an attempt to convert him. It was important to him (and me) that he wasn’t made to feel any sort of pressure to believe my beliefs but more to share in an understanding of Catholicism. This mutual sharing in the search for Truth was a beautiful witness to the Holy Spirit working in and through our relationship. Another way we connected in sharing our faiths was to read the same Scripture readings and share what we learned, or understood or even questioned about them. All of this time spent reading the same books and Scripture enabled us to share our faiths more deeply with one another.
Invite him to Mass.
From the start of our dating relationship, my husband knew that when it was Sunday, I would be attending Mass. He also knew that on my days off from my nursing job, I frequently tried to attend daily Mass in the morning. Consequently, as we spent more and more time together, it felt natural to extend the invitation for him to join me at Mass. Sean willingly joined me, and while I did attend a Sunday service at his Protestant church, he soon began joining me at Mass more and more. In addition to inviting your significant other to worship together at Mass, be sure to set aside time to pray together as a couple, always asking the Holy Spirit to influence, guide and sustain your relationship. Setting aside designated time to pray together allows you to see how God is working in and through your relationship and can shed light on areas in which you both need to grow.