What If He's Not Catholic?



By Carolyn Shields

Question: would you marry a non-Catholic?

It’s a topic that is usually not far whenever conversations rise among young Catholics about marriage, and whether or not we’ve partaken in these discussions, we’ve usually at least entertained the idea.

Regardless of whether or not you’ve talked about it with your girlfriends, you’ve probably at least thought about it, right? And the thinking usually spawns off a trail of questions that gets us no where. But what about raising my kids? What if I always feel misunderstood or constantly have to explain myself? It’s such an intricate part of my identity, and what if he doesn’t understand that? And so on.

But a few months ago, Erica Tighe-Campbell, the owner of Be A Heart, brought this discussion to Instagram after marrying her non-Catholic husband. 

She shared the following in a series of posts:

“I was sitting in Mass this morning next to Paul’s hand gently resting on my back and was thinking about the road that got me here. I was talking to my spiritual director recently and we reminisced over the time I walked into our meeting and told him that I JUST needed to find a nice Catholic guy and settle down and have babies. I was sure that if I did all the right things and followed the rules, that my prize would be a (cute) Catholic guy. That day, he challenged my thinking and wondered why Catholic was my main requirement when God loves all men and maybe if I quit looking for that one thing, I would find someone with similar values and way of living. 

She continued, “Thank the Lord for that guidance so that I could see that He does not love a man based on his religion and nor should I. And thank Him even more that the gifts he gives me in my life are not dependent on my rule following or doing just the right thing. Rather than being ‘good,’ I focus on being His and digging into my inner being to uncover who He made me to be. And on THAT journey, I bumped into Paul who was doing the same for himself. There we find a mutual seeking of God and His will for our lives—that of love.”

Ok, pause here. Once I read that I thought, “Shoot, she needs to write more about this!” I reached out to Erica to see if she’d like to expand this into an article, but with her business model switching gears amidst a rapidly growing fanbase, she hasn’t gotten around to responding. This past Thanksgiving weekend, she sold more than the entire year prior. So, you know, I forgive her (especially since I have the worst response rate to both emails and texts).

But hey! Luckily for us, she continued talking about marrying a non-Catholic the following months. She wrote, “My best advice if you are dating a non-Catholic is to make sure he allows YOU to be Catholic. Never once has Paul questioned me or my beliefs. He has never poked fun of or rolled his eyes at anything. And I do the same for him. God loves him and He loves me just the same! It is not more for me because I am Catholic and less for him. So I really don’t want to play God by trying to convert Paul or make him any other way than he is. I will lastly emphasize, Paul prays and has spiritual union with God. He relies on Him in his daily life. We connect on that even if the practice we have differ.”

Regarding marriage prep and getting married in the Church, she wrote, “Our engagement encounter was terrible. While most were Catholic, Paul and I were one of the very few couples who had any knowledge of NFP and had any interest in it. Paul has a much deeper spiritual life than lots of the folks there so I feel very lucky. I think far too often there can be too much emphasis on if someone is Catholic or not rather than if they seek to live in union with God. Beyond that, we were very lucky to have my spiritual director guiding our marriage prep so it was very tailored to our own relationship.”

When asked if she faced any struggles in her three-ish months of marriage regarding this issue, she responded, “Honestly, I don’t find any struggles in it. Paul shows me Christ’s light daily. He encourages me to enter into prayer when I’m anxious. He asks me to sit and listen. He teaches me kindness and patience and love. One of the JOYS is that he makes me really, really look at things and ask healthy questions and seek more and more.”

So revisit that little litany of questions that typically accompany this topic, and instead of allowing them to trail off to nowhere, seek the answers. Who knows what may happen in the pursuit…


Follow Erica’s work @beaheart