So you have been dating a “none”. A person of no particular faith or practice.
That’s okay. My mom dated a man who was once a none. Thank God, or I wouldn’t exist.
My dad was the child of a non-practicing protestant, and his mother was a non-practicing Catholic. They raised him as a “none”. Or at least they thought they did. Early adopters of a secular mindset, they felt that he should decide for himself.
Thank God, not everyone thought that.
Unbeknownst to anyone, my dad’s grandfather baptized him secretly over the kitchen sink when he was an infant. No one knew, until a quarter of a century later, when his fiancee (my mother) came around asking about addresses for wedding invitations.
By that time, my dad had been seduced by the grace that was already within him, and was preparing to enter the church. While my mother was on the phone with her soon-to-be-grandfather-in-law, he shyly mentioned this rather significant bit of information.
My dad counts his secret baptism as the single greatest grace of his life. He allowed his faith to define him, to define his fatherhood and his commitment to his marriage. I count his faith one of the greatest graces of my life.
Sometimes it works out that way. For my sake, I’m glad my mom was open to dating a “none”.
However, this is also a cautionary tale.
The Famous (or Infamous) Double-edged Romance
Theirs was a long-distance relationship. It so happened that, a few months after they started dating, my mother asked my dad to her family home for Thanksgiving when he was home from college. He even attended Mass with the family. He sang the hymns, and stood and sat and knelt at the proper times. It was just like he knew what the heck he was doing. They liked him. He liked them. It felt like a “fit”.
But on the way home, my father informed my mother that under no circumstances would he become a Catholic. “Why not?” she asked. “I wasn’t raised that way,” he replied. She decided not to push it. End of story.
He went back to college. One day he walked past the Newman Center, and for some reason, decided to stop in. There was a notice hanging on the wall for a class for people who wanted to know more about Catholicism. For some reason, he decided to sign up, feeling assured in himself that it would only take a few weeks for him to settle the matter for himself.
The following Easter, he did settle it, being conditionally baptized at the Newman Center where I would make my appearance for baptism 18 months later.
If you are dating a none, that could be your story. Or perhaps not.
Down the Primrose Path
If we assume that you are “dating with a purpose”—that is to say, you are discerning the possibility of marriage—I invite you to take an imaginary journey into the future with me.
Imagine that it is five or six years in the future. Thanksgiving rolls around. You and your spouse and your first baby decide to host Thanksgiving in your newly remodeled house.
The house is full of in-laws—and out-laws—and the odd guest who is homeless for the holiday, and even a Catholic priest friend. There are a couple infants and toddlers being passed around. The house smells like pumpkin spice candles. The obligatory turkey-tail headbands are out in force. The bird is stuffed, the potatoes are mashed, salads are out, the pie is waiting. It’s time to eat.
And when the time comes, everyone digs in.
But on this particular Thanksgiving, at your house, no one actually gives thanks. There is no blessing, no thanksgiving for the food, no acknowledgment of gratitude. Not at your house.
True story. That’s how it went in the home where I was the odd guest for Thanksgiving this year. The couple that had so graciously invited me—one a Catholic, the other a none—were incredibly hospitable. They bent over backward to make me feel welcome. But when the time came to give thanks, it didn’t happen. They did not offer thanks to anyone for anything. No one prayed. Not them, not the Catholic grandparents, not even the Catholic priest who was there as a guest.
I found this painful. I quietly crossed myself and offered my prayer to our Lord, but I was entirely alone.
As the toddlers toddled on their iPads, I could not help but think of the vacuum of spiritual life that gaped open before them.
Now ask yourself: are you willing to let that happen to you and your kids?
How does this happen?
Could There Be Strength in Numbers?
It happens because, in the secular mindset, religious propositions are usually taken as impositions. Secular manners forbid the imposition of non-secular propositions like the existence of God and the idea that he does shower blessings, and that for doing so, he should be thanked. When you are in the majority, you can create a non-secular groundswell of thanks, acknowledging such basic religious reality. But, if you marry into nothing, nothingness is more likely to impose itself on you.
I plant this vision in your mind for this reason: there are battles that you simply will not have to fight if you marry a believing and practicing Catholic. Better yet if they come from a believing, practicing, Catholic family.
True, you may not place a high value on your spiritual life right now. But there will come a time in your future when the spiritual vacuum will make itself felt with great intensity. Then, the desire to share in a spiritual life with someone, and to share that life with your children, will become an unbearable source of tension.
So ask yourself: does the object of your affection exhibit a modicum of spiritual openness, inquisitiveness, or seeking? Or have they closed that door? Can we seek Truth together, or are they likely to become offended? Can you have a conversation about spiritual things without it being awkward?
When it comes to discerning a marriage proposal, it’s a good to consider such values sooner than later. Religious compatibility may not seem to be a big deal at the moment but mark my words. That day will come.