Loving God in A Mixed Marriage

Post Series: Couple Mentor Journey

The world today is a global village. The connectivity this provides has resulted in a rise in “mixed” marriages – both ecumenical marriages (a Catholic marrying a baptised non-Catholic) and interfaith marriages (a Catholic marrying a non-baptised non-Christian). As with all marriages, the Church supports ecumenical and interfaith couples and helps them prepare to meet the challenges they will face with a spirit of holiness. These marriages are holy covenants and must be kept as holy.

Marriage preparation and accompaniment is essential in helping to prepare and guide couples to work through the questions and challenges that will arise after they marry. These include how the couple will handle extended family, how they will foster a spirit of unity despite their religious backgrounds and into what faith the children will be raised. Because of these challenges, the Church requires the Catholic party to be faithful to their faith and to make a sincere promise to do all in their power to have their children baptised and raised in the Catholic faith. This provision of the 1983 Code of Canon Law is a change from the 1917 version, which required an absolute promise to have the children raised Catholic.

Let’s hear from a couple to understand their journey, the challenges they experienced along the way and how they have balanced their lives together in a happy, God-filled marriage.

A Union Strengthened by God's Love

Meeting Iris was a blessing for Timothy that he never expected. Firstly, she turned out to be “the one” and secondly, she brought him back to the Church. The irony was that she wasn’t even a Catholic when they met.

Friends who had never met

Timothy and Iris were introduced six ago at a group gathering and brought together by a mutual friend they had both known independently from young.

“Our friend thought we would be a good match,” explains Iris. “We both heard so much about each other from her over the years that, when we did eventually meet, we felt like we already knew each other.”

Drawn to the Catholic faith

Iris was a Methodist at the time, and while she had attended her Methodist Church on and off for years, as an adult she had started to backslide.

The couple continued to date for four years and Iris gradually got to know Timothy’s family and saw how important their religion was in their lives. She witnessed his grandmother and mother going to mass together and saw how great this was for family bonding between the two. She asked to go with them and so began her journey to conversion and Timothy’s return to the Church.

“Although I was born Catholic, since my late teens I haven’t been going to Church,” Timothy explains. “But I was still active in charity work for a group, having been involved with my grandfather and mother there since young. When Iris expressed an interest in learning about Catholicism, that is what brought me back. As we started to plan our wedding, we started going to Church every week. We enrolled in the Marriage Preparation Course (MPC) and then a priest recommended The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) so that we could learn more.”

Building a strong foundation for marriage

“We went with an open mind and the learnings were so valuable,” adds Iris. “In fact, I told my friends that every couple should attend MPC before marriage. It makes you talk to your partner about important issues that you may not otherwise bring up. Otherwise you may discover too late that you have major differences that can break a marriage.”

MPC confirmed for the couple that they were on the same page. But they felt they needed more guidance.

Although the Couple Mentor Journey (CMJ) wasn’t compulsory, they decided to enrol as they wanted more personal guidance and to ensure that they started marriage with a strong foundation. Through CMJ, the couple came into alignment about how their children should be raised. Before the course, Timothy held a different view: “I used to think that all children should have a choice about which religion to follow and not be forced into one at birth,” he explains. “But through our CMJ couple, and seeing their interactions with their children, I came to understand that our children should be brought up in the Catholic faith.”

CMJ also brought an unexpected delightful surprise for Iris, who was honoured when their CMJ couple offered to be her Godparents.

The same priest arranged a special baptism for Iris so she could be brought into the Church in time for the wedding and receive the full service, and so the couple married in March 2019.

God has a plan

“I truly believe that God has a plan for us,” says Iris. Asked whether she had any pressure from her family regarding her conversion, she explains that it was actually the opposite: “My mother started going to RCIA too! I think she was looking for something and found it there. Before RCIA, she had been moody, but since then she’s been chirpy and cheerful, so I see it as a very good thing for her.” Iris adds that RCIA has encouraged the two to talk to each other in a deeper way that has deepened their relationship too.

Timothy and Iris are looking forward to their lives together in the Catholic faith. Through their learnings along the way, they have been instilled with the following beliefs: “God is looking after us and, as a husband and wife, we can disagree on a lot of things but must agree never to give up on each other.”

Couple Mentor Journey

Our response to our Holy Father’s call: “In the area of marriage preparation, pastoral accompaniment needs to go beyond the actual celebration of the sacrament. In this regard, experienced couples have an important role to play” (Amoris Laetitia, 223)

Archdiocesan Commission for the Family

Archdiocesan Commission for the Family