The first impediment to my return to Catholism

Hello,

To understand where I in trying to discern if the Catholic church is right for me some background info might be helpful. This may not be the right board for this post… I’ve been searching around and couldn’t find a “beginner’s issues for converting to Catholicism forum.”

My name is Joe and I am sincerely interested in the Catholic church. I am 32 years old and work as a salesman. I am a cancer survivor, having had a serious fight with Lymphoma in 2013, resulting in 9+ months of chemo/radiation. I am now cancer free. I was baptized in the Catholic church but my parents divorced due to infidelity when I was 4 and I was never confirmed. My mother remarried my stepfather, who has been a hero in my life. I then was raised in a Presbyterian church until I was about 14, when I stopped going. I have been away from Christianity as a whole until about 8 months ago, when the writings of CS Lewis made me question everything I had rejected about the faith. As such, I started exploring the American version of his church, the Episcopal church. My mom was overjoyed that I started going back to church and had such a sincere interest, and we’ve begun going together, which is very important to me, that we can go together. All this time, for the last year, I have been living with my girlfriend. She was very upset at my interest in Christianity, all the time I was spending researching it, and my commitment to finding the right church for me. I prayed and prayed on it, asking for resolution one way or the other (that she would either find a sincere interest herself or the relationship would end) and we broke up about a month ago. Now I find myself very isolated and alone feeling a lot of the time. I work irregular hours, usually from 12-9, so going to evening church functions and meeting like minded people is difficult.

I have a sincere interest in Catholicism. I feel drawn to it. I am a very intellectual person and have been reading about it a lot, learning a lot. I don’t want my mom and I to not be able to go to church together, and it would hurt me, and be too much for her to bear, to have to call her marriage with my stepfather a sin and a bad thing when my father was so cruel to her, and refused to leave his mistress who was almost half his age, trying to force my mother to be the woman on the side, and my stepfather has been such an honest, loyal, loving husband to her. It would break both of our hearts and feel like a betrayal to him to have to do that.

This seems to be the first impediment to my returning to the Catholic church. I go to an Episcopal Church, but sometimes I feel like I go because it is simply the closest to Catholicism. This may not be the right place to post all this, but I looked around and couldn’t seem to find the right spot.

Thank you for your time. This is a little rambling, and there are several issues I need to clear up, but this is one of the biggest.

Joe

I’m going to assume that both your mother and your father were baptized Catholics at the time of their marriage, and that they were both married in the Church. If this assumption is incorrect, then please clarify.

In order for a marriage to exist between two Catholics, both parties must know what marriage is, and they must consent to it, without any pressure, and after knowing all they could know to make a free choice. They must also acquiesce to all Church laws on the matter.

If this is not the case, and if one or both of the parties do not consent to actual marriage, then no marriage exists. A real marriage can only exist if both parties vow to be under the yoke of marriage, knowing full well what that entails. Simply saying words is not sufficient, they must be meant, they must be intended.

In your story, there are signs that your father *possibly *did not consent to actual marriage. He may, for example, never have had an intention to remain faithful to his wife. Perhaps he didn’t have an intention for the “marriage” to be lifelong, but only as long as it was convenient. Perhaps he abused his wife, and this was a sign of the apathy with which he approached the sacrament he allegedly bound himself to. Perhaps many other things, too; and an annulment process is precisely what is required to get to the bottom of this.

Before anything else is established in terms of sin or non-sin, it must first be established whether your mother or father were ever really married in the first place.

Now, let’s assume that your mother doesn’t want anything to do with annulments. “I got divorced, I’m married now, I don’t need anyone to approve or disapprove.”

OK, then this should in no way impact your approach to truth. We should follow Christ because we love Him, not because we have fun along the way. We should become Catholic because, as Chesterton noted, we want to get rid of our sins. We should be *faithful *Catholics because the Catholic Church is the fullness of the Christian faith, and it is the only *sure way to achieve salvation, outside of accidentally doing so through an ignorance we can in no way overcome.

You are a grown man. You cannot make decisions based on whether or not your mother will follow suit today or tomorrow or next Tuesday. You have an obligation to God to first form your conscience and to then follow it.

The ridiculousness of your father and the wonderment of your stepfather have absolutely no effect on whether or not your mother’s first marriage was actually a marriage. That is a question that cannot be answered outside of a judgment of the Church. But this judgment should not be confused with a judgment on whether or not you should become Catholic. That is an entirely separate issue.

*An example of this is clear from the context of even this very question. Of all followers of Christ, only the Catholic takes Him at His word and obeys Him when He teaches on divorce. The Catholic Church does many other things Christ commanded that other Christians simply ignore. Why? Because the fullness of the Christian faith subsists in her. She is preserved from falling away from the totality of His teaching, because He is with her, because she is **His **Church, His perfect Bride, and she is our mother.

Whether your Mom wants to return to the Catholic Church or not should have no bearing on your search for the Truth. You can still go to her services, though do not partake in their communion, as long as you fulfill your Sunday obligation (when you do fully return to the Church) to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Better yet invite her go to Mass with you. While she may not receive the Eucharist perhaps by being in spiritual communion it may provide incentive for her to consider returning to the Catholic Church.

Is your father still alive?

If so then your mother can seek an annulment to reconcile herself with the Church. You could take her to see the pastor and discuss the issues.

My prayers are with you. Welcome Home!:extrahappy:

Don’t be afraid to put god first. And never stop praying for your parents and wishing them the best. Your love and growth in the faith will bear many good fruits if sincere.

@SincereSeeker
My first piece of advice is to pray on this matter. God will not steer your wrong though you may not always understand His guidance.

Secondly, please understand, the Catholic church is not just a “choice”. It is the true church established by Christ.

Finally, to address your concern regarding your mother’s and step father’s marital situation: it’s not your’s to address. I don’t mean to sound so blunt or cold but this is a choice your mother and step father made and I’m sure they are mature enough to resolve it themselves. I suggest you discern your faith as independently from their issue as possible. Just because you may become a confirmed Catholic doesn’t mean you cannot participate in their spiritual life or they in your’s. I recommend you speak to a Catholic priest on this matter. I’ve met many Catholics who are in the same or similar situations as you and give the same advice when asked. They are usually surprised to find out what they believed of the Catholic church is not what IS the Catholic church today.

Keep discerning and we’ll all pray for a successful outcome. God Bless you.

Perhaps your return to Catholicism will pave the way for your mother’s return also. God’s healing power has no limits. Perhaps God is using you to help your mother return to the sacramental life of the Church by helping you learn the truth about the sacrament of marriage and helping her overcome misconceptions and misinformation that may have held her back for years.

Welcome home, Joe.
Our stories have a similarity. My mom’s first husband also abandoned her along with my half-brother. My brother says the same thing about my dad, his step-dad. My mom’s first marriage was in the Catholic church. Her marriage with my dad was in Vegas, a civil ceremony. Why did they do that if they were both Catholics? They actually waited years for an annulment. My brother’s dad could not be located. So my dad married my mom and adopted my brother to raise him as his own. My brother was baptized and received first holy communion. In fact, so did I. But we were never confirmed, because during all this the church was changing and my parents left the church, never to return. They died within 10 months of each other. After over 50 years in a loving, faithful marriage. I even inquired if I could somehow have their marriage finally blessed. I was told at least one of them had to still be living.

I tried coming back to the Catholic church as a teenager but I no longer recognized the mass and I never got any support from the two parishes I tried. I gave up and was welcomed in the Southern Baptist Church where my boss invited me to. I stayed there learning about God and Jesus in the Bible. I married a Protestant. Several times I tried coming back, taking my small children to a Catholic cathedral a few times. I have remained a faithful Christian my entire life. All my family, my brother, sister, aunts, uncles, left the church, left the faith, stopped believing entirely. I am all that is left of generations who grew up Catholic. So I know the spirituality, the saints, etc, but I do not know the church and she does not know me, or even wanted me back. It is very hard for a revert like me, who has no animosity to the church, but was removed as a child by her parents, to come back into communion. So I gave up, too.

I am now in communion with the Catholic church, however, because my once Protestant husband converted to Eastern Catholic, and I was welcomed as his lawful spouse. We had our marriage blessed.

For you, my brother I pray the going is easier. First and foremost you need to speak with a priest. Take your mom with you if you want. But your journey is your own, as others have mentioned. It’s about getting right before God. Speak to a priest. Tell him you are a cradle, baptized Catholic wanting to come back into communion and hopefully restoring your mom, too.

Blessings.

Hello Sincere Seeker,

You have received some good advice. Your spiritual life will eventually have to be separated from your mother, as I can understand that you don’t feel comfortable with the Episcopal Church and I’d have to agree: It’s not what it used to be and has become very liberal.

Of course what do you do with “Honor your mother and father”? It’s a tough call, although I agree with those who say that she may end up coming to the Catholic church with you.

As far as fellowshipping is concerned, the Catholic Church is not very well known for this. For that you’d have to go to a Protestant Church; as they say, a bible believing church. Like, for instance a Nazarene Church. But be careful as you roam around. Of course Catholics will always tell you that it’s the true church and I don’t intend to start a debate over this because I understand that you have very definite needs right now and our church doesn’t always meet those needs.

The Holy Spirit will guide you. Take it slow. Life is complicated. Read the gospels of Mathew and John. Mathew shows how Jesus is the awaited Messiah. John’s gospel will show how Jesus is the Son of God. Then Read the book of Romans, Galatians, Hebrews.
Read a lot. And try to find a setting that could help you to understand what you’'re reading. A lot of churches explain scripture even on Sunday mornings since your evenings are not free.

God bless you
Fran

InNomineDomine, thank you very much for your reply,

As to whether or not my mom was baptized in the Catholic church, I’m not sure, but I don’t think so. I think she was baptized into the Presbyterian church, and I don’t think she was re-baptized into the Catholic church. Another possible factor is that my father passed away about 7 years ago from colon cancer, but that was years and years after my mom and step dad married.

I understand completely what you mean by having to make the best choice for me. It’s just that, after having lost my faith for so long, and for my mom having prayed for me to return to it for so long, and the joy she feels at our being able to attend together… It would be gut-wrenching. I pray constantly for a resolution.

If the marriage was not valid, does that mean she had my sister and I out of wedlock in the church’s eyes, and this would be another sin she would have to own up to? She is intimidated by the idea of the church as it was my father’s supposed religion and his insistence that she accept his teenage lover and not divorce him because he didn’t want to violate the church’s stance on divorce. Neither, however, would he end things with his young lover. So there is a difficult association there.

Thanks so much for your time in helping me with this issue. I’ll be able to respond more when I get off work tonight.

Joe

Hello Sincere Seeker,

You only get to be baptized once! As long as it was in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit it will be valid also for the Catholic Church.

It seems very important for you to attend the Episcopal Church because it makes your mother so happy. And I believe that God is happy with your wanting to make her happy.

Maybe the solution could be to keep attending this church with her and also go to a bible study?

Also, you seem very concerned with HER sins. Does she know the Lord Jesus? Is she depending on Him for her salvation?

This is a very personal problem and out of my field. I believe that with prayer you will come to the right solution.

I must be about your mom’s age and I’d be thrilled if my son came to church with me.

God bless you
Fran

I dont get why you would have to tell your mother her marriage to your step father is wrong. Some things are best kept unsaid. And its a shame you broke up with your girlfriend over your faith, something I probably wouldnt have done. Religion is great but i wouldn’t force my beliefs upon a loved one.

You expressed your concerns with true sensitivity. That comes from being honest and intellectual.

Here is why I am Catholic:

**1. **Jesus Christ is the Living Son of God.
**2. ****As the Living Son of God, Christ cannot lie. **
3. While everything Christ said is important, He has been mis-represented by many and mis-understood by many more. Here are the most essential reasons for being Catholic, in my opinion:

[FONT=Arial]Matthew 16: 15-19 Christ establishes His Church and puts Peter in charge.[/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri]Matthew 22: 36-40 [/FONT]The two great commandments of Love.
[FONT=Times New Roman]John 6: 51-56 Luke 22: 19-20 The real presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.[/FONT]
**John 20: 19-23 [size=2][FONT=Arial]The power to forgive sins.[/size] **[/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman]John 14: 23-26 [/FONT]Admonishment to keep the words of Christ and be guided by the Holy Spirit.

I have a friend who dying and recently came back into the Catholic Church receiving the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist. I presume he will also have a Catholic burial. In doing this he may well be an example to his 11 brothers and sisters some who have strayed and may find in his example courage to come closer to Christ.

May your journey also be an example.

Joe, please don’t rely on our “opinion”, go talk to a priest and let him explain everything to you. If your dad has died that leaves your mother free to remarry. She and your stepdad could renew their vows . As for your desire to become Catholic, if God is calling you to His Church please don’t ignore that call. God leads us to Himself by Grace. That’s why I think you should talk to a priest and let him help you sort all this out. You may even eventually bring your Mom and stepdad to the true faith also. God works in mysterious ways. After you get too know more about the Catholic faith you could have conversations with your mom and maybe even leave books and pamphlets around for her to read. catholic.com has many leaflets (on just about every subject), you can copy. Keep us posted and I will keep you all in my prayers and daily Mass. God Bless, Memaw

Praying to the Holy Spirit to give you guidance, direction, strength, fortitude & wisdom back to the Church.

Thank you all for your wonderful replies. I will give some more explanation and respond more later, but I have to respond to one comment:

@LethalExistance

My mom and I have been exploring church’s together, for months, and I have felt drawn to the Catholic church, have been reading a lot about it, listening to EWTN, etc. My mom has not, mainly because of her concern over her previous experiences described above and that she wouldn’t feel comfortable receiving Communion. While whether or not she can attend probably won’t become a final barrier to my coming back to the church, it is a major obstacle now that I want to clarify for her. Giving her more information can help her go to mass with me, it could help put her mind at ease. It’s impossible for me to give my personal history since the age of 4 and all the reasons why it’s important for us to be able to go together, but it is important. Again, perhaps not important enough to determine my mind on it, but important enough to want to get a grasp on now.

Afas my girlfriend and I breaking up. I did not break up with her over religion, I broke up with her because we grew into two separate people. And she absolutely resented my growing interest and return to Christianity. Even going so far as to say that if I ever did want to marry her, she would NOT marry me in a church. We were together for two and a half years, by the end of it we were different people. And I DO believe some religious principles (many, in fact) are important enough to determine whether two people should be together. Sex before marriage, the marriage sacrament itself, etc. But I never put anything on her. I never gave her an ultimatum. I prayed for her and us and hoped, but we could not make it work. I regret us moving in with one another and then changing on her like I did. I am sorry for that. But the details of that situation are another story and not for another to judge.

Thank you everyone for your kind and helpful responses. I may have worded my original post a little wrongly. I don’t think I would stay away from the Catholic church because of my mother’s situation. But how situations like my mom’s are handled and the religious authority/reasoning there will help me further discern my path. And it’s simply important to me that we be able to share this. That she feel comfortable taking the first steps in sharing this with me.

Thank you all again! :slight_smile:

Thank you all so much for your heartfelt replies. I wish I could respond to each one of you personally. The fact that, though I have been reading, researching, developing for 8 months now in my faith, I have not been able to vocalize a lot of my concerns and thoughts except too my mom who goes to church with me, and that all of you take the time to read my posts and respond thoughtfully, really touches me. (Sorry for the crazy, run-on sentence haha)

Fran, thank you so much for your words. I have been praying for my mom and I to discern the correct paths for ourselves, and to be guided as such by the Holy Spirit, both as individuals and family, for months now.

I want to clarify a bit to everyone. It’s not that I’m a “momma’s boy” or am obsessed with somebody else’s personal sin or am relying on anybody making decisions for me (I’m not saying anybody is inferring this, just trying to clarify) but that, based on my journey, being able to experience this with my mom holds a special importance. During all those years that I professed to be an athiest and ridiculed the church I was also emotionally and physically estranged from my mom. All the while she patiently and quietly prayed for me to return to my faith and turn my life around. When I expressed to her my desire to return to God, which I came to by my own discernment and through the Holy Spirit, my mom cried with joy. Being able to go to church together has brought US closer together, and has helped us reconcile in many ways. So it would hurt both of us if, after all this time, I came back to faith only to go where she feels she can’t. Will that ultimately decide my return to Catholicism? No, it won’t. But it’s important to me nonetheless, and I know what concerns she feels and that she would not create an account to start talking to other Catholics about it herself!

I will continue to pray. I will approach a priest with these questions as well (and, really, these are just part of 7 or 8 issues I feel I need to reconcile before I feel I can sincerely and honestly make a full return, which is what I want to be able to do). I have started praying the rosary, as well, and will try to give myself up to the Holy Spirit more and more.

One more note on the issue of my ex girlfriend and I. It hurts me deeply that we couldn’t make it work. But I do fundamentally disagree with what @LethalExistance said. I have faced advanced, life-threatening cancer, I have faced ridiculous, horrible life circumstances that I brought on myself through my own sin… this IS important–finding truth, regaining a relationship with God, finding forgiveness for my sins… This IS life and death, and even more, it’s eternal! I can’t expect God to demean Himself to society’s standards, to make exceptions because “everyone has sex before marriage now.” Sin is always the same, what is good for us is always good for us, what is bad always bad, regardless of what the society says at the time. So the decision to leave my girlfriend, though I love her and care about her deeply, though it wounds me, because we were living in sin and she refused to allow us to live any other way, was the right decision in my mind. I prayed on it for the better part of a year, I NEVER imposed anything on her but merely attempted to inspire an honest interest in her through my example, and still she, in her own words, “hates everything to do with God and church.” Religion was one aspect of our break up, but a critical one to me. It’s not about scrupulosity–it was about the basics, about just being the right people for one another and trying to avoid the most basic sins. I miss her so much… I miss her so much all the time, at this very moment–but I just cannot put her above God.

Anyway, sorry about the rambling. Again, it’s good to be able to put some of this into words. Thank you all again for taking the time to read and respond.

@johnnyc: I am considering going with her to church and attending mass myself, it would be hard with my schedule, but I still may have to do it.

@DCNBILL: my father is passed away, does that mean an annulment can’t be granted?

It means that it is now a moot point.

If it was invalid, she is free to marry your step father.

If it was valid, death ends the marriage and she is free to marry your step father.

There is not investigation, because valid or not your mother is now free to marry.

Whether or not she or your step father is Catholic, or if your mother and father were married in the Catholic Curch might have some bearing on whether or not they would need to exchange consent. This of course presumes no prior marriage on the part of your step father.

No.

Thanks 1ke,

My mom married my step dad years before my Father died, however. And yes, my step dad was married previously and, on top of that, has absolutely zero interest in religion…

OK, then I’m struggling to understand a bit… If the original marriage with my father is considered invalid (which I’m not sure that it is) how would that mean that my sister and I wouldn’t be considered being born out of wedlock?

Assuming the marriage was valid, she divorced him, got remarried to my step dad THEN my father died, what steps would my mom have to go through to be reconciled with the church?

Also, if baptism in any church qualifies one for a Catholic marriage, why is it that only those baptized in the Catholic church can receive Communion? Is it because of the view of actual body and blood rather than figurative? It would seem that even if one were baptized in a church tradition that doesn’t hold to the view of transubstantiation they could themselves come to that belief…

Thanks so much

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.