Each morning, I wake up, go into the living room, kneel down and pray the Rosary. It’s a beautiful time to pray, just as the sun is coming up, with the house quiet and my family still sleeping. Between 3:00 and 4:00pm, if work allows, I will pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, again on my knees, alone in a quiet room. In the evenings, my husband and I say another Rosary together, followed by a reading of scripture, and occasionally a novena, depending on the time of year. It hasn’t always been this way, and it amazes me just how far we have come.
When I first met my husband, we were both pretty much only Catholic at Christmas. Marrying in the Church was a given, but only to please our mothers. Once we were married, we continued to go to midnight Mass every year, and - this hurts now to admit – only sometimes at Easter. That is, if we hadn’t already booked a holiday for the four-day long weekend.
If we did go to Mass, It was generally for weddings.
When we had children, we did the right thing and had them baptised, and there was no question that, when old enough, they would attend Catholic schools. If we did go to Mass, it was generally for weddings. My husband would be so bored that he would count the bricks of the church walls to keep from falling asleep, while I struggled with the children, impatient to leave.
Then one day, it all changed for my husband. God threw him a storm that rattled his lukewarm resolve.
We were vacationing in a cheap hotel that had a single good feature – a fantastic outdoor pool. Within minutes of checking in, my husband threw on his bathers, grabbed a couple of towels and our 4-year-old, and headed towards the door.
“Wait a sec!” I called, waving a bottle of sunscreen. Impatiently, he waited while I lathered our son in typical three-coat-Mom-fashion, before turning to him. He rolled his eyes. “Why do you insist that I wear sunscreen? I’m European, we don’t get sunburn!” But he let me apply it to his back anyway.
That’s when I noticed it.
“You’ve got a funny looking mole there. You should get that checked out.” He shrugged, “It’s fine.”
A few months later, my husband went to the doctor for a cough he couldn’t shake. When he lifted his shirt for the doctor to listen to his chest, my words echoed for a second time. “You have a funny looking mole there. You should get that checked out.”
Thankfully, it was borderline and caught in time.
The experience had a profound effect on my husband…
The experience, though, had a profound effect on my easy-going husband, especially the four days leading up to the test results. The strong, confident man I married, crumbled. His youthful invincibility shattered, and he broke down for the first time ever in front of me. Up until that moment, he had never thought about death, and all of a sudden, it was knocking at his door.
So, he did what any scared, humbled, poorly catechised lapsed Catholic would do…he made a pact with God.
“If you get me through this,” he begged. “I’ll return to the Church and I’ll never miss Mass for the rest of my life.”
In my mind I’m thinking, “Don’t say that!”. Something I had learned as a child told me it was bad to test God in that way. But I said nothing, just held him and told him it would all be OK.
And it was.
For whatever reason, God accepted these terms, and to my astonishment, my husband kept up his end of the bargain.
He never pushed, and I always declined.
Every weekend, my husband would take himself to Mass, either for the Saturday vigil or Sunday morning, whichever his shift work would allow. And every time, he would ask me if I wanted to join him. He never pushed, and I always declined. This was his promise, not mine. Soon, he began taking our now five-year-old son with him, leaving me at home alone with our 2-year-old daughter.
For reasons I still don't quite understand, each week they went, the angrier I got.
Our relationship suffered.
Tension mounted like clockwork as the time drew near for them to leave the house, and for that one question to be repeated, “Do you want to come with me?” By the time the words would come out of his mouth, I would be livid. “No! I’m not going! STOP asking me!”
Eventually, he did stop asking, and the not asking was even worse.
Of all the times to ask me that question, he chose that moment.
One particular Saturday night, my husband tried again and asked me if I wanted to go with him and our son to Mass. It had been a particularly difficult day for me. Our toddler had been unsettled and cranky all day, and I was struggling to get her to sleep. Of all the times to ask me that question, he chose that moment. Straight away, my back went rigid, and I replied through clinched teeth, “No!”. Immediately, my daughter opened her eyes and started to wail.
My husband and son left, and although I tried to swallow my bitterness so my baby wouldn’t feed off my tension, it didn’t work. She was having none of what I was offering. Her struggle and sobs only intensified. The more she cried, the more I resented my husband for leaving me to deal with the situation on my own.
Finally after 40 minutes, my exhausted baby girl collapsed in my arms. Not wanting to risk putting her in her cot and waking her, I sat down on the couch in front of the TV. Once again, I began to seethe as I thought about my husband sitting oblivious at Mass while my arms cramped from the weight of two hours holding our baby.
And then, from somewhere deep within my heart...I heard it.
“Why are you here when your family is in My house?”
I froze. My eyes opened wide. What?
“WHY – ARE – YOU – HERE – WHEN – YOUR – FAMILY – IS – IN – MY – HOUSE?”
I began to cry.
Big, ugly, uncontrollable, whole-body convulsing sobs. I don’t know how or why my daughter remained sleeping. A moment later, my husband and son returned home. One look at me filled my husband’s face with alarm. “What’s wrong? What is it?’
I ran to him, a total mess, crying out, “I want to go to church with you! I want to go with you! I DO!”
He smiled, with so much compassion in his eyes.
Gently, he took the sleeping baby from me and put her and our son to bed. When he returned, he wrapped me in his arms and held me while I tearfully told him what had happened.
Without saying a word, he patiently waited for my crying to cease.
I tried to make sense of it all.
When I had finally settled and my tears had dried up, he said softly into my hair, “I have prayed every week, on my knees, giving up my Eucharist for you to come to church with me.”
This was the reason God had accepted my husband’s terms. He didn’t just want my husband back in His house.
He also wanted me.
Photo of bible and rosary my own. All other photo credits: pixabay.com