Dear Auntie Seraphic,
A few weeks ago I attended yet another beautiful Catholic wedding. Atypically, however, the couple in question is part of my "secular" friend group. As result, while I was aware of their quiet faith, I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty and reverence of the Mass. However, another consequence was that of our group of friends present, I alone knew what was going on at the ceremony.
A few seats away was a handsome young man who, like me and unlike everyone else in the row, knew when to kneel and stand, knew the responses for the prayers, knelt in quiet prayer for a few minutes after the Mass as everyone else ran out, and sang along to the hymns in a charming off-kilter tenor. My little Catholic heart began to race, because it is not often that I meet a Nice Catholic Boy who isn't already married or in religious formation.
At the reception, I was introduced to this NCB by my friend X to whom he is engaged. I'd heard X was engaged but hadn't yet met the fiance. I was quite frankly torn between genuine happiness for my friend and horrendous jealousy. You see, X is a wonderful, hardworking woman of integrity, but she is completely irreligious and her morals concerning relationships/etc are quite opposite of mine. During the dinner X and I had a chance to talk a little bit about her upcoming wedding (planned as a Mass on account of his 'super-religious' family) and about the marriage prep process in our Diocese. She confessed to me that the required NFP course and Theology of the Body segments were upsetting to her because, as she put it, "it's just not what I believe." They plan to contracept, and while the priest who will marry them might not know that, she was very open with me about it.
Seraphic, now Jealousy was overtaken by Pride. I sat stewing for the entire drive home, rather angry. You see, while I spent my early 20s going to daily Mass and helping with mission trips, X spent hers partying and sleeping with many guys... and she's the one who ends up with a Nice Catholic Fiance, while I am still searching? It reeks of injustice.
Now, of course, I know that no one "deserves" a spouse and that husbands are only gifts from God. I know that my going to daily Mass is supposed to be about my growth in holiness, not finding a way to meet Nice Catholic Boys. But it's still frustrating!
I'm happy for X, certainly, to have found a spouse. But I'm still irritated that one of the few NCBs left was snatched up by a very not-Catholic girl. I also realize that putting it that way makes NCBs seem like a sort of rare commodity, like uranium or pro-life Democrats. How do I overcome my own sinfulness and try to be truly happy for her?
Green Goblin Girl
Dear Green Goblin Girl,
Back up a few sentences. Never mind the bit about your own sinfulness. It's the only fake bit of your admirably honest letter. You don't feel sinful. You feel mad. Heck, I feel mad on your behalf. If I were you, I'd be good and mad. I'd be on my way to church, steeling myself for a showdown with the Big Guy, as my brother Nulli calls Him.
"Hey," I'd yell (after doing a quick recce for priests, pious old ladies and napping street people). "Why her, eh? Why not me? HEL-LO? Service trips!"
And then I'd probably hear a silent voice in my head saying, "I thought you liked those service trips."
"Uh, yeah," I'd say. "I did."
"And I seem to remember you thanking Me for the graces and gifts of those service trips."
"So...what? I'm supposed to give you a big sexy reward now, too?"
And then there'd be a big scene like at the end of Job involving someone repenting in dust and ashes because that's how these conversations tend to end.
Lookit, it sucks. It totally sucks when girls who partied while you prayed get a great guy, and you don't. It totally sucks when girls on the Pill get the nice uber-Catholic in-laws and you don't. I know it sucks. Feel free to say "It sucks!" really loudly. Sucks, sucks, sucks. It sucks that virtue is its own reward with no cute man attached. I know that. You know that. We all know that.
But there is one great rule about men and love. And it is that men love whom they love and not whom we think they should love, especially when it is us. For some reason, this guy looked at Binky the Party Girl and said, "That's for me!"
The good news is that you just met this guy. You've seen him once. You're not in love with him. You barely know him. All you know about him is that he's been to Mass long enough to know when to stand and when to kneel and what to sing, but not long enough to know he is supposed to say, "Binky, the Pill is out of the question." He might be a (contracepting) NCB, but he's not really St. Thomas More, now, is he?
My guess, Green Goblin Girl, is that you would not want a man like this. YOU want a man who would stand up to you if you were tempted to contracept, and say "No! I love you, but I will not allow my marriage to be chemically sterile. I will not lie to God, the priest and all our wedding guests when we say we will accept children lovingly from God. I will explain to you the beauty of marital sexuality until I am blue in the face. I will swear to work my fingers to the bone in the unlikely event that we have more than 7 children. Perhaps you will leave me now, and my heart will break, but Green Goblin Girl, I am a Roman Catholic man and I will uphold the Faith. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
Cue violins as you fall into his arms. The camera cuts to his face and, surprise, surprise, he looks nothing like Binky's fiance. Binky's fiance is a wuss.
Now, the teaching against artifical birth control is a hard pill to swallow (har har), so I'm now going to cut Fiance and Binky some slack. It could be that marriage to Fiance is Binky's best chance at salvation. It could be that the Binky's heart is melted on her wedding day. It could be that Binky's heart is melted when she gets preggers anyway. It could be that Binky's heart will be gradually melted by her nice (if wussy) husband and her uber-Catholic in-laws.
So you can be happy for Binky because YOU want a REAL Nice Catholic Boy with GUTS anyway, and this wussy Catholic Boy mysteriously might be (despite his wussiness) Binky's great chance to become friends with our Lord Jesus Christ. At the very least, she'll have to settle down and give up serial monogamy.
That's my Auntie-eye view. Don't be happy Binky's got a great guy. Be happy Binky might have a shot at salvation through marriage to him. Now go read the bit in the Holy Bible about the Prodigal Son, concentrating on the good things the Father says to the Good Son, especially "Everything I have is yours."
Hope this is helpful!
Grace and peace,
P.S. You couldn't force me to listen to a Theology of the Body talk. Boring and possibly dodgy. B.A. and I don't enjoy sitting with near-strangers listening to total strangers talk about sex. I know, I know: we're so vanilla.