Catholics/Fiance and RCIA

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Question
Hello Fr. Dave,
     My fiancÚ and I will be married this coming May. Although he has been attending Mass regularly with me and says he intends to do so throughout our marriage, he is not Catholic and actual studied to become an evangelical protestant minister for a few years before deciding that wasn't his vocation. Shortly after we became engaged, he told me he planned to enter RCIA and talked to my priest about it. Recently, though, he said he still feels he will eventually become Catholic, but is going through so many other changes-- especially moving-- that he doesn't feel he can do it this year. He is moving to my town, about an hour from his; he works from home, so this won't be am employment issue, but a social one. His faith has always been a strong part of his life, and he worries that converting will shake his support for him. He has trouble with the assumption, but accepts all other Catholic doctrine easily and knows it is a "Christ centered church." If he had never said he would convert this year, I would have been OK with not having a Mass at our wedding, but it is now disappointing to me that we probably won't. I am a convert myself, so know he shouldn't make this decision lightl.y or because of me, but I am struggling to accept his decision. I have been praying about it and trying to talk t. o him without pressuring him; he knows I feel disappointed and it upsets him, but he says he just hasn't gotten to that point yet. A part of me feels that, if he knows he will eventually become Catholic, why doesn't. He do it now? We will only have one wedding! How do I feel better about his choice so that I can be supportive to him instead of feeling disappointed? Thank you for your help!

Answer
There is one thing you have to keep in mind here:  The conversion of your fiancÚ depends totally and completely on God.  Everything happens in God's time.  If and when God is ready to call your fiancÚ into Catholicism God will do so. This calling is a gift that your fiancÚ cannot merit, and that you cannot merit for him. It is not something God owes to him or to you.

I would also suggest that just because your fiancÚ is not Catholic does not entail you cannot have a Mass at your wedding.  That is the judgment call of the priest in consultation with the people to be married.  To be sure, the normal course for me is not to have a Mass if I am working with a couple of mixed religion or denomination. I would proceed with a service.  However this is not absolute for me. I can't speak for other priests however.  

I am happy to see that the Mass means so much to you.  It is refreshing for me as a priest to hear someone speak this way.  Weddings are my least favorite thing to do because for most people the Mass or service is simply a means to an end: marriage in a beautiful Church. The Catholic Faith is usually not all that important to the couple.  Many "Catholic" couples today are skipping the Church all together and just getting married before a justice of the peace.  This is not a good trend.  If God is not a part of the marriage right from the start, it could lead to trouble.  The couple is not building their marriage in the Rock that is God they build their foundation on sand.   

In any case, I know you are disappointed but you have to remember: your fiancÚ's conversion is not something he is doing for you, nor can he convert to make you happy.  This is something God is calling him to, and he must do it if and when HE thinks the time is right. The only thing you can do is be patient and continue to pray for him.  Remember also that PATIENCE is the KEY to God.  God answers prayers when God is good and ready and not before. God is on no one's schedule.  

As for the Assumption of Mary: Mary is a huge hang-up for Protestants and I have never understood why.  Even IF the Assumption the Perpetual Virginity, and the Immaculate Conception are not in Scripture--they just make sense from a Common sense standpoint.  Consider: if I were a King, and like Jesus I was not married the Queen in my Kingdom would be my mother.  (That is how it worked in the Biblical times) don't you think I would shower my mother with all the blessings I could?  Don't you think I would honor my mother?  Don't you think my mother would not occupy a place of prominence within my kingdom? Do you think I would get mad or upset if I saw my subjects giving honor to my mother?  What son who loves his mother would not want to shower her with all the blessings he could?  What son would get upset with people who honor his mother?  It makes no sense that Jesus would get upset with the honor Catholics give to Mary--especially given the fact that Jesus himself honors Mary--he MUST if he is following the commandment to "Honor thy father and thy mother." Honor I note in the Hebrew literally means "to give glory to."

Jesus is God and therefore can shower his mother with anything he wants.  One of the greatest gifts Jesus has given his mother is Redemption in it's FULLNESS, Redemption in it's PERFECTION. There is no greater Gift God can give us than to give us his very self, his very life.  To Mary he has filled her so much with his life, such that in Mary there is no imperfection, Sin has never tainted her making her ugly.  Mary therefore also has the promise of the Resurrection from the dead before everyone else because she is special: She is the Mother of God in a way no other Christian is: She passed on a human nature to Jesus.  Jesus took his flesh from Mary.  

In the Assumption of Mary all the Church is saying is that Mary is the first to experience the promise of the Resurrection from the dead because of her unique role in the order of Redemption.  If your fiancÚ believes in the Resurrection of the Dead is should not be so much of a stretch for him to believe the Mary is in heaven Body and Soul as that is what the Resurrection IS.  After all: if he were God, would he not want his mother where he is---and would he not want her to be as he is--that is in the flesh?

Again--all of this just seems common sense--such that it just does not trouble me that Scripture does not spell it out--and never has. At the very least----nothing we are saying about Mary we don't likewise attribute to the Redeemed.  In other words--what is predicated of Mary is predicated of all the elect.  The elect will be sinless, virginal, and resurrected.  Mary is what we will become, hence she is our hope.  Protestants have never seen this---and I have never understood why.  I probably never will.

That being said: I don't think it is the end of the world that your fiancÚ has trouble accepting the Assumption.  The doctrines about Mary, the Saints, Purgatory, the pope, etc. while important are not central. They are peripheral. Christ is central, Christ is what is vital.  

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Father Dave Bechtel

Expertise

I am a Catholic priest in good standing and in active ministry in the Diocese of Scranton PA. I can answer most any question about the Catholic Faith, however my area of specialization is Systematic Theology. Systematic Theology is a branch of theology that focuses on the fundamental tenants of the Faith and the Dogmas of the Faith. I have specialization on the Reformation and Catholic vs. Protestant theology/issues and answering Protestant challenges to the Faith.

Experience

I was ordained in June of 2008. Since that time the thrust of my ministry has been specialized. In my first assignment I was an assistant pastor. A year later I was sent to work in education. I spent six (6) years in education and have now assumed my first pastorate. While education was the thrust of my ministry, nevertheless I continued to have a hand in parish ministry, hospital chaplaincy and prison chaplaincy. Now that I am out of education I will obviously be focusing more on parish work than specialized ministry. I have two years of formal Clinical Pastoral Education and prior to ordination I successfully pursued Board Certification for health care ministry through the NACC. My certification needs to be renewed and I plan to seek dual certification in health care ministry (NACC and APC) when I renew my certification. I have a breadth of experience working with Protestant ministers and collaborating with them to achieve the goals of hospital pastoral care and chaplaincy. These ministers run the spectrum from the liberal to the conservative.

Education/Credentials
Bachelors of Science-- University of Scranton PA Masters of Arts Theology--- Saint Mary's Seminary and University Baltimore MD Masters of Divinity--- Saint Charles Borremeo Seminary Philadelphia PA Board Certified Chaplain (up for renewal)

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