Q: Dear Dan, I just read your entry about Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s influence in your conversion. I noted your deep hunger for the Eucharist to the extent of asking for and receiving earlier reception into the Church than first anticipated. What a wonderful thing! The question that burns in my heart is why the Lord doesn’t call my husband to this reality of His presence in the Eucharist. Years ago he went through RCIA, was confirmed and participated in the Mass, receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist etc. Then he stopped, said he preferred the Protestant tradition of his youth, and revealed that he never believe in the Real Presence. Occasionally he goes to Mass with me. He is very deeply spiritual, reads mostly Catholic authors, including many of Pope Benedict’s books, and says he doesn’t so much disagree with the Church as that he prefers the Protestant way of doing things he knew as a child, especially the music. He doesn’t talk about it, but he still doesn’t believe in the Real Presence, that Mary is anything other than an ordinary human being, or the power of the Mass. I know that this is between God and him and that I must trust God and not interfere or try to control. He loves and supports my faith and devotion, which is deep and the core of my life, but he believes that I love it because it is the faith tradition that I grew up with and therefore and am familiar with. I don’t understand why God doesn’t give him the gift of faith, though He obviously gives it to others. Can you help me with this? By the way, my concern isn’t whether or not my husband is saved. I know he is precious to the Lord and is a better person than I am. Please help me understand.
A: Dear Friend, this must be a very painful situation. I have no doubt that your husband is a good person as you say. If I can boil down what you are asking to its simplest form, it seems to me that this question is at the heart of your struggles: Why does God give the gift of faith to some and not to others?
The short answer is that under normal circumstances, God does not withhold anything necessary for anyone to come to him by their free choice. Throughout redemptive history, and particularly in the clear invitation of the New Covenant, God has offered himself to all without distinction. In the second letter of Saint Peter chapter three, verse nine, God says to us:
The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
This verse reveals a powerful truth, God calls everyone to himself, without exception. Further, your husband was created by God, and as the psalmist reveals, God formed him in his mother’s womb and brought your husband into existence for the purpose of having a relationship with him. This isn’t a general principal. God specifically called your husband into existence in order to commune with him. In Psalm 139 the Lord puts it this way through the heart of the psalmist (loosely translated to apply to your husband).
For I formed you in your inward parts; I knitted you together in your mother’s womb. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. I know your soul well. I made you in secret, as you were intricately woven in the depths of the womb. I saw your unformed substance; in my book is written every part of your design, the days that were formed for you, when as yet there was nothing.
Beyond the amazing beauty of this thought, without the freedom to reciprocate the love the God has for us, your husband’s love toward God would be forced and not freely offered. Forced love can never be true love. God has invited all of us to his great banquet feast, but we must accept and embrace that invitation and do what it takes to get to the table. For reasons unknown to us, some seem to be satisfied with or only able to see the crumbs under the table rather than the great and endless delights of the feast above. There are many reasons for this but only God knows the specific barriers that exist in any man’s heart.
The other comforting element revealed in the verse from our first Pope is that God is patient. Of course, time and the flesh are our enemy when it comes to our redemption but God is always ready and willing to give us all he has if we will turn to him. So, there is a place reserved at the table with your husband’s name on it. Not only is there a place for him but God has also given him all he needs to find it – he need only to chose to receive the invitation and join in.
Finally, there is, in the mystery of God’s provision, a way that we can participate and even somehow increase the grace that an individual can receive from God. God has chosen to work through the prayers of others to bring his grace to his people. So, what can you do? Pray, pray, pray, and pray some more…. and be holy. Be ready to answer any questions he might have. However, the greatest testament to the real presence is how that presence changes those who encounter him. I have never heard a husband say to his wife, “Dear, please stop going to mass, you are being far too nice and helpful to me.” As you might imagine, the reverse is more often the case. Pursue Christ with all your heart, pray, and may your husband hunger for what God is working in you.