ASK FATHER: Lutheran wife is against me, a convert, going to Mass

From a reader…


I am a convert from Lutheranism, and my wife and children remain irregularly practicing Lutherans. My wife says that my absence for Mass every Sunday is a selfish betrayal of family time, and that our whole family suffers. I do not want to upset her, particularly since her bad moods affect our children, but I cannot live with the idea of regularly missing Sunday Mass. What can I do?

Marriage is difficult. Mixed marriages are even more difficult. Successful marriages require lots of prayer, communication, and compromise. Compromise does not entail giving up things that are essential, but rather finding ways to give a little in order to make peace. Compromise where one party is forced to give up something essential is not really compromise, but rather capitulation.

Depending on where you live, there might be other Masses that are possible to attend. Is there an early morning Mass you could attend, before the rest of the family is up? Or a Mass later in the day? Or perhaps even a Mass on Saturday evening?

If there is not another Mass to attend, which might accommodate the family schedule, then the onus on you is to ensure that before and after Mass, you’re giving your all to your family.

Let’s say, for example, the Catholic Mass is at 10 AM, and the Lutheran service that your wife and children irregularly attend is at 10:30. Wake up early and prepare a nice breakfast for your family to enjoy (as they are not enjoined to fast before worship), even if it’s an egg casserole warming in the oven as you toddle off to Mass. Let your wife know that she need not do the dishes after their repast because you’ll take care of that as soon as you get home. Kiss your wife tenderly when you return from Mass (or when she returns from the Lutheran service) and let her know the joy you feel from being able to receive Christ and how your newly found Catholic faith strengthens you as a person, strengthens your love for her, and strengthens your marriage.

If she starts to see your Catholicism not as some sort of a rival in the marriage, but rather as an asset to you and to the marriage itself, she may become a bit less hostile.

Regular applications of flowers and chocolate can help, too, … so I’m told.

Look for other ways, after Mass, to maximize your family time. Read some Scripture to your children, pray a psalm or two with them. They, too, need to see their father’s Catholicism as something which makes him a better person and a better, more loving father, not as something that takes him away from them.

Certainly, pray for your family’s conversion, but in the meantime (or if that doesn’t happen), you need to show them by your actions how your Catholic faith makes you a better man, and thereby a better husband and father.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    Eminently pastoral advice, Fr. Z. — and without compromising an iota of Catholic faith and life. This case serves as a reminder why the Church generally disapproves of mixed marriages (hence, the necessity of canonical permission or, in the case of a Catholic marrying an unbaptized person, a dispensation).

  2. scotus says:

    A good blend of mercy and truth. Maybe you should be given the job of teaching certain Cardinals how to go about it.

  3. Polycarpio says:

    Great advice.

  4. Toan says:

    A recommendation that seemed to do wonders for Scott Hahn (see Rome Sweet Home) when he converted and his wife was still Presbyterian: Turn up the romance, and consider avoiding apologetic arguments if they clearly aren’t helping. If apologetics consistently results in people getting worked up and/or crying, I’d lay off and use that time for prayer and romance. It’s hard to convince an upset person of anything; people usually don’t think clearly when they’re in an emotional state.

  5. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Sometimes, grumpy wives don’t want tender kisses. Or, so I am told.

  6. newportson says:

    Is it past the point of inviting the wife and children to attend Catholic Mass with you? Then treat them to a wonderful breakfast and allow them to ask you why this is so important to you, to ask what was happening during the Mass, and so on. It is hard to know from the information provided whether the family is open to this possibility. This seems to me a perfect opportunity to evangelize to those closest to him.

  7. joan ellen says:

    Too bad you were not invited to the synod, Fr. Z. Your direction is priceless…& is even good in general…you offer a way…without compromising or capitulation of Truth. For those of us who offer words of doctrine/dogma in a harsh legalistic way…or at least without also including merciful & compassionate words, you show us a framework on how to be more gentle. Thank you.

  8. The Cobbler says:

    Sure beats my first thought, which was, “How can one refer to the commandment about keeping holy the sabbath indirectly yet obviously?”

  9. Mojoron says:

    If it wasn’t my Lutheran wife getting on my butt to get back into the Catholic Church, I would still be cutting grass on Sunday morning.

  10. Outstanding pastoral advice Father!

    I believe you hit the nail on the head here…

    “If she starts to see your Catholicism not as some sort of a rival in the marriage, but rather as an asset to you and to the marriage itself, she may become a bit less hostile.”

  11. sea the stars says:

    It’s jealousy. In cases like this the wife will often see the Church as “the other woman.” And not just in mixed marriages; a lapsed Catholic couple in which the man starts going to Church will often experience the same conflict.
    For the man to turn up the romance then could essily be interpreted as his trying to ease his own conscience.
    But I agree with Fr. The wife here must be shown (somehow) that the Church is not her rival.

  12. Mariana2 says:

    Le sigh. Flowers and chocolates won’t sway my still Lutheran husband…. persuasion hasn’t worked….

  13. Jarrod says:

    Because I could listen to Scott Hahn lecture all day, I’ve been doing just that when I get the chance. I heard him talk about how he began going to Confession weekly early in his conversion, while his wife was still hostile. It seems to have had an effect on him, since apparently when he missed a week or two she approached him and suggested he go again. The effectiveness of the sacrament was evident to her before she believed it to be a sacrament. Something similar might be in order here (if not for many more of us, even without this particular problem!).

  14. cornelius74 says:

    Dear Father Z, what an excellent post this is. Myself, I was baptised 10 years ago, while already married to my wonderful wife and having two sons (a girl then arrived later). She is an agnostic, born and bread, as well as her whole family which happens to share the same house with us. The only christian and catholic in the house, that is my task. Yet, although she feels a little sad sometimes (“I cannot follow you where you are going”), she does not stop me or block me. I pray at the conclusion of every Mass for her conversion, and of our children, of course. Let me include this gentleman in my prayer, so that his wife realises, as you said, that her husband’s catholic belief is a gift to their family. Meanwhile, I should learn to make some fine omelette for my beloved.

  15. From a resentful woman’s perspective, I’d bet dollars to donuts, this isn’t about religion. We women are really good at finding things to be resentful about [see St. Paul]. Find out what she is really mad about. Money? Control? Authority? Abandonment issues? Her mother? You missed the kids recital? You didn’t put the trash out without being told?
    I have no idea – I don’t mean to disparage a much-loved wife or falsely accuse a hard-working man – just be aware of our common fault. We get mad and complain about something completely unrelated. LOL.
    Sometimes it IS about romance, staring into her eyes, holding her hand, acknowledging her complaints, and being sympathetic, not try to fix anything – only pay attention, just like those stupid tv psychologists say.

    I hope that this perspective gives some hope.

    I know, I know, women are complicated. And this exasperates simple men. I don’t blame men. I don’t understand women either!

    My heart goes out to this convert in his misery all the same. I’ll remember him in my prayers.

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