Question: We go to church as a family every week, usually on Sunday morning. One time hubby worked all Saturday night. I needed the Sunday morning free — don’t remember why — so the kids & I went to Mass Saturday evening. My hubby slept late on Sunday. When I noticed that afternoon Mass was approaching & he was just watching TV I asked him if he was going to church. He said “no.” Then I asked why, and he said “I don’t want to.” I never expected that answer from him. He said that he wasn’t a child and that he didn’t like how I was treating him like I was his mom. To me it was my duty to ask him & advise him to go because he had no valid excuse. Is it wrong to check or ask hubby if he’s going to Mass? And if the answer is no to ask why & advise that he should go? — Patricia
Answer: Patricia, that’s an excellent question. You’ll often hear that the purpose of marriage is to get your spouse to heaven, but only God can really accomplish that. At best, we can help lead our spouse to heaven through prayer and example. We are not our spouse’s spiritual directors.
First of all, give your husband the benefit of the doubt. If he worked all night on Saturday, he might still have been feeling exhausted and disoriented by the change in his sleep cycle. If he was genuinely feeling unwell, he had no obligation to go to Mass (CCC 2181).
Not everyone knows that skipping Sunday Mass without serious reason can be a mortal sin, since this doctrine has been dramatically under-emphasized in recent decades. Some people learned as children that we have to go to Sunday Mass, but never gained a mature understanding of why. If your husband attends Sunday Mass more as a habit or a family custom, it makes sense that he would not want to go except with the family at the regular time. His feeling that you were treating him like his mom signals that he may not have developed an intense personal appreciation and love for Jesus in the Eucharist. Pray to God daily that your husband will be granted the gift of a deeper and more mature faith.
In the meantime, thank your husband for working overnight to support the family and ask how you can help him and make it easier for him. See if he has anything on his mind that he hasn’t shared with you yet. He might be angry about something at work or something at home, and this anger may be keeping him away from God. You can suggest that the two of you pray a rosary for his intentions, spoken or unspoken, or you can arrange a family rosary night with the kids. Making a habit of praying the rosary together as a family is a great goal for this Lenten season.
Many people begin Lent by watching Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ, which graphically depicts the suffering that Christ freely underwent to save us. There are other movies with subtler Eucharistic themes such as Rocky II, Rudy, Cinderella Man, and others listed here. Depending on how old the kids are, they can join you for a family movie night. While your children learn more about their faith, so will your husband.
Becoming one with our spouses is hard work and takes time. We yearn for physical, emotional, and spiritual intimacy in our marriages, but spiritual intimacy may be the last thing to develop because it happens at the deepest level of our hearts. Keep loving your husband and praying for him.
God bless you and your family!
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Nothing in this column is meant to provide psychological or medical diagnosis, treatment or opinion.
Copyr. 2015, Dr. Manuel and Karee Santos.