“Ask a Priest: What If My Beau and I Are at a Standoff Over Religion?”

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Q: I am 77 and Protestant. My friend is 82, a widower and a devout Catholic. We are discussing marriage, but from the beginning of our relationship of nearly two years, he states that we are not on the same page because I am not Catholic. He states we cannot move forward until I convert. I don’t have any problem attending his church. He won’t attend a Protestant church. I do not see any reason to convert. I don’t want to be forced into being a false Catholic just to please him. He is unwilling to open his mind to the Protestant church belief, stating that the Catholic religion is the only true one, and Martin Luther was wrong. I have suggested he talk to his priest but he delays. We have another issue in that he would prefer, after marriage, that I move into his home and accept it as his wife left it. I realize that he is still grieving even though he has opened his heart to me as has his family. It seems to me that our relationship cannot move forward in spite of the fact that we are good for each other and have no other issues. I would appreciate your comments. – R.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It’s good that you and your friend are open and honest with each other about your beliefs.

At your respective ages, you are understandably set in your ways, and it would likely take a miracle to change things. It is Our Lord who converts hearts, not potential spouses.

As you realize, there is no real value in faking a conversion to the Catholic faith. You should follow your conscience about what you profess, and let your friend know frankly why you don’t intend to convert.

From what you describe, I don’t see any reconciliation of differences coming anytime soon.

Perhaps you and your friend could commit to intensifying your prayer life. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. Then, give yourselves a deadline.

If, say, within six months or so neither of you budges on your core opinions, it might be better to break off the relationship. Perhaps you could agree to remain friends, nothing more.

That might help clear the air, without anyone feeling compromised. And there is something to be said about friendship. In this sense you and he can continue to benefit each other. Count on my prayers.

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  1. Fr. Edward McIlmail makes a valid point that you at 77 and your male friend 82, there is nothing wrong with remaining ‘just friends.’ Religion is also called THE FAITH in ‘practice’ which involves certain beliefs that draw our souls CLOSER TO GOD. As Ephesians Chapter 4: verse 5 states: there is One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. TRUE indeed, all who are Baptized in the name of Father, Son, Holy Spirit have been brought under the the Divine ‘family’ of God, Father, His human/divine Son Jesus, and yes; are recipients of the fullness of God’s grace flows from Father, to Son, to Mary (first disciple) Grace comes by Faith, and the unmerited gift of faith comes with the Sacrament of Baptism. Increasing faith in God comes with ACTS of faith, or one’s religious belief system.

    God is not displeased with any who are raised in a particular Christian faith practice (religion) and sincerely aim to know, love and serve God, FIRST. Therefore, RESPECT ONE ANOTHER for living and growing ‘in Christian virtue’ by God’s graced presence to each of you. Enjoy a CHRISTIAN friendship, going to dinner, movies, or senior bus trips. Father Mcllmail is correct, it is best to RESPECT each other’s faith in practice and just pray for one another. Any conversion of spiritual practices is God’s to do.

  2. This 82 year old is a devoted soul to God and to his first wife. Let it be. He is not yours to have and to hold from this day forward. Be CHRISTian and pray God consoles him that his wife is ‘always with him’ as is Christ. He can go forward and live his new state of life as a widower, keeping busy reading books and enjoying his children and grandchildren.

  3. It is wonderful that you have found friendship at this stage in your lives but I am sorry to have to say that marriage would be a disaster. The fact that he wants you to keep house as his wife had it is clear that he is looking to recreate what he had with her. You sound a lovely caring lady and to me he sounds a controlling individual. Stay free and enjoy your life

  4. Good thought Brian with regards this EIGHTY TWO year old grieving widower. He may indeed be trying to recreate what he once had. As I re-read this person’s question, much has been left out. Her friend is a widower, but is he a recent widower or … 10, 15 or more years widowed. She states that ‘from the beginning of their relationship’ he let it be known ‘they were not on same page because she is not of Catholic faith in practice. (that sounds like an honest 80 year old who began a ‘relationship’ of NEARLY two years. I sounds now that maybe it is this 77 year old (no mention if she is widow or never married) who is looking to control the friendly relationship. He may have said his words with a bit of humor, that he is not looking for marriage at now 82 years. Not quite right to say just from this question, who is controlling who or pressing someone as to where to live OR go to her church services.

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