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The Catholic And The Agnostic

By LC Van Savage

      Mongo and I know a 40-ish year old couple who are deeply in love. I think the word “besotted” would work well here. We are delighted that after a few too many years they found one another and just flat-out fell in love and simply cannot keep their hands off each other. But love, as life too, can never go smoothly, and there was a problem.

      I recently asked the male member of that couple (Tom) why they didn’t seem to be getting as seriously committed as quickly as I would prefer, because it’s all about me, after all. He said, rather sadly, “Well, she (Abigail) wants a Catholic husband. And I can’t be that for her.”

      So I decided to tell Tom a story because as everyone knows, nothing boosts people’s spirits like an old broad telling her boring stories, especially to folks who are worried about something. Brace yourself; here it is.

When Mongo and I were young in the late 1950s, and so far childless, we lived in Landstuhl Germany at the Landstuhl Army Medical Center. We made many friends there, some of whom we still know, and one young couple became our special friends. The young lady in question was a nurse on the base, and her beloved, a Lieutenant in the US Army, as was Mongo. They were just mad about each other and all they wanted was to spend eternity together, but alas, they could not because she was an extremely devout Roman Catholic and he a dedicated agnostic. Not an atheist, but an agnostic, a questioner, a skeptic. He knew he’d been given a good brain, and he intended to use it. He had appreciation for all religions, he respected and cared deeply for all people, no matter who or what they were, or what their beliefs were, but he was not a Catholic.

      The young woman, desperate to marry this man, knowing he could and would not join her church, went to the base priest hoping he could help, and this is what he said to her.

       “Tell me all about this young man of yours. Is he always kind to you? Yes. Is he respectful? Yes. Does he take drugs? No. Does he drink? No. Smoke? No. Has he been in prison? No. Does he observe the Golden Rule? Constantly. Do you feel you and he are equal partners in all things? Yes. Does he want children? Yes. Does he make you feel safe? Yes. Does he listen attentively to you at all times? Yes. Does he ever embarrass you? Never. Has he ever hit you? Never. Is he a forgiving man? Yes. Is he a good son to his parents? Yes. Kind to his siblings and relatives? Yes. Does he break the law? Never. Does he do good things for other people? Always. Is he good to all living things? Always. Is he honest? Always. Is he consistently supportive of you? Always. Is he judgmental? Never. Clean? Yes. Fun? Yes. Does he make you laugh? Yes. Do you feel safe and happy with, and protected by him? Always. Does he go to church with you? Every Sunday.

      She told me later that after all the questions were answered, the kindly priest leaned back in his chair, smiled and said, “Tell me my dear, what is your problem?” The young woman said she became speechless and did not know how to answer the good father’s unexpected question, so she sat silently, staring at him. The priest went on.

      “Don’t you think my dear child, that it’s better to marry a man with such solid values than to marry someone who may not have any of them? It appears to me that this young man you love so much practices all the finest spiritual standards and values on a day-to-day basis, that he is strongly moral, and while it would be nice if he had a church, maybe one day when he gets it all sorted out, he may join one. God did in fact give him a good mind and it’s his right to use it. But for now, don’t you think he might make a good, solid, faithful and adoring husband? A good father to your future children?”

      She apparently did because they had a lovely, sweet wedding soon after that, with the Good Father standing next to a Unitarian officiate, both smilingly performing the ceremony together. We get Christmas cards from that couple every year, with photos of all 11 of their grandchildren, and a couple of greats too.

       I told this story to our friends Tom and Abigail who wanted to be married even at their so-called advanced ages, and they listened, didn’t collapse with boredom, and didn’t even yawn, not even a single stifled one. Did they get what I was getting at? I’m pretty sure. Did it influence their decision? Apparently. They will marry next month. A local priest and a female Unitarian officiate will marry them. My work here is done. ©2018 LC VanSavage

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