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A Triumph of Grace

Peggy Frye

The next best thing to sitting next to my husband at Mass is our drive home. We typically chat about the usual stuff: our breakfast plans, our Sunday to-do list, and, of course, how cute our grandbaby Gemma Rose is. Then we’ll have a conversation about Mass—more often than not we talk about the homily, then maybe we’ll discuss the music, and so on. It’s a sweet exchange.

But it wasn’t always like this. For many years my car ride to and from church was a lonely ride. It was just me and the kids. Then it was just me. Hubby was always home. Going to church was not for him, and that’s the way it had been for close to forty years of our married life.

Then, two years ago, without any warning, my husband announced that he wanted to become a Catholic. I had just come in from running an errand, he was sitting in a chair. We exchanged the normal greetings, and then he popped the question: “When does RCIA start?” I couldn’t believe my ears.  “What did you say?” I asked. He repeated it again. I think I went into shock, because my next response was “Okay.” Not the kind of response you’d expect from someone who had spent the past thirty plus years locked into an interior cell of prayer for this moment. Years and years of petitions going up for “something to happen” to make his heart desire God, and all I could say was “Okay”?

But as I thought about my odd reaction more, I realized that deep down it wasn’t the unexpected timing of his announcement that shook me, it was the reality that his conversion was all God’s work. It was all grace. Certainly, I played a role in this whole process, but ultimately it was the interior movements of grace that moved my husband along the path of faith to that moment when he asked, “When does RCIA start?” I suddenly saw how all those long years of conversations, prayers, sufferings, and sacrifices offered for his soul were used to pave his path to Rome. Nothing was wasted. Nothing was done in vain. God in his great love and mercy never stopped preparing the way for my husband’s eventual journey home, even in spite of all my doubts, failings, temper tantrums, and anxieties.

I’ll never fully understand why it took so many years for my husband to finally bend the knee. Sure, I wish it came sooner, especially when I read Tertullian’s letter to his wife (A.D. 202) where he speaks to the beauty of a Christian marriage, “as two who are one in home, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice.” But God had another path for my life, and when I look back over the landscape of those years, I see incredible spiritual growth in my life and in the lives of others around me, the kind that only comes from heavy pruning.

To those (including myself) who have loved ones who need to come home, always remember that God loves our loved ones more than we ever could, and he desires their salvation more than we ever could.   

One of my favorite Catholic authors, Caryll Houselander, wrote the following to a friend who was suffering great personal trials. This little quote has always been an inspiration to me, and I hope it will be for you, too:

For the moment, the precious and only now, you alone are the bearer of the Blessed Sacrament into your own little world. You are the monstrance, the priest giving Communion, the Real Presence, to your husband, your children and your friends; and the reason why, or one reason why, Christ has given Himself to you is because He wishes to be with them, and can be with them, as things are, only through you.

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