The day that my husband fell in love with me, the day he knew I was the one he was going to marry, I was not Catholic. I wasn't Christian at all. And even though he was very much both of those and knew in his heart that I would be happier if I were too, he loved me anyway. And when he told his parents about me, over the phone across an ocean and a continent, they were just happy. Maybe inwardly they were nervous or wondered what I was like or worried about whether or not I was the good Catholic girl they probably always prayed to God for. Maybe. But outwardly they were nothing except excited. Is it because my mother in law is a convert too that they truly appreciate the power of the Holy Spirit to do work that regular folk see as unlikely or even impossible? It could be. But it doesn't matter. What matters is that the love came first.
Now make no mistake, friends. My husband and his parents- they are not...what is a phrase people use? "Lukewarm Catholics" is one of them I think. Or "wishy washy." Or maybe "Catholics in name only." They are, and were, none of those things. So if I was to come up with a bit of trite silliness about the Church, that I believed by default and not from research, Tommy was not afraid to set me straight. But unless I brought it up, and eventually I did of course, the love came first.
Do you think it's possible to repent if one doesn't love God and love oneself? I mean, what harm does sin really do if we don't matter and neither does God? I've been thinking about this a lot over the last few days and I'm beginning to understand more that if you've never been in a place of self-loathing or, worse, self-indifference, it might be difficult to grasp the idea that sins, those building blocks of the walls between us and God, between us and true peace, are so appealing because they make you feel so bad.
You see, feeling guilty for doing something wrong is not the same as feeling bad. Feeling bad is feeling like you are intrinsically bad. You are worthless and useless and can't possibly have value. Guilt for legitimate sin simply means you know you were created for good and you've chosen to turn your back on that. So properly placed guilt...it makes you feel good! Like you're a good person who did something stupid and you can say "that was really stupid. I should quit doing stupid things. I'm worth more than that."
Not even God can drag anyone to God. Oh that pesky free will with all its freeness and peskiness! So if we are ever tempted to say about a friend or family member or stranger on the internet "but if I don't tell them the RULES, how will they ever start being GOOD???" I'd like to suggest that they are already good and just don't know it. Help them find their God-given goodness. Help them feel like they are worthy of even striving to be good. Make sure they know that no matter what they do, they cannot ever make God stop loving them. Because I promise you this: that is what they are trying to do.
Once their heart swells with the love of God, the love for God, they will run and wrap themselves in the cozy blanket of these glorious traditions and rules and regulations that exist only to bring a fallen people as close as possible to true happiness, to God. The traditions and rules and regulations are there and we love them and should hold them in esteem, but I never want to forget that the love comes first.