Ask an Apostle: How will my interfaith marriage work during the holidays?

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Question: I am in an interfaith marriage and want to integrate both faiths into our holiday traditions. How to do this while remaining faithful to the Catholic faith?

-Confusion at Christmas

A: It’s wonderful that you want to honor both religious traditions in your holiday celebrations. As Catholics, we profess that we believe in the dignity given by God to each person and that we honor the conscience of each person. Who better to respect and honor than your spouse? So, I think you have chosen a beautiful path in finding ways to celebrate aspects of both religious traditions.

As you well know, family reunions can be difficult to manage when it comes to personalities and relationship dynamics. Some topics have the potential to create tension. Not everyone gets along or agrees. Sharing an aspect of your religious tradition requires a certain vulnerability. It is an offer to know someone on a deeper level. This offer may or may not be received in a charitable manner. Whatever happens, know that you have given the gift of a deeper part of yourself to your family members. Whether it’s received or appreciated at the level you might hope for, we don’t know. Giving the gift is all we can do. It is a powerful model of your faith, especially if you allow others the freedom to respond in their own way, without being judgmental.

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On a more intimate basis, I suggest talking to your spouse about significant ways that you both would like to incorporate your religious traditions into the holidays. Share with each other not only the customs and what they mean, but what they mean to you personally. Once you know these things, you will be in a much more loving space to find ways to share these meaningful traditions. Sometimes just being present with love, even if we are not participating in all aspects of a ritual or tradition, means a lot. Find the things that unite you and celebrate them. There are probably many things you can share that don’t require a profession of faith.

Finally, let me offer this. Often times we are looking for obvious “religious things” to do and we might miss things that are actually very religious right in front of us. Consider this, just about all holiday celebrations include a shared meal. Family, friends and guests get together, sit at a table and break bread together. Most religious traditions value this in some sense. Many cultures attach great importance to this table of sharing or “hospitality”. Think of Abraham and Sarah welcoming angels or Jesus in his meal ministry, eating with everyone without judgment. The table is a place of transformation and of deep religious significance. Relationships are built and nurtured at the table. For us Catholics, every meal can be a Eucharistic encounter. We are called to make the deeper connection between what happens at the altar in church and what happens at our family tables. If you embark on holiday meals with this in mind, you will deeply live your tradition of faith. And, your spouse will probably feel that they are also living their faith in these meals. Consider writing a prayer together to start these holiday meals. Then they will truly be a genuine shared faith. Everything after that will be grace.


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