Thursday, November 7, 2013

7 reasons NOT to marry your Byzantine Catholic seminarian boyfriend

Every so often, I get an email from a seminarian or a girlfriend or a possible future seminarian who is already married, asking me for advice or my experience. My emailed reply is usually bright and sunny and full of optimism. But marriage is scary; it can go wrong even when it begins well. But as G.K. Chesterton said, "Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should decline." So be cautiously optimistic. If you can handle the following realities, then maybe marriage to a future clergyman is your vocation! A thick skin is needed as well as a holy life filled with prayer and fasting.

1. He might not be ordained as a deacon and priest, and he might blame you. The bishop doesn't guarantee ordination when a man starts studying. Perhaps the bishop decides he is not priest material. Perhaps the people don't sing 'Axios!' at the ordination. Perhaps politics swings back to married men even in the Eastern Churches not being permitted to be ordained. And maybe politics starts sending priests to Siberia again. Perhaps the bishop doesn't like you. Well, it is a done deal. Marriage or celibacy comes before any ordination. 

2. He will be considered a second-class priest. Even in the east, celibacy and monasticism is considered higher and for the 'kingdom.' Have you ever wondered why non-monks in the Roman-rite are called 'secular' priests? Prepare yourself for the day that the Roman-rite prayer group potluck waits as long as possible for Fr Celibate to arrive to bless the food. Fr Husband can bless the food if the other does not show. Married priests are just too 'down to earth' for some believers. Look to the cross and take joy in forced humility. Everyone needs this once in a while.
3. You will be hurt by 'church-people.' And most likely, you will end up hurting parishioners as well. We are sinners. We all make mistakes. Hopefully, it is misunderstandings that cause hurt unintentionally, but occasionally you will have to brace yourself for a bit of evil in the church setting.

4. Your children will be hurt as well. This is one place where my 'mama-bear' can manifest. I try and help my children tolerate the foibles of some (for example, an older parishioner with strong opinions on how things are done), but I can't sit and let them get hurt by the occasional person who really wants to cause pain.

5. People will accuse you of being in the way of your husband's priesthood. It happens very rarely, but please be prepared. Maybe some things would be easier if he were a free and easy single man, but there is the issue of vocation.You can respond to hurtful accusations by crying, walking away, smiling and waving or shouting (not a good idea). There will be a day when someone asks, maybe just out of curiosity, if your priest husband shares confession stories with you. I respond, "God forbid!" loudly. 

6. You will be isolated.You will be in the minority. I suspect that many priest's wives and even deacon's wives stay under the radar so that they won't scandalize anyone. Part of my own isolation is due to my introverted nature and the fact that I homeschool the kids by day and teach at the college by night. But also- where do Catholic priests' wives go for support? I have tried to communicate with both Orthodox and Protestant clergy wives on group sites and in groups like MOPS and 'MOMS,', but they don't know what to make of me. Also, my theology doesn't match perfectly with theirs, so these groups are not interested. I have tried to connect with Catholic priests' wives, but I don't get responses from either the few Roman-rite wives or Byzantine-rite ones. I am trying not to take it too personally because I know that everyone is busy. I suspect that part of the problem is that us wives do not want to make 'waves' and ruin things for our clergy husbands.

7. You will be shocked at the anti-marriage opinions of even the clergy who do get to be married first- I wrote this post awhile ago as a response to Fr L's insistence that his priesthood would be more fruitful if he weren't married. It hurts. 
so- this post is a downer- maybe a bit too realistic. I say any 'success' found in this crazy life is case-by-case and whether the couple depends on each other for support. We are grateful that we get to live this life even through our struggles and imperfections. 

17 comments:

  1. #6: If you ever need someone besides me and the Tasoni, I have a lovely Orthodox matushka who would love to get to know you.

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  2. Kh Jen- thanks ;)- that point was about the crickets that I hear on various blogs that say they support clergy wives....

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  3. I also suspect some of it is the community. Where we were in DC, we had a lot of married clergy (subdeacons, deacons, and one married priest). Because of this, the clergy wives did have a nice support group. Where we are now. . . yeah, not so much. I think that is important. You need someone with a similar life situation to be able to support you and understand your hardships.

    I also think that this (your list) is another reason why the tradition of making a married man wait for x period of years of marriage is a good thing (in the Melkite Church it is typically 10 for priestly ordination). This allows the relationship to mature to the point of being able to handle some of these things and to really consider whether or not the wife has a vocation (in the loose sense) to be a deacon/priest's wife.

    Thank you for the post.

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    1. oh- to be 'back East' - or in the old country....but we are here, and that's ok!

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  4. Can't say that i know what you are going through, but I recently talked with the wife of a recently ordained minister, looking for his first post. They have the same "stay under the radar" issues.

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  5. Prayers!

    My father is a Latin deacon, and I know my mom underwent some of the things you mention ... but #2 and #6 are just painful to read.

    Nothing is lost to God, though ... so I am sure someone somewhere benefits from your love.

    Matt

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    1. Thanks Matt! The best thing- even on the hard days, I am assured that this life is our vocation! That gives me strength

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  6. God willing I will eventually be the wife of a deacon and I can tell you the isolation is very real for me even now, while he is in formation. When other deacon wives speak to us about their husbands, it is all talk of what holy, giving, nurturing husbands and fathers they became b/c of formation and ordination. No one talks about the hard stuff. As a person who works/ministers in a parish, I know there is hard stuff. Yet no one talks about it. Makes me crazy. I could go on, but suffice it to say your posts help me know I am not crazy b/c I think it's not as easy as people would like me to believe. peace

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    1. I'm glad this blog is helpful for you...and this isolation, while very real, has GOT to get better....Catholic clergy wives...unite!

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  7. Here's an article on wife/deacon situations that you might enjoy on my blog: http://deaconjohn1987.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/for-the-deacons-bookshelf-love-becomes-service-a-look-at-marriage-and-the-diaconate-by-deacon-greg-kandra/#comment-4488

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  8. Thanks for posting this!
    One of my religion teachers in parish K-8 grade school was a deacon's wife (Latin-rite) at the parish. Periodically she'd mention him in connection with something. My 2nd grade teacher was a Lutheran and her husband was a minister at one of the local Lutheran churches in town. As I best remember, occasionally her husband came by the school, either to pick her up if she had to leave early or get something from her.

    As a preference, I usually describe Latin-rite 'secular' priests as diocesan priests.

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  9. As I said in my email (a couple of months ago), THANKS for posting things like this!
    Sara from Italy

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  10. Thank you for this post. I am a minister's wife in the United Methodist Church, so I do not face the marriage issue, but some of these things bleed over. It can be a hard calling. Sending you prayers for blessings and thank you for sharing honestly and encouraging words.

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  11. Thanks for the post priest's wife! As Heather said above, Protestant pastors' wives don't have quite the same issues, but there is still the problem of a being in the "lime light" so to speak. As my husband is gearing up for ordination, God willing, next year, I am really getting nervous and trying to be realistic about the challenges without getting overwhelmed. I think the loneliness thing is probably the hardest thing for many.

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    1. We'll be praying for you and your husband! Loneliness is the #1 problem I think because I feel like- even though he is the ordained one- it is also my ministry and the people should not be ministering to me (so who does?)- and I've made so many mistakes along the way!

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  12. Also priest's wife, I have a question that I don't think I've ever seen addressed - how do you handle the whole "my husband is the priest" thing in terms of him being YOUR priest? You know what I mean? Obviously I'll be going to another parish for confession (which might be challenging depending on where we end up!) but otherwise.... There's still a disconnect in my mind with "Oh he's my priest" and "My husband is my priest." Do you struggle with this? Any advice?

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    1. hmm....this probably should be an entire post- but the short answer is 1. he isn't my priest (confession, spiritual direction are with others, etc 2. every husband should be the spiritual head of the household imho- so he is our family's leader- notwithstanding the priesthood

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