Each Friday, I share a Friday Feature where I hope to bring a little light and encouragement from other Catholics living out the vocation to married and family life.
I love witnessing how others are following Christ and am constantly inspired by them. My goal with Friday Feature is to bring you a breath of fresh air and some community by sharing their stories.
Enjoy, laugh, be inspired, and pray for all those you see on here. We’re in this together!
FRIDAY FEATURE: MARTINA
Martina is a beautiful soul I met through online groups for Catholic moms and Catholic mom bloggers. Her story is inspiring and filled with a holy patience and trust that I admire so much. She’s also hilarious. If you’re a Catholic wife praying for the conversion of your husband, this post is especially for you!
ANGIE (A): Share a little bit about yourself and your blog.
MARTINA (M): Well gee — way to start with an easy question, Angie. Just kidding! Well y’all, my name is Martina and I’m the author over at littlesouthernblog.com. I’m a Southern Catholic who married her atheist prince charming. Ed Michael and I have two boys, Sebastian and Theo, and live with my mother in law. Yep! What all little girls dream about. But really it’s been a huge blessing and one that has allowed me to stay home. Doing what I love, which is raise our little family. I talk about it all on the blog. What it’s like living here, the why, and soon to dive in to how we make it work. One room, two littles, a cat, and cosleeping — need I say more?
A: On your blog you share about the #chroniclesofed – what’s this all about?
M: Well for those that don’t know, Angie and I met in a Catholic wives/mommy group. Being a group of women I trust, I had started sharing my story about being married to an atheist and had started asking for prayers. Which have moved mountains! I started sharing more and more — stories of things EM (Ed Michael) would say or do, that would lead me to think he was more on a path to spirituality than he might realize. One day one of the women created the hashtag and the #chroniclesofed was born. I had been thinking about opening up more on the blog and showing more of who I am. Something which for me is hard — fear of judgment can be paralyzing. Sharing one’s faith especially this day in age can be a scary thing. Not to mention when it involves two polar opposites, atheism and Catholicism. However, I truly felt called to do it. So after talking to EM and asking him what he thought on the matter, he gave me his blessing, and said to share anything and everything. So I am. Little by little I have added installments of the #chroniclesofed which tell the true story of hopefully one day an incredible conversion story. His path from atheism to Catholicism, from the point of view of a prayerful wife.
A: Who is your favorite Saint as a wife and mother?
M: This is a funny question, and one I am so glad you asked. It ALL leads back to my confirmation Saint and a rather stubborn 15 year old Martina. I am very close with my maternal Nonna. She’s not only my grandmother but my godmother. So when time came to choose a confirmation sponsor, it was a no brainer, it would be her. Well that was the easy part — researching a Saint to be my patron was another story. One day on our way home from Mass, my dad asked who I was choosing. Not wanting to hear him ask again, I blurted out St. Nonna! He proceeded to tell me she didn’t exist, and I without any actual knowledge declared she did! And boy did I pray she did! I couldn’t possibly be wrong! The minute we got home I ran over to our bookshelf, filled with books on the Saints, and found the Saint encyclopedia. Frantically scrolling through the N’s I found her. St. Nonna did in fact exist! And O.M.GOODNESS she is amazing! She sadly is a little known Saint in the Roman Church, though highly revered in the Orthodox Churches. She too married a man that wasn’t Catholic. In fact he was a pagan priest. Worshipping a fire god. She loved her husband so much, but loved God even more. It pained her that she was somehow distant from her husband due to this disconnect. So she prayed and prayed. He converted, became a priest, bishop, and is now known as St. Gregory the Elder. They went on to have 3 children, St. Gregory the Theologian (Doctor of the Church), St. Caesarius, and St. Gorgonia. She is such an amazing example of a wife’s love for her husband. I truly feel called to spread her story whenever I can and now that I’m here talking to you, you have inspired me to add a section on my blog dedicated to her. Looking back, I know that it wasn’t pure teenage stubbornness that led me to blurt out her name, but rather Divine Intervention, knowing that her life would be such a wonderful example of perseverance and faith. That with prayer even the most unlikely person can became a great saint.
A: What does your family prayer routine look like having just one practicing Catholic parent?
M: Pretty solid if you ask me. Pat myself on that back for that one! Kidding obviously. However I am rather proud of our little family in this regard. Our prayer routine has definitely changed over the years, but it is something that is only getting stronger over time. EM always reminds me that he meant his promise to help raise our kids Catholic, even if he didn’t share those beliefs, and he takes that promise seriously. So when we first were married, and even back when we were engaged, he would attend mass with me on Sunday and would even silently sit with me as I prayed various different novenas. All things I talk about on the blog in the #chroniclesofed. Now that our boys are getting older, and Mama Mary and St. Nonna are interceding like CHAMPS — he is starting to actively pray with us more. He will say nighttime prayers with S, and will vocally participate in the rosary and divine mercy chaplet. Yes my atheist husband says the rosary and DMC! And get this — wears a scapular! He’s a rare and beautiful bird! Though I one day hope EM will take the lead in our family prayer, in a more active manner, it is something he does on a small scale already. He might not be an official practicing Catholic, but boy is he great at practicing to be Catholic.
A: How do balance focusing on your marriage and growing in holiness but respecting Ed and where he is at?
M: Man was and is this hard! For those that know me, and I’m sure you’ve come to notice this yourself, I am quite an opinionated woman. I’m also never afraid to voice those opinions – within reason obviously. Defending my faith and raising our kids Catholic for me was a BIG issue. Not issue in the negative sense, but something that was truly important to me. I realized that the only way I as an individual, and we as a couple, could grow in holiness was for me to BACK OFF! I needed to zip my lips, and simply pray. Allow the Holy Spirit to do the talking for me. And let me tell you, He is a FAR better communicator than any of us could ever be. I was never shy that my end goal was to get our family to heaven. If that meant he converts one day or not. So it was never as though I was sneakily praying for his conversion in the dead of night. Though I might have on occasion blessed him with holy water without his knowing…him wondering why my thumb was wet. Hey a hormonal pregnant mama has got to do what she’s got to do. My praying for him was something he was always aware of and probably at the beginning took as another cute gesture, though pointless. I think his seeing that I wasn’t going to push him or force him to come to Mass with me, or force him to say prayers he didn’t believe in, was what brought him closer at first. He saw I wasn’t trying to impose my faith on to him, but rather wanted to share God’s Love and Mercy with him. He came on his own and he prayed on his own. And when you start praying a Rosary, as my daddy says, “Once Our Lady has him, his goose is cooked!”
A: Do you have any tips for those married to non-Catholic spouses?
M: Don’t push. Don’t even talk about religion if it is a cause for arguments. Stay steadfast in your faith and never waiver. Though that can be the hardest thing to do when the person you love is so contrary. However in the end, you catch more bees with honey, and more souls with prayer. I would periodically ask EM about his beliefs, if they had changed, what his current thoughts on faith were (again all being turned into the #chroniclesofed), and if he ever said he didn’t want to talk about it, then we didn’t. I had to respect that he had reason not to want to talk. I did however tell him, that I did want to talk about it but only when he was ready. So it wasn’t as if it was something he didn’t know could happen — but it was something that was on his terms. Faith, for someone who was raised not believing in God, can be a scary thing. It makes you question everything you ever knew about life, and that is ground shaking. So cling to your faith, cling to someone like St. Nonna, and Our Lady, and pray for your spouse. Pray that through your LIVING your faith, and being an example of God’s love, they will want to share in the kind of peace only those with true faith in God share.
A: How do you stay faithful to the teachings of the Church on spousal intimacy with a husband that doesn’t hold the same beliefs?
M: It’s tricky — thats for sure. But I am a stubborn mule of a woman. There are things that EM struggled with. NFP* (Natural Family Planning) was a big one. We had our fair share of arguments and tears, on my part, not his. But in the end, aside from the fact that I truly believe and agree with the Church teaching on sex and morality, I knew that if I said I believed X, I better not do Y. One of the things many atheists struggle with is a sense of hypocrisy they feel from many Christians. Your faith teaches one thing, you profess your faith, yet you pick and choose what you want to do because that is what is convenient for you. If I profess the Creed, and I claim to be a faithful Catholic, I best live like one. No matter how hard that can be at times. And for those of faith that marry atheists, it’s no walk in the park. Your faith is constantly challenged. Especially in terms of sexual morality. You love your spouse and you want to show that love with the most selfless gift a spouse can give, the full gift of self, in the act of the marital embrace. Yet you know there are times, when not trying to get pregnant, that one must abstain and that is hard. It is actually something that I will talk about in more detail in the podcast, This Catholic Life. I am guest cohosting with Rosalie Contrite of the Contrite Catholic. She herself, a former militant atheist turned contrite Catholic. Check her out! But life is hard, finances are tight, you live with your mother in law, all of which add to your not wanting to get pregnant again for a while. So your atheist husband suggests you contracept. It’s tempting, after all you love your husband and want to be with him, but it is because of that love that I strongly believe we Catholic spouses should hold fast to our beliefs. One cannot give the full gift of self if they are contracepting. My end goal as a wife is to help get my husband to heaven, how can I do that if I help him sin? It is still something we struggle with, but get through one TTA (“trying to avoid”) day at a time. NFP has brought us closer together, even though we went though times that felt like we were wading the trenches of the pit of despair. However, he now better understands the Church’s teachings, even though he still struggles with them — but even the most faithful Catholics struggle at times — and he is more open to a larger family if God blesses us in that manner, something he wasn’t as open to in the past. Showing true trust in God and major change of heart.
A: What’s your most embarrassing moment as a mother?
M: Does everyday count?! No? Being as I am trying to raise good Catholic young men, recent Mass behavior has made the task a tricky one. Sebastian, who will be two still isn’t speaking all too much. We speak Italian at home as well as English, so multiple languages can lead to some funny toddler words. So he says “nyumm nyumm” for food. This linguistic knowledge will be important. At the advice of our pastor, and something my daddy had been saying since I was little, we decided to start sitting front row! Right up close and personal. S is usually pretty well behaved, until Palm Sunday. That is one of the most brutal Masses for anyone that has little kids, so a lot of narthex pacing was involved. We had gone back in with our palms, which soon doubled as swords, but if that wasn’t bad enough, Communion time took the cake. I held S, and EM held T (yep he goes up to get blessed too), in the Communion line. I think I’m in the home stretch and S is starting to turn his behavior around. God decided to give me a dose of humble pie, because as soon as we sat back in our seat, S saw the Host and with out stretched arms started screaming “nyumm nyumm”! The Eucharistic Minister holding the Precious Blood stares at me, and I felt TRAPPED. That clammy, I think this is it, one can truly die from embarrassment moment. We had people shuffling down the isle on both sides of our pew, it’s a BIG church, and I had to simply sit there with S throwing his head back wanting to eat like everybody else. It was definitely a slap ya back to reality humbling Mass experience.
A: What is your favorite prayer and why?
M: Short non-novena prayer, the Hail Mary, cliche right? I really just love me some Mama Mary! I have had such a special relationship with her ever since I was a child. Praying to her if I couldn’t sleep, praying for my future husband, you name it, I prayed to her for it. I truly believe praying the rosary and the Hail Mary, is what has helped open EM’s heart to the Holy Spirit! It’s also a great prayer to sing to a fussy baby.
A: Leave us with a gem – share your marriage advice for young couples in under 5 words.
M: Always say I love you.
*If you aren’t familiar with Natural Family Planning and what the Church teaches, this site offers countless resources on Church teaching, NFP, and free charts to get you started.