One evening, at the end of the day, chores done, chicken curry eaten, and dog walked, my husband and I sat together in the living room. It appeared to be a calm space where we would talk about nothing more significant than whether we should watch the next episode of Sherlock, our favorite BBC series. But then, I opened my mouth.
At the same time I opened my mouth, feelings rushed in behind the words. I was feeling overwhelmed by the sheer nastiness and mayhem in the world: Iraqi children fleeing their villages, the destruction in Gaza, the beheading of journalists and humanitarian workers by ISIS, climate change, and countless other stories, which I strove to avoid but somehow could not. I’d already gone upstairs to sling my St. Michael medal around my neck, a sure sign that I was in need of comfort and strength.
As I faced my husband, I touched my medal and said, “The thing about being Catholic is — we’ve got a toolkit.” He looked up inquiringly, clearly wondering where I was going.
“Something bad happens — my friend’s accident on rainy roads, and my brother getting ill.” I sighed. “Not to mention the terrible news from abroad. But — there’s something I can do for all the things I fret about, even though I worry far more than I should.”
My husband raised his eyebrows, having learned that is often the best way to get clear responses from his passionate wife.
I touched my St. Michael medal. “I’m praying to him to help the refugees and those who had to flee their homes.”
Rick nodded encouragingly. His kind looks and the St. Michael medal were beginning to work their magic on my worry-soaked soul. I took a breath.
“And I’ve got that marvelous bit of red cloth from St. Marguerite d’Youville’s cloak that my friend Mary gave me.” He knows I carry it tucked beneath my driver’s license at all times. “It makes me feel safer when I’m driving.”
“I hear that,” he said. “We Protestants don’t have any equivalent. I don’t suppose the wintergreen car air freshener counts?”
“Nope. And I look at the news stories about Pope Francis. Every day we read about some amazing thing the pope has done — washing the feet of prisoners, meeting immigrants on the island of Lampedusa, phoning the parents of James Foley…”
“I know.” He nodded again, more vigorously. We are both devoted followers of Pope Francis — his compassionate actions and words, and how he enlivens all of us, showing us what it means to live the Gospel in the world.
“Being Catholic,” I went on, hoping I was not being too pushy, “is like the training wheels when we were learning to ride a bike. They kept us from falling. The saints, the special prayers, holy oil, holy water, Eucharistic Adoration, saying the Rosary, intercessory prayers, confession — the list is too long. But you see what I mean. They keep us upright.”
“I see.” He looked thoughtful. He is a kind and good man, with his own faith in God and commitment to good works in our broken but beautiful world. I didn’t want to put pressure on him, but I did want him to understand how being Catholic sustains me, especially in difficult times.
Would it be going too far to casually mention my husband’s guardian angel? Or I could talk about confession and how it is a mix of the glory of love, intimacy, and sitting in God’s lap and being washed clean inside. And when words fail me, as they often do, maybe I could leave my rosary out in plain sight, in case he wants to try it. Just in case he wants to feel the comforting love of Mary, among all the other wonderful things in my Catholic toolkit.