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I blog about my Catholic faith, my prayer life, good books and good movies.

My Heirloom Marriage

Abigail Benjamin

My husband and I are the only Roman Catholics in our family. My husband got his faith as a deathbed gift of his Grandma Ida. Miss Ida defied her parent's wishes, married a forbidden immigrant at age 17, and then sneaked back into her childhood bedroom. Ida lived for an entire year inside her parents' house in New York City without anyone knowing about her marriage.

Other than a few pictures of Grandma Ida showing off her fur coats in the 1930s and her two marriage dates, one outside and one inside the Catholic Church, I know precious little about the woman who died from cancer when my husband was six.

As she was dying, Grandma Ida made her daughter promise to give her grandson all the sacraments of the Catholic Church. She already had a granddaughter who missed First Communion and Confirmation. Somehow this little grandson would be different. 

When I met my husband he was 27 and more of a "Church of One" kind of guy than a Roman Catholic. He liked his Faith. He attended church about 5 times a year, which classified him as "majorly religious" inside our liberal community of Madison, Wisconsin. Yet he wasn't afraid to disagree with major viewpoints of his Faith. This wasn't just a guy who thought that birth control was great and having children ruined your life. This was a guy who told me that if Jesus refused to come down from heaven to serve humanity then God would have simply given the job to someone else.

At the time I started dating my husband, I was living in the middle of an Inter-Faith Dorm on campus. I calmly had religious discussions over late night cups of tea with Buddhists, Shintos, Muslims, Protestants, and Catholics. My faith discussions with my husband felt totally different. In the end, I changed my religion after I married my husband. Ultimately, he changed his religion after our marriage, also.

Faith is a gift that can be passed down inside a family.  Grandma Ida had given my husband a special packet of heirloom seeds when she died, her Catholic faith. Until Jon's 30s, however, had never planted them. After I became a Catholic, I told my husband "Lets go plant those seeds." Lets plant the actual Roman Catholic faith inside our lives instead of the weird homogenized First World Version everyone else around us is using.

We now have some cool virtues growing inside our lives. We embrace poverty when it feels like everyone else in our social class hopes for more money. We exercise obedience when everyone around us counts themselves as "free thinkers." At a time when we have six young kids at home, we find ourselves making more time for art, exercise, laughter and good food.

My husband is so excited that he planted heirloom sunflowers in our backyard. These sunflowers are smaller and have multiple flower heads on each stalk. The flowers' effect on our family is striking. It's impossible for me to stay in a bad mood while unloading multiple car seats in our minivan with those unusual, striking sunflowers gently nodding in my direction.

I think of my marriage as a precious heirloom seed that got passed down along the generations. I use different recipes and more electronic gadgets than my grandmothers. Yet my love for my children is the same, or even more intense, than the love my grandmothers' had for me. Marriage offered me a place to put down roots and a place to develop trust.  Marriage taught me what unique talents I have to offer the world. Marriage made me more "me."

I have a quiet confidence in the value of tradition. I love my grandmothers. I love the grandmothers' on my husband side who I never got to meet.  I'm grateful to join my voice to the  great chorus of Married Lovers who sing "A New Song" to the Lord today.