The third in my series of excerpts from “Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship” recounts Robert and Sarah Reinhard’s journey towards marriage and the Catholic faith.
Sarah: By the time I was working at the country’s largest John Deere dealership after college, I was cynical and rather atheist. God had proven that He didn’t exist as far as I was concerned. Though I had been raised Christian — mostly Methodist, with some non-denominational charismatic varieties thrown in — I was convinced that reason and logic disproved the supernatural.
Robert: I had been raised Catholic, attended Catholic schools from first grade to graduation, and so I never knew any different. It was an irrevocable part of my life.
Sarah: We had many long conversations over the back parts counter at the dealership, when Robert looked at me and was actually interested in what I had to say (instead of where listening could lead). I found out about his faith life after I had been on a date and bared parts of myself no one else had really cared to hear about; I found out quite by accident. We were on the phone, planning a hiking date for a Sunday, when he said, in his typically no-nonsense way, that he couldn’t get to my place before 10, because he went to 8:30 Mass.
This is the man who couldn’t talk before about 10, getting up to go to church? Just what was so special about Mass that he would want to go? Well, I didn’t care enough then to pursue it beyond a little smile at the fact. But as we continued to date, six months, then a year, I did get curious. What was so special about Mass? How could it be better than time spent with me?
Robert: I had only just started attending Mass again. I had gone two or three years without it and had been far from regular for the ten years prior to that.
Sarah: His mother was very devout and very excited about her faith. Yeah, I thought, she’s just that way. Some people like to sew, she likes to be Catholic. It’s her thing. Big deal.
I had decided to go and see what Mass was all about. The colorful stories about Father Pat enticed me and, I reasoned, they have a book that tells you what to do – they must be pretty organized in the Catholic Church, and I value organization a great deal. That first Mass, and for about the next year, Robert held my hand and sat with me and encouraged me. He didn’t ever say anything about me joining the Church. He didn’t ever express that he did or did not prefer that his future wife be Catholic. He didn’t have to.
I used to justify that, rationally and logically, God was a silly notion that was both irrational and illogical. Come on! I would cry in my mind, this makes no sense and besides, none of these defenders of God’s use rational or logical arguments. In my upbringing, I saw the stalwart Methodists and the charismatic Baptists. I spent a good part of my before-bed prayer time wondering if I should be speaking in tongues, as the Evangelical non-denominationals insisted we should. It didn’t take long for me to wonder why it was so wonderful to be saved…and saved…and saved. I was saved at least three times, telling Jesus that He was welcome in my heart. But what if being five made that not count? My mother recounted a story to me where, when I was three, I had asked Jesus into my heart. But at twelve, knowing that I certainly hadn’t held up my end of the “good Christian” bargain, I asked Him again. Because, you know, you can never be too saved, can you? And if you can be saved more than once, how do you know which one counts for good?
Robert: I, for my part, kept silent. I had my own struggle with the Catholic faith. As well, my older brother and I were the main providers for our family for ten years before I met Sarah.
As Sarah wondered about the value of the Catholic Church, I found myself coming home. I sat with her at Mass and felt the comfort of the routine and the ritual. I woke up early on Sunday mornings because I desired that peace. My life had been a maelstrom as my parents struggled, but the Church remained unwavering, and I found I needed that. In the years directly following my coming home to the Church, my family would weather some major storms, including my parents’ divorce and annulment and the death of a baby.
Sarah: By the time I had decided to step foot in a Catholic church, there was a part of me that recognized that the relationship we were building was worth something as silly (I thought then) as marriage. So many people divorced, so many families torn apart: wasn’t your family comprised of more than just the many step-families you might have accumulated? After I met Robert and the thought of marrying him occurred to me, I was alarmed. Was I not a contemporary thinker, freed of such antiquated ideas as marriage? Hadn’t I experienced divorce twice in my own family, and hadn’t I seen how much havoc it wreaked, how much pain it caused, how much hurt it sowed?
I had been attending Mass for a few months when our priest gave a homily on Mothers Day about Mary, our Mother. He talked about how we all have a mother who is unconditional, who is waiting for us, who understands our trials and tribulations. His words spoke to my soul, and for the first time, my hard heart melted. Unprepared for this, I began crying, and then sobbing. I had to leave the sanctuary. I perched on the steps to the choir loft in the vestibule, and after the recessional at the end Mass, Father asked me if I was okay. I could only nod. What was this Church?
Robert and Sarah Reinhard have been married for seven years and have three children. Their entire courtship story is included in Full Quiver’s upcoming book “Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship” to be published in June.
Copyright 2011 Full Quiver Publishing