My conversion to Catholicism stunned my husband, Donnie. For days after returning from Jordan and learning my conversion story, he could not speak. Truly. He would mutely look at me and shake his head. I had been such an outspoken atheist that, as he said, he "could not get his head around it." He had always been agnostic, not truly atheist, but certainly very skeptical. My atheism kept his agnosticism on the negative side of belief, and then, wham!, during the six months that he remained in Jordan after I returned to the USA from our sojourn and work experience there, a heirophany so converted me that I was deeply into RCIA sessions by the time Donnie returned.
For the past four years, I have prayed that Donnie would become untainted from my previous atheism, that he would somehow understand what I now understand, that God would conk him on the head in the way in which he conked me. And, yes, please, Lord, right now is when I want the conking to take place!
However, God has His own ways and His own timing. Rarely do they match my impulsiveness, but never do they miss the mark.
Three years ago, as I was walking around the mission grounds here in San Ignatio and talking to God about this dilemma called Donnie, I begged for help. Surprisingly, God threw the burden back on me. (Well, maybe not so surprisingly; this seems to be one way in which God has chosen to work in my life.) "Pray with him," that quiet but overwhelming voice told me.
And, as usual, I argued back. (This is a part of my personality that seems unconquerable. I am told to do what I think is impossible; I argue back; I get no reprieve; I do what I was told to do. Then the same four steps are repeated the next time around. Sheesh! You would think that since I know I am going to end up doing it, I would skip the arguing. Intellectually, I know to do this, but when the time comes, the emotion, not the intellect, rules.)
So, this time, too, I argued. "How can I pray with Donnie?" I contended. "He does not believe in you."
"He will," came the response. A promise? I took it as such.
One year passed, and the promise had not been realized. Strangely, that did not bother me because I know that God keeps His promises in His own time. During that year, I used every opportunity possible to pray with Donnie. Mainly, it was simple graces because those were obvious times. I even occasionally got Donnie to say a word or two (which he did, "just in case" -- progress, right?)
A second year passed, and the promise had not been realized. Still, I was confident it would be. We continued to say grace at appropriate times. I could not get Donnie into church, but Padre Julio, a priest from Colombia assigned to our parish who spoke only Spanish, was now coming to my house three times a week for English lessons. (I had volunteered to teach him because I knew that no college would develop his language skills as quickly as he needed or use the textbook he needed: the Bible.) He prayed with us at the hospital before Noelle's surgery, and he always bless Donnie before leaving, so three times a week, my prayer efforts were supplemented by Padre's. Thus, the "praying with Donnie" expanded in scope.
A third year came. As we passed through it, my rotator cuff injury was miraculously healed during Mass -- Doah was with me and felt the same Presence that I had felt, the Presence that had briefly touched my arm, immediately after which the full range of motion returned (documented by MRI four days later). That had a significant impact on Donnie. My prayer group also began to meet once a month at my house to watch inspirational movies. Donnie would watch the movie with us, then retire to his office during our prayers. The third year ends in June. In June 2007, God promised me that Donnie would believe. For eleven months of this third year, I have continued the small prayers with Donnie, confident that God would keep His promise in His own way and in His own time.
This past Monday night, our prayer group met once again for our monthly movie at my house. We watched Padre Pro, a moving documentary about the life of the Cristeros in Mexico. (The movie is in Spanish, but subtitles are available for those who cannot understand the original language.) Once again, Donnie watched the movie with us. When the movie was over, we turned to prayer. Donnie did not retire, as usual, to his office. Instead, he asked to join us! Everyone implicitly understood what had just happened -- I could feel the awe in them. Wonderfully, they truly understood and reacted in the best way possible. Without making any fuss (which would have disconcerted Donnie, who is a serious introvert), the people on either side of him just took his hands and drew him into our prayer circle.
While I never doubted that God would keep His promise to me, the day and the way of its fulfillment was awesome in its simplicity!