Updated: Oct 13, 2021
A Miserable Marriage
St. Nonna entered into marriage with Gregory of Arianzus, a wealthy, pagan landowner who caused her great strife and misery. She turned to God sorrowfully with many tears praying fervently because she felt their union made her only half united to God. She used fasting to deepen her commitment to this request asking for salvation for her husband. Through her prayers, he had a vision while sleeping that ultimately led him to a complete conversion to Christianity. His spiritual transformation was so extraordinary that he attended the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea, where he told of his conversion story to Christ, was baptized, ordained presbyter, and became Bishop of Nazianzos dedicating himself thoroughly to the Church.
In a perfect world, your spouse would share your Catholic faith because being united in faith strengthens the foundation of your marriage. However, because we do not live in a perfect world, praying for the conversion of a non-Catholic husband or wife as did St. Nonna is an act of spiritual charity and faith.
Four supportive ingredients for the husband or wife who desires this conversion are patience, prayer, fasting, and setting a good example.
The Virtue We All Need
Your patience is a valuable tool of evangelization where your spouse is given the time to discern if conversion is what God is calling them to do. Exercising patience can be difficult or daunting unless you keep in mind that this is a journey and not a race. We can learn from St. Thomas who says, “Patience is a virtue attached to the virtue of fortitude, which hinders a man from departing from right reason illuminated by faith by yielding to difficulties and to sadness.”
Holy Journeys Begin With Prayer
Prayer is one of the most heartfelt acts of love that is a gift to God, our spouse and ourselves. Daily praying for your spouse is an honor and a blessing of great importance since it regards their eternal salvation. St. Therese of Lisieux considered prayer as looking to heaven in “recognition and love, embracing both trial and joy.” Faithfully entrust your spouse to the Lord. As much as you desire for the conversion of your beloved, it is important to keep in mind that this is a movement of the Holy Spirit and it is not an act that can be willfully imposed.
God waits for our prayers, hears our prayers, and acts on our prayers.
Fasting Changes Hearts
Fasting is a spiritual weapon that augments your prayer life by encouraging you to overcome and subdue your passions. St. Francis de Sales offers some words of wisdom on the subject, “If you are able to fast, you will do well to observe some days beyond what are ordered by the Church… although we may be able to do but little, the enemy nevertheless stands more in awe of those whom he knows can fast.” Begin with obeying Church law by abiding by the Eucharistic fast of not eating or drinking one hour before communion; and during Lent by fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday while abstaining from meat on Fridays. You can then expand by fasting in additional ways such as: skipping one meal a week, denying yourself your favorite snack or dessert on a given day, abstaining from sodas or alcohol, controlling your tongue, replacing time spent on social media with faith-based reading, putting technology aside for one hour a day, and of course rejecting sin. Matt Fradd says, “You could say that prayer without fasting is like boxing with one hand tied behind your back, and that fasting without prayer is, well, dieting.”
Fasting for your beloved is a
gift of selfless love.
Spousal Stewardship In Action
Additionally, as a Baptized Catholic you are obliged to set a good example if you wish to have your spouse follow you into the Church. In On Christian Doctrine, Saint Augustine remarked, “these men do good to many by preaching what they themselves do not perform; but they would do good to very many more if they lived as they preach.” Be the kind of person that others want to emulate because of your joy and unwavering faith. We can learn from Saint Paul’s words to Timothy; “but be an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in faith, in purity” (1 TIM. 4:12) - anything less will likely sabotage your efforts.
Don’t forget to show your spouse
your love, even when you
don’t feel like it.
Finally, do not be swayed by despair or hopelessness; instead endure to the end. St. Catherine of Siena sums it up well when she says, “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” Your prayers will not be in vain no matter what the outcome. As Father Mike Schmitz says, “Seek a relationship when you pray, not answers. You won’t always find answers, but you will always find Jesus.”
Saint Nonna, pray for us!