Into Orthodoxy: On Faith and Family

Originally posted 4/25/2013

By Holly Algood

I became Orthodox because my husband is a good man. Try as I might, I could not remove my husband from my religious calculus (and as a scientist, I tend to see most of life as an equation).

Twelve years ago I was a faithful, happy Catholic. I never missed Sunday mass. I sang hymns in my car. I went to confession more than once a year. I said the rosary while doing lab work. Then I met my future husband, a faithful, happy Orthodox Christian. I knew about that Eastern Rite Church. I thought, “we are not that different”. We saw our meeting as a blessing from God and we treated our relationship as a gift; a gift to help us reach salvation. Nearly 10 years ago, we married in the Orthodox Church with the blessing of the Catholic Church. I signed a document saying if we had children they would be raised Catholic. My Catholic priest attended the wedding and served us by giving a homily at the end of the Sacrament. We figured by the time we had children we would know which Church was best for our family. We wanted unity.
During our engagement and the first year of our marriage we attended services at both churches. At the Orthodox Church I received a lot of one-on-one instruction, but no pressure from anyone (including my husband). I asked questions and took my time to weigh the differences between our two traditions.

Then my daughter was born. Time went too fast. We were supposed to be united in faith before having children, yet here she was! The Orthodox Christians I knew gave me space to keep asking questions.  I kept attending Orthodox liturgies and Catholic masses, but  the Catholic Church of my childhood seemed not to exist in the South. My husband just let me do as I pleased. He respected how hard this was on me. I would cry that the Catholic mass was not traditional or preserved in all churches. I felt abandoned by the church I had grown up in, but I suddenly felt comfort in Orthodoxy.
Then I looked at my husband again.  Why would I question the Orthodox faith? It was part of him and he was good. We had my daughter baptized in the Orthodox faith (my mom was honestly heartbroken). I stopped attending Catholic mass (I was excommunicated after all), and another year later I was chrismated in the Orthodox Church. In reality I was trying to remove my daughter and my mother from the equation also, but my family will always be a factor in my Faith. As they are part of me, they are God’s, and God has placed the children in my care in the care of the Church. My journey to Orthodoxy took 4 years. Today I am still learning about the Orthodox Church and its Traditions. I am still learning what to teach my children. They are a big factor in my life’s equation; they drive me to learn more and strengthen my relationship with God.

Holly Algood is an immunologist and research professor at Vanderbilt University (the opinions expressed above are her own).

4 thoughts on “Into Orthodoxy: On Faith and Family”

  1. When counseling couples that want to have a mixed marriage (one person Orthodox, and the other non-Orthodox Christian), I always make reference to the Irish Ballad "The Orange and the Green", because mixed marriages are usually fine, until children come into the picture, and then it get's much more complicated. :) http://youtu.be/gqN7kCfOOpw

    1. I've dealt with these quite often in my short time as a priest (15-20 weddings per year). We have a large, Middle-Eastern community whose families are divided between Orthodox and Eastern-Rite Catholics. Here, mixed marriages are the rule for the most part, and not the exception. When the families who belong to two different churches are so close-knit, it can be a difficult issue to address in pre-marital counseling.

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