Deacon Paul and Helen McBlain write the Marriage Matters column for CatholicPhilly.com. Members of St. Joseph Parish in Collingdale, they have been married 50 years and have seven children and 21 grandchildren.

She says:

Sheena says: I love Tyrone and see him as a good husband and father and I very much would like to have him join our family at church. To date, I go to church with the children, but Tyrone does not participate. Worshiping God is important to me, and I think if Tyrone attended with us, that would be a really positive example for our sons who are 11, 14 and 15 to see their father worship God as we do each week. I fear, at some point, our boys will follow their father’s lead and give up on their faith that I alone have nurtured all these years. I have prayed and prayed for Tyrone to start coming to church with us, but that just has not happened.

He says:

Tyrone says: I am a good man. I work two jobs to pay our bills and to provide for some “extras” for our family. I am faithful to Sheena and I do not beat our boys … in fact I enjoy them immensely and play ball, do chores with them and take them to the movies. This is a lot more than most fathers do. I see no reason to yield to Sheena’s pressuring me to go to Mass. I never grew up with church stuff and I am just fine. Sometimes I see Sheena’s “requests” as nagging. I am tired after a long week of work and like to just relax on Sundays. The boys have a positive role model in me. I respect myself and others … isn’t that the golden rule?

What do they do?

Tyrone, like many people these days, does not feel the need to connect to God through worship on a regular basis. By everyone’s standards, Tyrone is doing a really good job as a husband and father. Sheena fears her sons will not continue to worship, following their father’s example.

Sheena needs to have a conversation with the boys about her disappointment that their father does not join them for church and discuss with them about how important it is that they continue worshiping God. An honest, open talk will possibly relieve Sheena’s fears that the boys are on the verge of giving up their faith.

Sheena also needs to be positive and loving with her husband, who at this time does not appear to be in touch with God. Sheena should continue to pray for Tyrone to “get it” and join them in worship, but meanwhile, Sheena needs to stop the coaxing (perceived by Tyrone as nagging) and just continue to practice her faith and nurture the boys in the exercise of their faith.

If there is a social event at their parish, perhaps Sheena can invite Tyrone to attend, minus any commitment to go further. Without being too obvious, Sheena can make basic spiritual literature available in their house or gently encourage Tyrone to read a book that might prod him to seek more information on spirituality.

Never underestimate the power of God to change people (remember St. Monica and St. Augustine). God works in strange ways, and Tyrone may be influenced by someone or something other than Sheena to increase his involvement with the Lord.

Sheena can initiate an at-home spiritual event, such as prayers before dinner or just giving thanks for something each of them experienced that day. She could have a rosary night or evening prayer that she shares with the boys. It can last only five minutes. She could have a nightly Bible reading — again, brief but a constant reminder that God is with this family.

Sheena has a wonderful husband and she needs to accentuate the good that Tyrone does. He may feel somewhat underappreciated, so Sheena needs to make known her thankfulness for Tyrone’s work and involvement with their sons. She could start giving Tyrone “love meals” — little courtesies like filling his car with gas or writing him a love note in his lunch so he knows how much he is treasured.

Even if Tyrone never comes around to seeing the need to attend weekly Mass, we cannot judge him and his relationship with God. Only God knows Tyrone’s soul. Only God can make that final judgment.

Meanwhile, Sheena and the boys can go on with being thankful for the positive qualities of their husband and father while continuing to petition God for a change of heart for Tyrone. “In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you” (2 Corinthians 6:2).