Annulment Merry-Go-Round

 

I have finally accomplished writing my first post to contribute to The Dead Philosopher’s Society, which is a blog for Holy Apostles College based in Cromwell, CT. Please visit the site to read the full post, and feel free to comment:

An annulment does not invalidate a marriage, but merely recognizes the reality that binding marriage vows were absent during the entire span the “spouses” were together. Toward the end of my marriage, I would recall the circumstances surrounding our vows, and I would think, “Wow, I am not actually married because I could get an annulment.” Currently undergoing a drawn out divorce, I haven’t even been able to file for an annulment. The thought that an annulment simply validates the reality that my marriage never took place has always circled my mind. It is what eventually led to my justification to venture into the dating scene without an annulment. I figured I deserved to move on with my life, and I had suffered enough. Besides, I told myself, God knows what’s up—I’m not really married.

Never forget the subtlety of the serpent; he has an ingenious way of appealing to our reason, clothing sin in some fraudulent good . . . [Read More Here]

Yes, I Am Getting Divorced. Yes, I Believe in Traditional Family Values. No, That Doesn’t Make Me a Hypocrite or Less Catholic! (Part 4 of 4)

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 (Dominic and Siena (see the heart?), Photo Credit: God)

Did you miss Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3?

Finally, contemplating the cross, I realized how little my pain was in contrast. As much as I had fooled myself into believing I deserved happiness, when I gazed upon Christ crucified, I couldn’t believe I deserved anything less than what I was going through. I also realized my supposed happiness was fleeting. I had happy moments, sure. But I lacked that lasting joy I had previously experienced in life, which sustained me through even the worst suffering. Could Ben really provide that for me? No, only one Person can give that, and it would be unfair to expect it from anyone or anything other than God.

“The light that filled me was overwhelming, blinding, and disorienting.”

It finally occurred to me to confess adultery, just in case I thought—to cover all my bases. So, when I made my confession, Father knew some serious change had taken place (My advice: find one confessor, get to know each other. Anonymity is not always best; Reconciliation is much more fruitful when your confessor has intimate knowledge of your struggles). He asked, “What are you going to do about this situation that has you in adultery.” Crap! I didn’t think this one out I guess. Do I just cut off all contact with Ben? Do we see each other but put some very strict rules on our interaction? Not knowing the answer, I retreated: “Well, Father, I know that God knows that I’m not really married.” To this he replied, “Sarah, are you Catholic or Protestant? And do you realize that you are not only endangering yourself, but you are endangering this man’s soul as well? You are trying to help him see the Truth in Catholicism when you yourself aren’t abiding in that Truth.” This may be putting words in his mouth because I don’t remember exactly what he said, but this is the message I received nonetheless. I obtained absolution, and everything had changed when I walked out of that confessional. The light that filled me was overwhelming, blinding, and disorienting.

Do You Love Me?

“I broke down crying as I wailed Yes! (not safe while driving, but pretty much the only time I’m ever alone)”

My mind raced quicker than my feet racing to my car. All this time, I had been trying to help Ben see the fullness of the Truth, but in reality I’d been hurting his soul and mine, which I had spent so much time praying for. I spent so many hours digging into Catholicism to offer him a Truth that I wasn’t even willing to live out myself. I told Ben plenty about what the Church teaches, but did I actually show him? Every time I started to see the way forward, it petrified me. No, that can’t be the only way. How could I possibly give up such a good man—the loving person who is the reason I’m even here asking myself this to begin with? Then it came, a gentle voice from the very depths of my heart: “Sarah, do you love me?” I replied yes as if that was a ridiculous question for Him to even ask me. Then again, “Sarah, do you love me?” Of course I love you, Lord! “Sarah, do you love me?” I broke down crying as I wailed yes! (not safe while driving, but pretty much the only time I’m ever alone). At first they were tears of grief, realizing what I would be giving up. Then, they were tears of gratitude, realizing the abundance of grace He must have been showering on me in that moment. Then came tears of joy when I saw what, no Who, I was giving it up for. And, at last peace washed over me, seeing that Jesus leads me to an immeasurable happiness, a place you may only arrive at by walking the way of the cross. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). The cross is not an option for the Christian life, anymore than it was an option for Jesus to redeem us. It is a requirement. The crosses are coming, there’s no doubt about it, whether we have Christ or not. But with Him, we can do all things. His yoke is easy, and His burden light (Mt 11:28-30). How swiftly I had forgotten how heavy the burden of sin is, and how heavy life weighs on your shoulders without His help. Christ bore the bulk of His cross so we need only be Simons of Cyrene.

Love Letters

“Love ceases to be such when it is elevated beyond our love for God, even if it is for a spouse or a child.”

Then came the difficult part. Knowing that the darkest is before the dawn, I set my eyes on the horizon as I tearfully drafted a letter to best explain myself to Ben. I read this letter to him in his car because I wanted to get everything out there before he could interject, so he wouldn’t misunderstand. I spoke of my need to adhere to Church teaching—not because I felt compelled by an authoritarian dictator, but that it was an act of love I owed to Christ. I explained my trust in His Church as His voice on earth. I looked up to see the pain in his eyes, and through tears I choked telling him that I loved him now more than I ever had before because I was seeking the welfare of his soul and mine. Love ceases to be such when it is elevated beyond our love for God, even if it is for a spouse or a child. As I had feared, he didn’t understand, perhaps because his heart was too wrenched with grief to really think much.

Epiphany

We kept our distance from one another for about a month until one day, I received a phone call. It was Ben, and he told me that he didn’t want to hear any “I told you so’s” from me but he was actually seriously considering Catholicism. He knew how much I loved him and that I wouldn’t give up all that we had for nothing. Without all the complications that our previous relationship had entangled us in, we were able to engage in much more fruitful conversations, sifting out the Truth of Catholicism. We spoke often on the phone and via texting; he was doing all the research and I was just there to answer his questions or clear up any perceived incongruities. It didn’t take long before Ben returned to the Sacraments. Once he did, I knew God would care for him, infusing him with the grace he needed to persevere. It wasn’t long before he enrolled in a Catholic Catechetical Certificate program to learn more about the Faith, which he was (and still is) enthused to share with the rest of the world. The experience of seeing someone I love come to the Truth invigorated me with a fervor to teach the Faith as a career, a dream I had dispelled long ago. I couldn’t find any online undergrad schools that were affordable, and I was just about to give up hope when Ben called me telling me about a program he discovered in his researching Masters programs. He introduced me to the Holy Apostles College online undergrad Theology program, where I am now completing my Bachelors double majoring in Humanities and Theology. Ben is now in the process of discerning the priesthood. He is preparing to join a local team of Catholic missionaries, and we remain good friends encouraging each other on our journeys in furthering the Kingdom of God. God reaches out to us, even when we are deep in the mire of sin, and He offers us an escape route to get back on the right track and start afresh. He is at the door knocking, waiting to dine with you in the Banquet Feast of the Eucharist (Just read John 6 for heaven’s sake!). No matter what you may be undergoing right now, God is there just waiting for you to turn to Him, and He doesn’t even care about anything you’ve done once you have repented. He forgives AND forgets. Best spouse ever!

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:53–56).

A Catholic Goes to Court

 

Despite this being my 5th trip to court, it remains a disorienting place to be. You feel the tension and discontent stifling the atmosphere. Not one person wants to be here; even the security guard’s face grimaces in spite of my masking smile as I pass through the metal detector. My heart aches, longing to be home seeing Siena devour the birthday waffles I woke early to make so she wouldn’t be too disappointed when I had to leave. I also wanted to bring her to mass for those special birthday blessings I told her about. Instead I’m having to face the reality of those thoughts I have become an expert at batting away on a daily basis.

Court cases are called before mine, most getting a divorce on the spot after a simple swearing of irretrievable breakdown. Why can’t my divorce be this simple? Some of these people were only married a year, and most likely not in the Catholic Church. It seems so unfair. I have honorable reasons for what I am doing; it took me years to come to this decision! How many of these people simply came to the kitchen table one night and decided together there must be something better out there? Prior to being called before the judge, I pray my rosary and ask Mary to help me. At first, I pray for everything to turn out how I want it to. Then, I realize I ought to be praying rather that the judge reach a just decision. Of course I have specific desires that I believe are best for me and my children, but I also know that I have a very limited perspective. Above all, I want God’s will, even if it doesn’t coincide with mine. That isn’t easy to say either; it took me a long time to get to this point. Uttering those words, “Thy will be done,” are easy enough. They’re in the Our Father we pray so often. But to actually mean them when you say them; that can seem an insurmountable task. I held my fists up and tried fighting for my way for quite some time during this whole process. Each time I landed on my ass exhausted. I finally had to say, “Ok God, clearly you know something I don’t.” I had been locked up in a prison, throwing myself up against the iron bars, which only hurt myself. That hadn’t furthered my cause for release either. In fact, it only proved that I needed to be there. God had to show me who was in control, not in a sadistic way, but in a loving way: like a father who needs to ground his child. Only when he hears the throwing of items and the punching of walls cease will he come into the cell to help us understand the position we are in and how to get out. I had to stop resisting the only Person who could really help me.

I feel trapped right now; I don’t feel comfortable communicating with anyone on his side of the family. I closed all the doors to them out of fear once I saw the terrors of the court room. I felt the need to hide myself and protect myself and my children. I just want this all to be over so I can feel free to communicate with everyone without fear of my conversation somehow being used against me in a court of law. Being under scrutiny in regards to your parenting strikes fear into the very core of your being. No matter how much everyone tells you how good a mom you are, it’s hard to believe when you also know your many flaws. All that comes to mind is losing your temper,  slacking off in disciplining, or selfishly putting kids to bed early to catch the hockey game. We hear all these horror stories of CPS taking kids away from their parents for the most ridiculous reasons, so it’s hard to feel safe when an investigator visits your home. My thoughts swirled with fear: the fence to the backyard isn’t completed; Dominic’s bunk bed is awfully close to the ceiling; the kids play in an unfinished basement sometimes. When you face a system that seems to be devoid of common sense, it’s terrifying, to say the least. My only consolation is trust in God. I have to trust that no matter what happens, He will be there fighting for me, for my kids.

So, I pray that above having the judge side with me, the judge sides with God, which I hope also coincides with my desires. Ultimately, I want what is best for me and my children, and I think I know what that is, but I know I’m human and I could be wrong. I pray that my divorce goes through sooner than later. But, I know that God has their best interests at heart, and mine. So the only thing I can truly pray for is justice, that this judge and the lawyers be concerned with what they are in the business of promoting: JUSTICE.

Most of all, I pray to stay persistent in my Faith. I can see God’s guiding hand through all of the turmoil in my past when I look back. Things make sense now, and the suffering seems worthwhile. So I am hoping that whatever is coming my way, I can remember that God ONLY works for GOOD. Whatever in our short-sightedness we are enduring, there is something greater on the other side of it. Hope is an amazing thing, no, it is everything. Without it, we are doomed to fall into thinking suffering is meaningless, and that is fatal. Without suffering having meaning, life has no meaning. Life is suffering. It’s other things too: Joy, Peace, Love. But it is also undeniable suffering. A Suffering Servant for a Savior now makes a lot more sense, and I pray that those who are suffering without Christ discover him sooner than later. It’s never too late, as long as you’re alive that is.

(Photo Cred: http://cbswashington.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/84611044-1.jpg?w=620&h=349&crop=1)

Yes, I Am Getting Divorced. Yes, I Believe in Traditional Family Values. No, That Doesn’t Make Me a Hypocrite or Less Catholic! (Part 3 of 4)

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Listen to this music while you read, bc it’s just beautiful.

In case you missed it, you can read Part 1 Here or Part 2 Here. Brevity is not my forte. So this is going to be a 4-part series after all, folks. Sorry it took me so long, I promise my next post won’t take quite so long. I just got slammed with schoolwork and midterms.

As my relationship with Ben progressed, the storm that had been raging within began to calm, and I was laughing again. It had been a long time since experiencing a close, loving relationship with someone I felt safe with. Before I got too comfortable, however, I found myself consulting my parish priest about the annulment process one sunny morning. After a brief conversation, Father fished through his desk drawers for the paperwork. My real reason for being there choked in the back of my throat as I searched for the most euphemistic words possible to describe my more-than-friendship with Ben. I finally blurted it out, rationalizing away all the intricacies of our relationship. He paused in his search, and his brows furrowed slightly as the smile faded from his eyes, replaced with a tender disappointment. He attempted to recover his pleasant demeanor as he silently discerned a prudent response. I was hoping to hear, “It’s great that you’re finally happy again because God wants you to be happy!” Instead, he let out a heavy sigh that thickened the atmosphere. He prefaced his message saying he was happy I had a friend whom I was trying to show the truth of Catholicism. I glanced at the door, knowing what was coming next. I had been avoiding the collision of the two opposing worlds that I knew deep down couldn’t possibly coincide peaceably for much longer. The time for choosing was drawing nigh, and Father made that painfully clear. His reproach was direct, but cushioned by paternal care; it both stung and warmed my heart. He explained the importance of considering myself married because an annulment is not guaranteed and demonstrated a true concern for my soul (All without using the *A* word—adultery).

After my conversation with Father, I couldn’t bring myself to receive communion at Mass any longer, just in case I thought. Although, I still wasn’t 100% convinced I would have to sever my relationship with Ben. I couldn’t break his heart and mine unless it was beyond a shadow of a doubt what had to be done. Having a strong background in Theology and Philosophy, I started delving deeper into Catholicism, desperately seeking solid ground to stand on without having to give up my love for Ben. Over the course of months, my heart once again became enflamed with love for God and the Catholic Faith. My passion for Theology that I had buried long ago began to resurface.

I never confessed the sin of adultery because I never thought that’s what I was doing. After all, adultery was despicable, a person cheating on his spouse. My marriage wasn’t even valid; I was just waiting on paperwork for the go-ahead. I would tell myself, “God knows what’s up.” My relationship was uplifting and joyful. He was even bringing me closer to Christ! In what world could that be wrong? Ben and I were kindred spirits, and I know that is utterly cliche but there’s just no other way to describe it. I was taken aback by the level of understanding we reached with one another. He helped me remember myself, believed in my unrealized potential. He helped me out of the box I had imprisoned myself in, stripped away all the labels I had accumulated over the years, and helped me to see who God created me to be. He taught me that flaws and failures aren’t walls that box you in, they’re hurdles to climb over to make you stronger. Ben was truly the most honorable man I had ever met, and He loved Christ more than I ever had. He truly strived to live righteously, and that was more than I could say at that time in my life.

While all this was going on, I had been striving for physical fitness. Having lost 40 lbs, I took a lot of pride in my health and felt very empowered and independent. One day, I visited my doctor after noticing some irregularities, and tests revealed cysts on my ovaries, and they diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. After spending a year becoming a better, stronger me, this was like being hit by a Mack truck. After all I had been through, feeling victimized by life, I finally felt I had taken back charge of my life. Suddenly, I had this terrible realization that my life was not in my control. I had always entertained the idea of more future children to fulfill my lifelong desire for a large family. With my diagnosis, I saw my dreams circling the drain. To add to my dismay, I was told by multiple doctors that birth control was the only solution. Birth control is something that I don’t believe in for both health and moral reasons. These beliefs had been cemented earlier in life. I was blessed to learn priceless lessons about life, love, and family from my Catholic doctor and his wife including the many dangers of birth control, both physical and spiritual (More Info Here and Here). Do I just take the pill? (It may not sound as big a deal to some of my readers, but this was something thoroughly engrained in me morally.) That morally strong Sarah of old who used to know and stand for what she believed in reemerged. I just couldn’t compromise, despite being met with much opposition and condescension from my doctors. I had compromised much of my morals in the past year, so this seemingly small decision did much to resurrect my moral will; my true identity was reasserting itself.

Spring had arrived on Cape Cod, and the misery of a long winter was melting away. The sun poured through the stained glass windows as I knelt in Church before confession one Saturday afternoon. I gazed upon the cross as the Son’s rays penetrated my mind, which had been clouded by the haze of lies I’d been telling myself: I have suffered plenty, and now I deserve to be happy; God knows I’m not really married, He wants Ben and I to be together; I don’t have to do everything the Church tells me to, they’re more like a general guideline; there are people way worse than I am. I realized I was angry with God because I had strived for years to be faithful, and this is what I got in return? I tried so hard, exerted every last effort to make my family pleasing in His sight, and instead it was torn to pieces. My two worlds were colliding, this was it—the dreaded time for choosing. There is only one Truth, and one of these opposing worlds was a lie.

Please visit next week to see what came to be from this Battle of Worlds, so to speak. Thanks for reading. God Bless!

Yes, I Am Getting Divorced. Yes, I Believe in Traditional Family Values. No, That Doesn’t Make Me a Hypocrite or Less Catholic! (2 of 4)

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(If you missed Part 1 last week, read HERE)

Before I get into anything, I want to say I’m not here to give advice on whether or not to get a divorce, only prayer and spiritual direction can truly advise you. An intact family is always the best option for your kids if possible, and so they need to be the NUMBER ONE priority. Try reaching outside for help before coming to a decision (like Retrovaille, which is a great program). My intention is to share my experience with those who have already made the heart-wrenching decision and are now embarking into the great unknown, in the land you never thought you would find yourself. Be prepared that divorce is not simply a “solution” for your problems; it only complicates your life even further. However, what it does do is eliminate that toxic environment you (& your children) are in. It is the best way forward, a lesser of two evils, and the problems that arise down the path of divorce are far lesser than the evils foreseen in the prospect of staying together. I also hope to give outsiders a little insight so they can better support their friends and family who are undergoing the same difficulties.

Here is a little backstory to help you understand my state of mind and how everything has progressed… I am a Cradle Catholic who attended Catholic schools my whole life. I have sinned plenty but never outright left my Faith. At age 20, I became pregnant and dropped out of college and got “married” (in quotations because I believe it was invalid). I was “married” for about 6 years before I was finally able to reconcile my religious beliefs with the need to end the “marriage.” So much ensued in leading to this conclusion, but another set of posts will have to deal with that fiasco. Early in 2013, I had just moved in with my parents upon the final separation (there had been many others in the previous 6 years), and I was clueless as to how a single mom makes friends in a new area.

“Loneliness Begets Loneliness”

Alone with my parents (who are wonderful but can’t themselves fulfill my desire for friendship), I longed for Christian friends who could offer the support I needed. I got a job waitressing, but my coworkers appeared to dwell on another planet, or perhaps I was the alien on their planet? I joined the gym, but everyone there seemed to be all set with their own circle of friends. And like I said in my last post, I’m just no good at the idle chit chat that leads to friend prospects. Also, Cape Cod can be very cliquey when it comes to “townies” born and raised here, and few people make use of the internet for meet-ups like they do in heavily populated regions. I entertained joining a mom’s group, but online there were only a handful of options. As I read through the threads, I just felt I didn’t fit in with these moms. I tried going to daily Mass, but it was nothing but a sea of gray hair. Then the daily Facebook battle began, to be on Facebook or not to be. I just wanted to hide myself away from everyone I knew. Sometimes I felt FB helped soothe my loneliness, and other times I felt scorned by it. One day, I sought to conquer my disability by deleting nearly all my “friends” (sorry to those of you reading this who were axed in the midst of emotional turmoil). My mind was filled with paranoid mania in this dreaded gray area, and it didn’t help that I was dealing with the X2B (clever, no?), who took every occasion to assassinate my character and proclaim that I am destroying our family and our children.

Meg Meeker describes my state of mind pretty well in her chapter on friendship in her life-saver of a book The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity (Find it HERE):

Loneliness gouges a woman’s heart because inherent in loneliness is a subconscious feeling that we deserve to be alone. A mother who feels lonely believes on some level that she is unlikable, even unlovable. She is too inept, stupid, disorganized, or messed up to be with . . . When she feels this way, she retreats from other women and finds herself even lonelier. Stay away from the tennis crowd, because they have money. Don’t go to the book club because you have nothing worthwhile to add. Avoid the playgroup, because those mothers stay at home with their kids and are better mothers. And on and on the voices go in our heads. Loneliness begets loneliness and pretty soon we sink into a deeper belief that life is probably better lived by ourselves in our own muddy mix of frustration, disorganization, or compulsions. With all of the pain Mother Teresa witnessed during her life, she counted loneliness as the worst. She said “The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”

The Cure?

Up late one night watching FoxNews, I saw a commercial for Match.com. As I contemplated joining, I saw the land-mine up ahead but thought I could merrily tiptoe around it without falling and blowing myself to smithereens. My idea of compromise was to join Catholic Match to see if any conservatives existed in these parts (I don’t know why they don’t have the same service for making regular old friends). It wasn’t long before I realized other Catholics on the site were scared off by my profile because I wasn’t even divorced yet. I felt I wasn’t even “my kind of people” anymore. I felt really foolish for even attempting to befriend other Catholics through an online dating site, but loneliness can lead to poor choices. I felt pathetic for being lonesome, as if it were some reflection on my character, so I left Catholic Match. “I am lonely,” seems to be the most unutterable phrase in the English language, at least for me it was.

It soon dawned on me there was a place of acceptance for all sorts of people, a cyberspace where I could seek comfort in the absence of moral absolutes—the secular dating site, Match.com. It’s a slippery slope, folks, so so slippery (not that the site itself is bad, but in my position… no bueno). I began by seeking out female friendships, but that turned out to be an egregious error… you could only view females who sought other females. And let’s just say their desires were far from coinciding with mine. So, running scared, I returned to seeking males. I’ve always had many male friends and few girlfriends, having grown up a tom boy. I thought if I made my intentions clear about platonic friendship being my goal, then there could be no issues. I tried seeking out those who were at least Christian, thinking I could then work my way into a Christian circle of friends. Around this area, most people congregate in bars to drink themselves silly, but that was far from what I was looking for (although Theology on Tap would be nice). If only I could find one authentic Christian, I could open the door to future fulfilling friendships.

Before You Go…

I went on a few coffee “dates” with other men, who called themselves Christian but were at best agnostic and thus didn’t share my same worldview or interests (I refused to call them dates at the time because I was simply looking for a friend, after all). I was losing hope in my online pursuits for Christian platonic friendship, and just as I was canceling my membership, I received a message from, let’s call him Ben. He was a Christian Air Force vet a little older than I was, and in his message I sensed raw honesty and genuine character. I sat on the message for 10 days as I considered giving up my online shenanigans altogether. I finally decided I ought to at least sit down and give him the courtesy of writing a thoughtful response. I pressed send, and when I was redirected to my Inbox, there was a new message waiting from him. It read something like, “I don’t normally do this, but I’m sending a second message despite no reply to the first because there are few truly Christian women around here.” I wondered at the odds of writing each other at the exact same moment 10 days later, and initially I questioned whether perhaps he somehow orchestrated it in order to evoke some kind of awe, stars aligning and such. I did get goosebumps, but I am one quick to dismiss coincidences. My computer took a while to load, and it was such a short message that he could have written and sent it off the moment he saw he had a reply from me. Needless to say, I was extremely cynical about meeting people online.

Once we began interacting, however, my skepticism slowly faded. There was no idle chatter, no wasting of time in getting to the heart of the matter, and an earnest desire to know one another. When we met face-to-face, he saw through it all—my fictitious smile, my cool facade, my searching eyes—and seemingly peered directly into my soul. At the time, I was distanced spiritually and intellectually from Catholicism; I was just going through the motions. Ben was a fallen-away Catholic of a more Baptist persuasion, so we enjoyed challenging each other about our differing beliefs. In order to answer his challenges, I found myself diving deep into the Bible and Catholic Apologetics seeking answers (for once, my having to be right all the time actually served some good :-p). Alas, my Faith was beginning to be reawakened, although simultaneously, as we grew closer a romantic spark was ignited. I slowly came back to life as I began to bridge that unbearable chasm felt between myself and the rest of humanity. All seemed cozy and promising, as it always does at the outset. Please join me next week when I will share what exactly unfolded, demonstrating how God always holds us in the palm of his hand, tenderly guiding us, even when we wander. Please know that it is never too late to turn back, as long as you have a beating heart (especially a broken one) from which to repent.

“The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

(Psalm 51:17)

Yes, I Am Getting Divorced. Yes, I Believe in Traditional Family Values. No, That Doesn’t Make Me a Hypocrite or Less Catholic! (1 of 4)

Being a Catholic in Limbo awaiting divorce and annulment can be treacherous. I’ve walked through the minefield in this emotional wasteland, not unscathed. With hope, I choose to learn from my missteps and persevere, navigating this dangerous territory, Catholic Compass in-hand. I want to share some of my experience with other women and men who may be stumbling through this strange land trying to find their way. It is absolutely a lonely place to be, especially for a devout Catholic. It’s so important to realize we aren’t alone and connect with one another, offering each other support that those outside our situation can’t possibly offer.

There is a strong tendency to isolate in my situation. I often avoid conversations because my life doesn’t fit a neat little timeline and my current situation can’t be summed up in a few pleasant words. Meeting new people is something I dread. The small-talk questions I can’t seem to satisfy with simple, small-talk answers. Somehow I find myself either over-simplifying (which makes me feel like a liar) to avoid awkward over-sharing, or eventually giving in-depth explanations to my brief answers which, as they add up, seem inconsistent and confuse the unsuspecting listener. Their distorted faces often betray their regret for asking me about myself at all. I never will and have no desire to master constructing the facade that is small-talk. However, explaining myself to people is wrought with pain in remembrance of my past. But that is just me, and I may be totally alone in this regard, so moving on…

When I talk to non-Catholics, there’s a complete inability to truly comprehend my current state. Often, there’s an attempt by many to spin it positively by exulting my newfound “freedom” with the obligatory question: “so… are you dating yet?” When interacting with fellow Catholics, I frequently feel the need to be defensive—explaining how I’m not like all those secularists out there who just cop out of marriage due to some lack of personal fulfillment. I felt ashamed that I had failed and had been thrust into this circle, which to outsiders appears to have been simply a personal choice. When the truth is I felt there was no real choice to be had. In reality, it was more of a final acceptance of what our “marriage” really was (or rather wasn’t) and prayerfully looking at the path forward. Accepting the worldly attitude and abandoning Christ, whom I know to be Truth, just to fit in somewhere simply was not an option. Yet, an unintended consequence of my choice  seemed to be that a wall was unwittingly erected between myself and Catholicism. I felt as if I didn’t belong anywhere. At other points in my life when these feelings crept up, the Church was always the place I knew I belonged. But I was not even convinced of that anymore. I could now join the chorus of other outcasts, my only solace being that Christ too bore this burden: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Lk 9:58).

Now, If there’s any advice I could give someone on the outside of this circle: don’t try and understand the why’s or how’s or when’s of the divorce. Most likely, we ourselves aren’t exactly crystal clear on the matter, and unless we come to you, don’t prod. Above all, no one, and I mean NO ONE, knows what went on in that marriage except the spouses, and you must assume that there is a whole lot you don’t understand, and perhaps never will. If we need your opinion on something concerning the divorce, we will ask for it. Clearly, a decision has been reached, painstakingly so, and we don’t need to be talked into or out of anything. We just need to be accepted and prayed for and with. If we are wading into some kind of “grey area,” be supportive and listen before offering words of caution. We need to be reminded of Truth but in a loving, not condemning way. Realize that we may have to make stupid mistakes before we can grow, and love anyway, letting us know all the while that you are there regardless.

For all of those inside this seemingly dreadful circle, I will try and compact my story and share what I’ve learned so that you might have a chance at avoiding the same painful land-mines that I didn’t have the wherewithal to avoid. Join me next week as I reveal a portion of my tumultuous journey, and how it has brought me to rest in the bosom of the Church, who never turns Her back on Her beloved children.