Friday, June 16, 2017

Gospel Word Today: Divorce

The dreaded Annulment process . . . between Jay and me, we have experienced the whole gamut. Mine was a quick turnaround, his lasted 3 years. Why did we persevere through the adversity we experienced? I can sum it up in one picture:

Our Catholic wedding day in Ireland with our entire family!

Yes, our entire family was and is watching. If we don't demonstrate the importance of our Catholic faith to them and the extent we fight for it, who will? Our two oldest daughters are married with children. We want them to do it right the first time with God in the center of their marriages. We also want our two youngest to look for spouses who love God and treat the sacrament of marriage as something holy . . . something cherished. Divorce is not something either of us anticipated when we were young. Now that Jay and I are teaching Life Skills to engaged couples in our diocese, I am quite certain these couples see the importance of a sacramental union with God central in their lives. Being in a marriage with a partner sharing the same Catholic values I cherish now, is a foretaste of heaven (minus the occasional bumps!) on earth. So, if you are already married or about to enter into one, go in with eyes wide open. Pray together, always. Keep communication alive and a united front prominently displayed for all to see. Thrive, don't just survive in your marriage!

Today's Gospel (Matthew 5:27-32) speaks of the importance in avoiding divorce by staying focused on your commitment:

Jesus said to his disciples: "You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you,  everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin,  tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

"It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

In Anne a lay apostle's book Staying in Place, the following quote is long, but so relevant in today's topic of divorce and annulment:

"Given the limited amount of preparation for engaged couples, many embark on what is a considerable task, sacramental marriage, with little or no knowledge of what they are taking on. When it fails, they possibly are still not told what was missing or what they were supposed to be taking on. This supports conditions for a rebound effect wherein, because people do not heal adequately, they can be likely to repeat the cycle. We possibly offer the smallest amount of formation but then hold people to a standard that assumes the highest amount of formation. This is confusing for people. Many couples get married, get divorced and also get annulled, and could not tell you anything about marital chastity or describe a healthy marital prayer life. Who is getting it wrong?

Additionally, some people who leave a marriage are making the right decision, possibly for everyone involved. Others heroically persevere through difficult circumstances for the good of their marriages. The annulment process, at face value, recognizes both of these things as possible. But it must be noted that there is very limited ongoing support or marital formation. It is available to a degree in our Sunday homilies, and many a couple leaves Sunday Mass a little humbler. But if one is married to someone who is not practicing, that weekly support remains out of reach. We often say to people, “You remain in a sacramental union.” Yet they know, in some cases, that they must be separate.

Many report feeling condemned to a netherworld of guilt, shame and failure, often without benefit of Holy Communion if they move into an irregular union.

Clearly, we could say that they have made a choice. The question that has to be asked is, ‘How free people are to make that choice?’ Who is the one most equipped to discern the matter? Is it fair that another person or group presumes to discern this highly personal matter and then also presumes to make a judgment on it? Obviously, it is their job and they are doing their best, no doubt. This writing does not seek to criticize any one group but to stimulate thought for the whole group.

What would God desire for a couple in an irregular union? One or both have emerged from painful circumstances which can at times destroy one’s understanding of one’s own dignity. What would God desire that we offer in His name?

Is it more probable that God would want to take the best care of them and direct their family life as much as they allowed Him to do? In this way, the children would be more likely to experience formation as Catholics. This might be the Church receiving back in love, like the prodigal son, her children who have felt rejected and dead-ended and in many cases have chosen other faith communities. It has to be said. We must accept this or deceive ourselves into thinking we are always getting it right. A death of self-examination in the Church is a death knell for the development of the Bride of Christ and it must be said that the limited thinking that is inflicted on people can be disturbing. Also, sociological realities must be considered."

Lay apostles, contemplate your relationships today . . . spouses, parents, children, siblings, and friends. When looking from the outside at each relationship, does it demonstrate your love for God and each other or does it scream of angst, fear, hatred or pride? Sit in Contemplative Prayer today. I promise it's worth your time.

Thank you, Lord, for Contemplative Prayer and all the graces showered upon my wonderful husband and me! Let us be the light we wish to see in the world!

God bless,

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