We have a friend – a lady from our parish we’ve come to care for. She has been married outside of the Church, and after getting a divorce from that civil marriage, she married again. This second marriage was also done in a civil setting. During the last couple years, she has come to a much greater understanding of what marriage is — what it means to be married for ‘all of life’ and ‘open to life’ in a marriage.
Our friend (let’s call her Maggie) shows many of the signs of Catholic faith flowering and coming to life. She attends daily Mass most all the time. Maggie has started the process of annulments (in her case called ‘lack of form’ because she wasn’t properly and canonically married in either marriage). Her current civil marriage is two years in age. And Maggie has found out that her traveling husband has restarted a relationship with his first wife. And there is some evidence that he may be a serial liar.
Maggie is crushed. We have been close parish friends, and I have done some ministry work with Maggie. The husband owns the home they are living in, and Maggie may have to move out soon. She doesn’t have much money nor much of a monthly income. In her 50’s, she will likely be forced into modest paying work if she can find it.
And Maggie’s situation reminds me of another somewhat older wife and mother who was told by her husband of 25 years that he didn’t want to be married any more. She tried to suggest, she begged that they try Marriage Encounter, Retrovaille (for seriously troubled marriages) or counseling. He wouldn’t accept any opportunity for repair or renewal.
I wanted to hug her closely as I wanted to hug Maggie. The Church is pretty strict about physical contact these days. And I would only want to do it in the presence of my own wife if it were to happen. A breaking heart can be brought to healing when caring friends are invited into such situations.
So what do we do? Dee and I pray together each evening. We bring these people and situations into our regular intentions. But as I said to Maggie the other day, God will never overrule someone’s free will. And if a spouse is determined to sin or break the marital bond — prayer may only help the injured party over time.
Flannery O’Connor, the author who died of Lupus said, “Our suffering turns Christian when we leave our suffering and go into the lives of others who suffer.” And that may be worthwhile to share with an injured party when they are in a place that they can accept it. Visit the grandkids if that is age-appropriate to a situation. Or visit someone in a nursing home or a lonely widow. Start writing letters to service men or women. Help at a soup kitchen.
I’m all too aware that this is easy for me to say. But the words of Churchill make sense: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” There is always sunlight following the storms of hurt, anger, disappointment or confusion.
Copyright 2014 Deacon Tom Fox