I’m always heartened when I catch wind of a new book that addresses the crisis of divorce from a Catholic perspective because there is so much need for accurate information to be dispensed. This is why I enjoyed and can wholeheartedly recommend a new book by Mary Lou Rosien, titled The Three Things Divorced Catholics Need To Know.
Divorce is such a devastating experience just from a purely legal standpoint, and depending upon how long it actually takes for a court to render a civil divorce decree (which can take years in some cases), it can take a long time for someone going through it to feel as if she has her feet firmly planted on the ground again.
When you consider the spiritual questions and implications that accompany this experience if you are Catholic – such as:
- Am I welcome at church or should I stay away?
- Can I receive the sacraments or am I out of luck?
- Will I be alone for the rest of my life, or will I be able to love again?
. . . it’s easy to understand why there is widespread confusion among Catholics who get divorced.
The three important things Mary Lou discusses are:
- understanding what the Church teaches about divorce,
- understanding the challenges of the annulment process,
- and how to find joy in following Christ.
Mary Lou begins with her own story, and even after the nearly 20 years I have been working with divorced Catholics, there is never a time when someone’s account of the loss of their marriage sounds like just another sad story. My heart breaks for her and what she went through, but what I love is that she is sharing her experience to help others, and that element of sincerity is present throughout the book.
The Problem We Face
When Pope Francis announced his administrative changes to the Catholic annulment process, it added to the confusion of many, largely because the mainstream media snatched their sound bytes and ran with them, often completely misrepresenting what was actually happening.
In the wake of the debates that have ensued over the 2015 Synod on the Family, that need must be filled now more than ever. In October of that year, Dr. Gregory Popcak wrote an article in response to the haggling that was taking place over whether or not divorced and civilly remarried Catholics should be allowed to receive communion. The article aptly described one aspect of the problem with this issue:
Did the vast majority of people who are on this path choose it knowingly and consciously? Did the vast majority of people who were struggling with the pain of divorce really one day say, “Screw it. I am going to choose to live an adulterous life in an invalid second marriage. I don’t care if it means that I can’t take communion again!”
I agree that many Catholics find themselves in situations they wouldn’t be in if they had understood the ramifications before they acted. We must get better at educating a poorly catechized community and for this reason, I believe Mary Lou has really hit some important proverbial nails on the head with her book, and she does it in a way that draws the reader in and makes him feel like a friend, not a statistic.
Answers Give Way To Peace
The book includes reflection questions as well as a lot of answers to the questions one would typically have. But, one of the aspects I really loved were the brief prayers she wrote at the end of each chapter. This is where Mary Lou shares her gift of experience with a reader who may be suffering immensely. The prayers convey thoughts, emotions, and prayerful requests that only someone who has been through the terrible experience of divorce could understand and write. Much like a cancer patient talking with a cancer survivor, they speak a common language and share experiences of which only they understand the gravity. Among all the important facts and information Mary Lou brings to this publication, those simple prayers are a powerful addition, in my opinion.
I highly recommend this informative book and encourage anyone who is not divorced to pick up a copy and pass it on to someone they know who is struggling after divorce.
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Copyright 2017 Lisa Duffy
About the author: Lisa Duffy is the author of many books, most recently A Road To Healing: Daily Reflections for Divorced Catholics.