If you are Catholic, divorced and in need of help or healing, please consider attending the Journey of Hope Conference this week. There you will find information, inspiration and fellowship.
For more information go to: www.journeyofhopeconference.com.
I will be praying for all of you and for the success of the conference!
Approaching your Ex-Spouse for an Annulment
This is where it gets tricky; you desire an annulment*, but your ex tells you that it's "Catholic divorce," or that your children will be illegitimate! Painful and untrue words.
First, pray! Consider a novena (my favorite is Our Lady Undoer of Knots) to help till the spiritual soil for this conversation.
Examine your own conscience. Do you need to ask for forgiveness from your ex? Explain (charitably) your choices? Own your part in the dissolution of the marriage? Do you need to go to confession before this conversation takes place.
Third, be generous of heart. Although the marriage has ended, both of you should still be pursuing a journey of Faith. Perhaps you still need to parent together?
Divorce tends to be reactive, can you move the relationship to a positive place by being proactive?
Explain what an annulment is NOT!
It does not say that you were never legally married, nor does it make the children illegitimate. It is not a Catholic divorce.
Explain what an annulment is. The annulment process helps you explore the understanding you had of what makes a valid sacramental marriage at the time of your wedding. During the process an investigation of if you had enough information and/or ability to carry out those sacramental promises. It is an opportunity to look at what went wrong, ineffective patterns and it helps you begin to identify areas that need improvement in your relationships. I found it helpful to realize that we were not fully informed about what we needed to do (before marriage) in order to have a healthy, sacramental union. It allowed me to stop blaming myself and my ex and to move forward with new understanding and wisdom. It can be a very healing process.
Give it time. All the changes that go along with a divorce can be overwhelming. Be as gentle as you can in approaching the subject of annulment. Let your ex know that you are not saying that they did not matter or that your marriage wasn't important to you, rather you want both of you to move on in a positive way to a grace-filled future.
*Remember, not all divorced Catholics who apply for an annulment will be granted one. Discuss your specific situation with your priest.
What does Church teach about Divorce?
The short answer is that divorce should not exist according, not just to the Catholic Church, but from the words of Christ on marriage. “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery.”Matt 19:9 (all three synoptic Gospels mention this teaching)
However, the Catholic Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, does not look at divorce just as a legal matter, but as a sacramental one. A valid Catholic marriage must be entered into freely, faithfully, be open to life and with the expectance of permanence! If these elements are not present at the time the marriage takes place, the marriage itself may not be a valid sacramental union. (This is what the tribunal will look at if considering annulment.)
But it is important to note, that there are other choices besides annulment. Living a chaste life, outside of another relationship, is a choice. Even separating (possibly legally divorcing), but continuing to live out your marriage vows (though separate) is another choice.
Where can a divorced person start to find help?
Discuss situation with your priest; effective pastoral care will be nurtured if we are willing to discuss our pain, fears, frustrations and even needs.
Make choices about your specific situation.
Spend time wisely.
Begin annulment process if appropriate.
Let others know of your needs.
Who can receive Communion?
Easy answer: Anyone living in a state of grace, but I think that this question is the wrong question. I think there is a lot of misinformation about the Eucharist in general. Receiving the Eucharist is not a prize, it is a serious commitment to our belief in the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present there. It is a tangible sign of God’s covenant with us. I think the question should be; Do I understand the truth found in the Eucharist and have I discussed my current situation with a priest?
For more information on this topic read The Three Things Divorced Catholics Need to Know! Available at OSV.com, Amazon or ask for it at your local Catholic or neighborhood bookstore!
Ex-Spouse? Really? So what does that make my husband...my current spouse? That implies that I will discard him for a future spouse. My earlier marriage was declared sacramentally invalid and annulled. In a sense, though legal, it was not a marriage in the way the Catholic Church defines marriage.
I have been married to my husband for almost thirty years, in my heart, he is truly my one, true love, my sacramental spouse. In the spirit and understanding of the sacrament of matrimony, I have full intention of being his wife 'Until death do us part."
I would love to see a change in our speech to reflect that significance accurately. Perhaps my ex could be referred to as my non-sacramental spouse and my husband as my sacramental spouse? I know it's just language, but I really wish the language could reflect what is in my heart and supported by church teaching.
It seems so illogical that when Pilate offered to free Jesus or Barabbas, the crowd would choose Barabbas. He was a rebel, a murder and Jesus was, well, what? A threat, a lunatic, a liar, no-The Lord.
How many times do I choose Barabbas over Christ? Every time I chose sin, or personal preference- then I am choosing Barabbas. Each time I am selfish or glamorize things of this world, I choose Barabbas. When I choose to go along with the crowd, rather than to stand up for what is right, I choose Barabbas.
Forgive me, Lord. Help me to choose you today and always.
How could he do that to me? I didn't deserve it! I didn't do anything wrong.
Those things can all be true and even justified, but it is very easy to stay 'stuck' in a victim mentality. When we have been hurt or wronged in some way it is normal to ruminate on the injury: What that person said. What you wished you'd said. How much you hurt. How you were right and they were wrong!
Unfortunately, all that focus on self makes it difficult to remember others. I heard a beautiful testimony recently by Immaculee Ilibagiza, a survivor of the Rawandan genocide. She stated that while in a refugee camp, following the slaughter of her family, she looked around and saw others in need. People who were in worse shape than she was. She chose to go to them and minister to them in any way she could. While it did not eliminate her grief, it gave her a focus that was not on her own sadness. In this way, she lessened her own victimhood and changed her own situation. There is a lesson of hope for all of us in her example; change your focus and your heart will change too.
Twenty-three years ago today, we put our marriage right with God. My husband and I didn't understand all the teachings of the Catholic Church years ago. I had fertility issues and was in a rush to try to conceive a baby in the small window of time that my doctors had given me. I was a daily Mass attendant, but did not truly trust God's timing. My husband and I were married by a Christian minister, outside the Catholic Church, without the benefit of an annulment. However, we grew in faith and understanding, pursued our annulments and had our marriage blessed and convalidated on St. Patrick's day 23 years ago. It wasn't until I was fully living inside God's plan for marriage that I truly recognized God's mercy! Today is my mercy day! If you are in this position, I urge you to seek God's plan in your life. Read more about this in my new book, The Three Things Divorced Catholics Need to Know. God bless.
A Prayer Book for Divorced Catholics that Meets Them Exactly Where They Are
When I went through my divorce I also experienced many emotions. At times they were conflicting and other times compounding my grief. The Catholic Prayer Book for the Separated and Divorced, by Woodene Koenig-Bricker and David Dziena meets the reader where they are with sensitivity, clarity, compassion and Catholic teaching. The unique beauty of this book is that the prayers are categorized by subject. The reader can easily search for an appropriate prayer based on their current need. A combination of inspirational quotes, scripture passages, formal Catholic prayers and conversational prayers are used to guide the reader through ups, downs and help them avoid the possible pitfalls that separation and divorce can lead us to. I would recommend this book to any Catholic struggling with separation or divorce.