Children & Remarriage

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There’s been much discussion within the Church on the plight of those divorcing and/or remarrying as Catholics. These conversations and points-of-view seem to be trying to clarify or redefine what the Church has consistently taught. Whatever your stance on this topic, I would like to add an important aspect to this dialogue. I ask that we step back and address a group of people who are intimately tied to the remarriage process, but seem to remain invisible. Who are these forgotten souls? The children. Whether the adult couple is in an ‘irregular’ union or annulled and free to remarry, their children remain a forgotten minority. They are powerless to be heard or to participate in an impending marriage that will profoundly affect their lives. How is it that we are still talking about an adult’s desire for the Eucharist, as long as they are not required to abstain from sex, while countless children are being reassigned parents? These children are tossed about from home to home; step-parent to parent as if they are nothing more than accessories. The Church needs to update its policies to account for the ever increasing number of remarriages with children, by involving the children in the process. Remarriage (in the Church after annulment) with children should be seen as a ‘special’ circumstance that requires extra steps. For the emotional, spiritual, and psychological health of these children, as well as increasing the chance for success of this new union, children must be involved in the process of their parent’s remarriage and the reforming of their family.

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To Annul or Not to Annul?

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A few weeks after my divorce was final, I began searching online for help and direction. I searched the Catholic websites in hopes of finding more than just practical advice. I needed truth and not pages of, “You go girl!” or “Yay, time for a fresh new start! (insert smiley face)!”  My hope was to find Catholic sites that understood my pain and the shame of feeling like a failure along with spiritual guidance to help me process this in the light of Church teaching. Unfortunately, this is not what I found. To be a bit crass, what I found could be summed up this way:

“So, divorce is terrible, but it happens. Christ still loves you (insert prayer) and here’s a link to all the information you will ever need on annulment, especially if you have a new ‘special’ friend.  Annulment will heal you.”

Whoa, what…? Annulment? I just got divorced! I had scarcely begun processing this awful divorce, and in fact, I was still praying desperately for even a glimmer of hope that this was temporary. That soon, he would come to his senses and begin reconciliation. I was ages away from accepting as fact that my children were going to grow up in a single-parent home. Yet instead of encouragement to stay the faithful course, I was barraged with the doctrine of nullity. How about empathy and advice for someone who doesn’t want to immediately presume that fourteen years ago, the most important and beautiful day of her life…was all a lie?

It appears as though, the Catholic media is hell-bent on all divorces ending in annulment. Perhaps they have forgotten that divorce and annulment are not the same. The virtues of fidelity, prudence, temperance and chastity need to be the focus during this confusing and frail time.  So, what do we, as faithful Catholics, really need to know about annulment?

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Anger & All it’s Complexities

Anger Painting

“Hot wrath, hot love. Such anger is the fluid that love bleeds when you cut it.”               C.S Lewis

I have wanted to write a piece on anger for some time, but it has turned out to be far more challenging than I imagined. I’m beginning to realize the reason: anger is ubiquitous. It refuses to stay on topic. There are specific,  personal injustices that have caused my anger, yet still it refuses to stay in those emotional boxes. It insists on jumping in and out of all the other emotional, psychological and spiritual areas of my heart and mind. That is why, I believe, anger is terribly difficult to get handle on and eradicate. The little stinker!

I am still angry, although if you had known me five years ago, you’d think that I’m practically sedate  in comparison. There was a time, when my hurt and anger was nothing short of an open, bleeding wound. Every movement, thought or emotion deepened the pain. I resorted to a Janus-like existence. I chose the right course of action, but always in opposition to my emotions. It was a perpetual fight club between my heart and mind with my will as the prize…and you know what the first rule of fight club is…”You do not talk about fight club.”

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Chastity after Divorce

St Monica

“We must be pure. I do not speak merely of the purity of the senses. We must observe great purity in our will, in our intentions, in all our actions.”
Saint Peter Julian Eymard

 As a young Catholic woman, I was raised with the understanding that sex was reserved for married couples. By college I had a fairly good handle on why the Church forbade sex outside of marriage including the emotional, physical and psychological effects of such intimacy. Fast-forward sixteen years’, I’m divorced and again faced with this challenge, but this time it is not just about physical intimacy but the emotional as well. Before I married, I knew I had to be careful not to cross physical boundaries but now, although I’m living without the benefit of the masculine presence, I am still bound by the sacrament to my husband. I may not receive his love, help or touch, but faithful to him in thought, word and deed I must be. This is heartbreaking, frustrating, humiliating etc…but in truth it is extremely important to remain chaste both physically and emotionally after divorce.

What I’d like to focus on here is the divorced, single-parent. Much of what I’ll say applies to the annulled as well, but one fundamentally important distinction will not. That distinction is that without an annulment: you are still married! Marriage is a sacrament. A sacrament cannot be undone through civil divorce. The Church will always find in favor of the marriage unless it has been decreed null and this includes the period of time after filing for an annulment. Until a formal decree of nullity we must, under pain of sin,  remain faithful to the marriage vows. “But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matt. 5:28

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Divorce & the Family

Jesus & ChildrenOriginally published at CatholicMom.com

I am a single mother of five beautiful children. My oldest is 22 and my youngest is 12.  I have passed the diaper, potty training and dressing stage. I no longer need to brush anyone’s hair or teeth, rock anyone to sleep or wipe noses. The hefty physicality of chasing toddlers has long passed, and has been replaced by the emotional, psychological and spiritual work of guiding, healing and protecting their minds and souls.

A few years ago, my family fell apart as another woman inserted herself into my role. All the articles I had read listed higher statistics of drug use, promiscuity and high school dropouts in single family homes. I began to panic. How on earth was I going to combat the world’s dark influence along with their father’s public scandal and how could I do it alone? Absolutely terrifying…after many good cries, I knew the first truth: I wasn’t alone. I had family and friends, a good Catholic school for my children’s formation and more importantly I had the Holy Family.

The adoption into the Holy Family was the Continue reading

Divorce & Healing

 

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“Time heals all wounds,” or so they say, but what does that look like? Yes, time passes, but in and of itself it does not always heal. Sometimes it cements bitterness and creates a cancer. Healing is not passive. It’s active and it’s a choice. In the beginning I didn’t seek this path because I’m an emotionally healthy person, I sought it for my children. To be the mother they needed, I had to work through the pain and hate that had moved into my heart. Later I sought to forgive my former spouse in an attempt to relinquish the victim role and free myself from the remaining power he had.

After the initial shock wore off from this marital assault, I believed that if I prayed
fervently, stayed close to Christ in the sacraments and allowed time to pass then I would eventually ‘heal.’  But as time wore on I was not seeing the results I expected to see.  Why wasn’t I being restored? It was frustrating. Finally, I experienced three important truths: