Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn in a direction that was totally unforeseen to those involved. Such was the case for my children and me back in June of 2007. It was a year of surprises, but not the type of surprises that are received with joy and contentment. No this was more of a thunderbolt that leaves a permanent mark on you and your family forever. It is the evil consequences and results surrounding the end of a marriage.
Of course, if I could have repaired and restored our lives to what they had been prior to this dark time, I would have done almost anything within my human ability. After all the role of a mother is to protect her children from the dangers that exist within our world. From a Catholic perspective we are to teach our children how to be Godly, caring, and Christ-like members of society, living virtuous lives. Our hope as Catholic parents is to raise the next generation of saints and to teach our children to live as Christ did. The family is the most basic fundamental part of society and a broken family has a different impact on society.
After our lives were catapulted into uncharted territory nothing was the same anymore. No event in the lives of my children would be comparable to the way things used to be. We would never be able to do things as we had done before. How could they be the same if there was a parent missing from their daily life? There was no longer a father in our home. As a result there would be none of our typical family dinners, or holidays, or vacations with their dad by my side. We would no longer attend Mass as a family. The milestones in the lives of my children were now marked with a permanent change.
At one point there was absolute uncertainty in every area of our lives. Suddenly there was no longer a predictable direction for our family, the plans my husband and I had laid out together for our family had been shifted. There were so many unknowns. Thankfully, however there was one aspect of my life that I did have control over and that was my marital covenant. I had a “safety net” so to speak because of our Catholic teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. Although courts were deciding our fate in so many areas of our lives this was something that I could decide. It was attainable by simply making a decision to continue to live as a married person after my civil marriage ended. It was what the church had defined for us under the sacrament of marriage and this teaching became my safety net.
I was and am so grateful to God for giving my children and me a safe refuge to begin to restore the brokenness within our lives. Living in a married state after a civil divorce and allowing Jesus to work on fixing me from the inside was the beginning of a healing process. I am deeply moved by what God has done for us as a family and how He has made much good come from so much suffering and pain. Thank you, Lord, for loving me as your spouse and for caring for my children as a parent does.
On Sunday May 17th, 2015, while I was praying at the end of the Divine Liturgy, the words “Sacramentally Yours” came to me. It is my belief that these words were divinely inspired and were to be used in connection with a religious order within our Catholic Church -- a third order community founded for those in our faith who have kept their marital covenant after a civil divorce.
As Catholics, our teachings on marriage are so beautiful and lasting. Unfortunately, due to circumstances outside of our control many of us find ourselves in a situation we never imagined possible. Families in the world are under attack and divorce is a destruction that is shaking the foundation and stability of families from the inside. However, having hope in the midst of the darkness and ugliness of divorce for any that remain “sacramentally married” to Christ, the third person in the sacrament, we are given the graces and strength needed to endure the suffering and turmoil surrounding divorce. By embracing the church teaching, we have been given a framework that supports our values and morals. For those of us in these situations, creating an order where we can live a chaste and consecrated religious life would be a blessing in so many ways. The mission of this order would be to pray for the families in crisis and to restore hope and love to the hearts of all of the families who are suffering through the painful results of divorce. The broken praying for the broken and giving each other hope.
Although the scars from divorce can last a lifetime, God in his mercy has restored my children and our family. God became the father of our children and our family became whole again. I believe that the blessing that Christ gave to our family was a result of continuing to live within my marriage vows. I am deeply grateful that under the umbrella of our church I found a serenity and peace that was beyond my human understanding. Through many hours of prayer, I began to understand and learn that Christ could fill the voids that existed in the spiritual dimension of a broken marriage. As I mourned the death of my marriage, I began to feel in a very real way the glory of God. It is my hope that by spreading a renewed awareness of an existing doctrine, we can share the healing and peace that our family found with many others.
My circumstances may not be much different from those of many who find themselves in a situation that was completely unexpected. My husband and I were married for 17 years and had seven children together. We were a Catholic homeschooling family who was heavily involved in our church and community. As you can imagine, his desire to end the marriage and leave our family was not something for which I had prepared. My children and I were faced with immeasurable uncertainty and grief.
Although it was painful for me as a spouse, my own suffering was outweighed by care for my children. How could I make their lives better? What could I do at this moment to decrease their suffering and, most of all, how could I continue to teach that marriage is for life? I wanted to bring peace into my home in the midst of my children's heartache. Thankfully, our Catholic doctrine on Sacramental marriage gave my children and myself a safe refuge and peace. The kids began asking so many questions about marriage and divorce, since my older children had been taught about their sacraments. They knew that marriage in the eyes of God and in our church was for life. I had no idea at the time how blessed and how many graces the kids and I would receive from this choice back then. Since then, I have been able to teach the children more about living out my marital commitment in the absence of a spouse. Christ is still in the center of the sacrament and can still bless us. We know as Catholics that the sacrament of marriage is so sacred that a civil court does not dissolve this union with Christ. This union is still in existence for us to prayerfully embrace.