Last week’s article on feeling disconnected was well received. Apparently, there are a lot of people feeling that way. In light of that response, I wanted to share with you something I wrote a while back, but never published, in hopes that it will offer more encouragement for those who are struggling.
Have you ever had one of those moments where you wanted to say something so badly, you wanted to jump up and shout it out, but for one reason or another you just couldn’t? I just had that experience at a Sunday mass recently and I really want to share it with you.
One of the priests at our parish took some time during his homily to tell the congregation about a mission trip he had taken to Guatemala. I’ve known many people over the years who have made these trips to serve other people, poorer people, and they always come back full of joy and with a more balanced perspective on their own lives, so I suspected this would be the case with our dear parish priest. As it turns out, I was correct and he told many heartwarming stories about how he and the other missionaries cleaned and cared for the homeless in the town they visited. He ended by detailing the need for all of us to be aware of people who were suffering… to make time for them and be generous in helping them. I wanted so much to stand up and shout, “Wait! Don’t go to South America, just look around you! There are people right here who are suffering through a divorce and no one is doing anything for them! They’re all around us every day, trying to heal, trying to rebuild their lives and I guarantee you they wish someone would show them some compassion!”
And at another mass, a wonderful woman beginning a ministry for children with special needs announced there were several ways we, as a congregation, could help her get this ministry off the ground. Out of six possible ways to help, one of those was to be more kind during mass by not giving them disdainful looks or judging them. She added that some families with special-needs children stopped coming to mass because they felt judged by the parish community. Again, I had to control myself because all I wanted to do was jump up and shout, “Please extend this kindness to those you know who are divorced! They, too, feel judged and embarrassed and many of them have stopped coming to church because of this!” It was all I could do to keep quiet.
The separated and divorced community within our church, most of the time, is ignored or forgotten. There are many, many ways to suffer in this world, but I believe that the men, women and children who suffer through the tragedy of divorce are truly the walking wounded of our society. Their battlefield – the home – is the very place that should be an oasis of familial love and tranquility, and the wars they are forced to fight are cruel and unusual punishment. The parish – the very place they should be able to find solace and consolation – is often a lonely and cold place. How in the world is it that our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering alone without even a kind word from their parish family?
When a spouse dies, crowds gather, flowers are sent, condolences offered, meals prepared. But when a divorce occurs, none of those supportive actions take place. A single parent, devastated by the betrayal and abandonment of his or her spouse does not receive visits from neighbors bringing dinner. A husband or wife trying to make sense out of the sudden and unjust loss of their marriage receives no cheerful bouquets of flowers, no one calling “just to check-in.” The pain they must deal with wreaks havoc on every level of their existence and yet, they are ignored or even worse, expected to just “get over it” and get on with life.
I believe that if you are suffering through the pain of divorce right now, whether you are in the initial throes or years past, your suffering is a blessing that will lead you to heaven – if you allow it to. The strength, courage, and resilience it takes to live your life in the face of so much that is against you is amazing and you those who know you will certainly learn great lessons from your example.
Don’t ever give up hope, don’t ever feel that you are not an important member of the Body of Christ, and certainly, don’t ever doubt the love that Christ has for you, especially in your suffering.