The Greatest Commandment – A Challenge to the Divorced & Separated

angry-woman

Love God. Love your neighbor. No exceptions.

Sunday’s Gospel  is pretty clear. That’s what I like about Jesus (Well, it’s one of the things I like about Him anyway! ;) ) With Jesus, when He wants to get His point across quickly there’s no beating around the bush, no wiggle room to change things later, and no way to make His words fit my life.

I must make my Life fit His Words.

The Pharisees were very different in their use of language and, hoping to use skilled wording to counter Jesus’ Good name and growing popularity, they asked which of the Commandments is greatest.

Jesus, in His Wisdom, didn’t choose one, but took two unstated Commandments and used them to embrace the rest.

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Matt 22: 34-40

Love God. Love your neighbor.

Simple, yet SO difficult.

I Love my children, even when they exhaust me, aggravate me, disappoint me, embarrass me, and anger me.

I will always Love them.

I Love my Mother. Although we are very different people and she drives me crazy sometimes (sorry Mom! ;) ) there is so much Good in her that I know the other stuff is just surface stuff.

I Love my friends though sometimes  cringe over things they do, I LOVE them and can never express my full gratitude for how they’ve been there for me, even at times when I didn’t deserve them.

But there are people who are more challenging to Love.

If you have suffered at the hands of another, you know what that means. Those treated wrongly at work by a supervisor or unjustly accused of wrongdoing by a colleague, those bullied in school or in activities, those left out, unnoticed, and seemingly unwanted, those suffering in the home where they should feel safest through abandonment, divorce, neglect, or abuse, those people and more know how hard it is to Love someone who is wrong, who has let Satan take over his heart and mind, someone who, unbeknownst to him, is losing the battle for his soul as well.

But that is what we are called to do.

Love All God’s children.

While going through my divorce, I read Sunday’s Gospel over and over many times, “But God…do you know what he did today??? Surely God, you’re on my side in this right! Did you see that text message he sent? Did you see them together? Do you know what he did to my children? You don’t want those children being treated this way do you God???”

When I was feeling brave or reckless or when I just figured God knew my every thought anyway so what difference did it make to put my thoughts into words, I’d voice these kinds of questions. It was a lame effort to justify acting in an unloving manner, to explain away the text message I just sent, to let God know x deserved what he got – and more.

And each time, later, in a quiet moment, I’d hear God whisper…

Did that make you happy?

Part of my body would clench and I would sometimes laugh. When I had a good comeback or a great punchline, I was proud of those moments (Sometimes I still am. I am not particularly good at comebacks so I tend to get a little thrill when I have a good one! :) ).

But the truth is, even that pride, that little thrill, and that little bit of “happiness” for lack of a better word for it, that I got after a great response did not compare to the Joy I got when I turned the other cheek. It didn’t compare to the Strength I found in myself while my x used his derogatory comments to show weakness yet again.

True Joy comes from the Strength of the Holy Spirit showing us how to act in a Loving manner sometimes simply by not acting in a nonLoving manner.

One of the things I like most about the passage from Sunday’s Gospel is that Jesus never tells us to LIKE our neighbor. He tells us to Love our neighbor.

For better or for worse,

for richer or for poorer,

in sickness and in health,

till death do us part.

Our vows do not tell us to Like one another.

Nor do they tell us to Love till divorce do us part.

When one spouse makes a bad decision, he leaves a mark on his soul.

Do not allow that mark to spread to your soul, to your children’s soul, and do not be responsible for that black mark spreading like spilled ink across the page of your x’s soul, across the page on which the rest of his story is yet to be discovered.

Treating the other person with Love, a person you don’t like, whether you are in a struggling marriage or a dead one, whether it is a overbearing supervisor at work or an obnoxious customer at the local deli, has less to do with their worthiness of your Love than it does with your ability to Give Love and the Lord’s ability to let that Love Grow.

Love the Lord your God.

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself.

The whole law and the prophets

depend on these two commandments.

And so does your Peace and True Joy.

When Jesus calls you to Love your neighbor, not the neighbor who is easy to Love, but the one who is impossible to like, what excuses do you give? What do you say to yourself and to others that makes unloving actions acceptable and even praiseworthy?  

What will you tell Jesus when He asks why you should receive His Love, but x should not receive your Love? What will you say when He asks why you were too good to Love x when Jesus does not feel He is not too good to Love him?

Be just a bit more like Jesus today. How can you act in a Loving manner toward someone you don’t like today?

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God Bless…

Confession After Annulment

Stained Glass church window with Light streaming through

Freedom is offered through the Blood of our Savior.

It wasn’t until writing the “final” post on the annulment – My Chains ARE Gone – that I realized how free I was. Not in the sense of free to date as much as that I was free to reinvent myself, free be anything, free to start again.

The old me could be replaced with a better, updated version and, with that new me, even bad habits could be erased.

A future spouse would never have to know my pet peeves, like how aggravated I get when I put a “left” sock on my right foot and vice versa (Sometimes it’s the little things that get you!)

Or that I always smell my food before I eat it (As a mom of 5 boys, smell is one of my more acute senses!)

Or that I always eat my pizza crust first (a story for another time).

Or that…

But all of those Or thats were beside the point.

Bad habits could be erased, but, as I was enjoying my newfound freedom, I realized with even greater conviction that bad habits were not what most needed to be erased.

I knew as I wrote that post that there was only one thing holding me back from a truly new start, that my chains were not exactly gone. They had been loosened. I’d been put on a longer leash, but I was still chained.

Chained by the sins I had made leading up to my marriage.

Chained by the sins I had committed during my marriage.

Chained by the sins I had committed after the man I’d lived with had left.

To Be Truly Free, I Needed Confession.

I sat in the church waiting for my turn. I don’t enjoy Confession the way some Good Catholics do. I am not a big fan of exposing the evil, meanness, selfishness, or even just plain stupidness inside of me. I find Confession just a bit humiliating and a whole lot nerve wracking, and so I was glad to see there were other people ahead of me but also concerned that I might be too late, Mass might start, and I’d miss the opportunity.

I sat on the hard pew, knowing my pride was keeping me from sporting a Good Catholic attitude (something else I’d have to Confess – again!) and wondering, if Mass started before I got my turn, how long it would be before I got up the nerve to come back.

But I shouldn’t have worried.

God is Good, and my turn did come.

I went in to the Confessional and asked for forgiveness. The priest is a kindly man who spoke at length about starting over and being strong, taking a stand and not faltering, and about forgiveness, forgiving all those involved in the failure of the relationship I had with “the man whose bed (I) shared.”

I listened carefully hoping this Good Priest would give insight on what to call the man I’d lived with, but referring to him as the man whose bed I shared probably wouldn’t go over well in most of my social circles. I continue to pray for God to give me a better name for him.

And, then I was offered absolution

For my penance, I was told to read Psalm 51, and then I was given 10 Our Fathers and 10 Hail Marys. Ten! I don’t think I’d ever been given more than 5.

Ten Our Fathers.

Ten Hail Marys.

In exchange for a lifetime of sin, a lifetime of turning my back time and time again, not just on the man I’d thought of as my Husband, but on the one who Saves,

Ten Our Fathers and ten Hail Mary’s – in exchange for a future washed clean in the Blood of Christ.

It wasn’t 10 Our Fathers and 10 Hail Marys.

It was a few short prayers and the Blood of a Man who died 2000 years ago – for me.

Suddenly, those few Our Fathers and Hail Mary’s didn’t seem like so much. I should have been given many more prayers, many more acts of service. I didn’t deserve to exchange the few minutes of prayer for the Freedom and Release my Lord was offering me.

And yet, that is the amazing Mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are Forgiven. We are set free from our sin, free from our past.

My chains truly were broken.

I left the church knowing I had been forgiven.

And now I was ready to begin life anew.

My chains were not broken by the annulment. The annulment provided the key to help turn the lock. The annulment prevented me from being bound by future chains if I were to meet someone and want to experience Love again one day.

But I realized now that the annulment did not break my chains.

Jesus Christ and His infinite Love and Mercy and Forgiveness truly did save a wretched soul like me through His death and His gift of Confession.

I’d long ago learned forgiving doesn’t mean liking the person or wanting to spend time with him and it certainly doesn’t mean having to approve the things another does, but it does mean not dwelling on the wrong doing and realizing the person is Loved even in his sinfulness.

I have forgiven the man I lived with for many things; I must keep working on forgiving him for more.

But now, hearing God had forgiven me, I could forgive myself too.

I had not been perfect in my marriage and good enough is almost never really good enough, but I didn’t have to be good enough. I didn’t have to be better. I was Loved where I was.

I am Loved now. We all are.

I was forgiven, born again, ready to start Life anew.

And I needed to thank one man,

a man on a Cross 2000 years ago,

a man who still lives today.

And now, I can truly say with understanding and Gratitude,

My chains are gone! I’ve been set free

Thank you my God and Savior, for ransoming Me!

Divorce is a terrible thing, a tragedy affecting our country and our world. It tears apart children and women and men and our society, schools, government, and churches, and as much as some want to believe that divorce is no big deal today or that there is justice in our courts, they are wrong.

There is no freedom in child support or visitation rights or orders of protection. Freedom only comes from God. If you have been abandoned, abused, divorced, do not give up Hope. You are Loved. Offer up your pain and hurt and the little pride you rely on to confess the sins you have committed to contribute to where you are whether it was seeking the wrong spouse before marriage or something that happened during or after the marriage.

Seek the annulment, go to confession. Start anew each day. Freedom is possible.

God Bless…

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Strength for the Divorced & Hurting Psalm 23

Big Horn Sheep

Let Jesus be Your Shepherd.

I often post about the Sunday’s Gospel Bible reading on Monday morning, but this week’s readings were so intent and struck me so hard, each offering something for so many families of divorce and in crisis, that I wanted to devote a day to each.

This is Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm. It has long been one of my favorites, and I hope you find it comforting and strengthening as have I.

Responsorial Psalm PS 23:1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6

R/ (6cd) I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

Right away, this Psalm takes away our arguments. The marriage, the family, the car, the health insurance, the dreams of the house with the white picket fence…all of it are gone, and yet, the Lord tells us not to want. This verse reminds me of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. When the Good Son asked his father why he hadn’t received the good the sinful brother had, the father replied, “all that I have is already yours.”

All that God has he gives to us: plans for your welfare, not your woe! plans to give you a future full of Hope (Jer 29:11), forgiveness for which we are not worthy, the Love we seek from human sources now comes undyingly from the Divine; through Him we receive Peace and Freedom and Strength.

What more could we ask for that God does not give us when we turn to Him?

R/ I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.

God is our guide. He will not force us down the right path. We must choose to follow Him, to walk beside Him when things are going well. We must never run ahead, wordlessly but meaningfully criticizing the Father’s pace or His timing because we wish things moved faster, because we are anxious to move beyond this uphill stretch of road, because we want to see the view on the other side.

We must, with humility, let Him pick us up and carry us when we fall, when feel we are too tired to move any farther, and when distractions cause us to want to stop and wander off the trail others have blazened for us or when He asks us to forge ahead into the wilderness away from the path our friends and family would prefer we travel, the way “normal” people are headed.

We must remember that whatever we meet, God is at our sides, and with Him all things are possible, that with Him, even the greatest agonies of this life are temporary. We must remember that the dark valleys of this life are nothing compared to the dark valleys of the next if we fail in our following of His ways, if we fail to ask for His mercy, if we accept only the doctrine that makes us feel good. We must remember that even in today’s deepest darkness, the Holy Spirit is ever present, providing our Light.

R/ I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Our enemies keep watch on us. Although they would like to pretend indifference, they are ever watchful, waiting not only for us to slip and fall, but, at times, hoping for our complete and utter destruction. When we walk in peace with God, in the Light of the Holy Spirit, those watchful eyes see the battles we face, conflicts, worries, troubles and a small part of them must admit that those battles would destroy them, while we handle them with Grace and Dignity. Even to our enemies, it appears that we are Blessed, not so much with our actions or with the ease of our lifestyle, but with those around us, those helping to share the burden. Our enemies might say we are manipulative or lucky or be critical of those standing nearby calling them gullible for being misled by who we “really” are, but even in those moments God helps them see the success we are learning to handle. Even in those moments, God may be using our challenges to help unblind our enemies to what is accomplishable with His power. Even in those momennts, God is hoping to turn their hearts as well.

R/ I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.

Only gododness and kindness follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.

That bares repeating. Is there anything more peaceful, more restful to a Mother than to have goodness and kindness in her household for years to come? To picture her house as the house of the Lord, to know her children will grow up in God’s Grace and that the chaos of this world is easily overcome by God’s Goodness and Grace?

What more could we ask for?

R/ I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

Ask God to give you strength, Post the Psalm somewhere where everyone can see if, from the small child struggling with nightmares to the teenager struggling with peer pressure and self esteem and sexual  and material distractions, to the spouse who struggles with abandonment, neglect, worthlessness, and all the pressures of being the sole provider. The Father is Shepherd of All. Invite Him to Live in your house, so you may Live in His.

The Lord is your shepherd. Let Him guide you.

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God Bless…

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Dating After Divorce Lessons from Isaiah 25

Dating After Divorce

Is it the frog’s fault if you look for him to be your savior?

Sunday’s first reading from the Book of Isaiah, spoke of God saving His people from death, of wiping the tears from every face, and yesterday, I showed how death compared to divorce, but the passage is so rich in meaning for those searching for more in this life. Simply to not die, is no way to truly Live! As human beings, we were made to seek out companionship, comfort and Love in one another

But too many of us take this seeking too far. Too many of us search, not for someone to walk by our side through the trials of this life, but to save us from the trials of this life. When they fail to do so, as they must since they are human too, we become disillusioned, disappointed, and disavowed, but this is often less their fault than ours. We sought expected things in them no mere person can give or be.

Isaiah 25 tells us:

Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!

This is a reminder to question who we look to for salvation. When the marriage ends and bills pile up and children are forced to adjust, when life seems to crash down around you and there seems no relief in sight, there is a great temptation to find someone (anyone!) to replace the abandoned spouse, to fill the hole, to take up the side of the bed left empty months after the spouse departed, but it is especially vital in those times to look to God for Salvation, not another human being.

This verse is a message for all to beware of jumping too quickly into the arms of another. The divorce rate among second marriages is high. If you are fortunate enough to find Love again, be sure you and your mate are centered on the Lord first, that you are stable and established and not dating out of loneliness or fear or pure sexual desire. Make no compromises when it comes to finding a man of faith. Hold yourself and your future spouse to a higher standard. Ask yourself and him tough questions and look for evidence to support your answers.

Is this truly someone you see being with for an eternity? Will he help you attain your ultimate goal, not of finding a good job or getting a clean house or helping your kids get into the right colleges or any other worldly aspirations, but will he help you and your children get into Heaven? Will he support you when you tumble? Will he push you when you backslide? Will he hold your hand and sprint with you when you’re motivated to do more, to be more? Will he accept your hand up when he falls? Will you kindly offer your hand when he falls because he, like you, will fall? Will he be the leader, showing you and your children the best path to follow? Will you always find something to Love in this man? Is he capable of always finding something in you to Love? Is this truly someone your God, with His high standards, will accept at his table?

The message from Isaiah 25 is that it is God who has the power to rescue you from death and divorce when you depend on Him and His timing. If you are considering getting involved with someone again, this time, be sure that if something goes wrong, you already know your own true value, that your foundation is built on God, not on man. For it is only God who truly saves.

If God has plans for you to be married again, He is already working on your future spouse too. Pray for that spouse, for his health, for his body, his mind, his emotional and spiritual strength, for his overall well being. Pray for his family, for his success, for his Goodness. Pray for his eternity. Do not wait until he is in your life and you “get something out of it.” Believe and Pray even today! 

God Bless…

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Death vs. Divorce – Lessons from Isaiah 25

Cross - grave stone with light beaming through!

The Lord heals wounds caused by death & by divorce.

On a “normal” Monday (I’m a single Mom of five boys. Nothing in our lives is “normal!” ;) ) I’d talk about Sunday’s Gospel reading and how it applies to hurting families. Today, I couldn’t look at just the Gospel. Today, every reading struck me as so applicable to what so many of us are facing, so this week, I’m taking separate looks at the first reading, the responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel.

Today, we start with first message I got from reading: Isaiah 25: 6-10.

Is Divorce Worse Than Death?

The 1st Reading – Isaiah 25:6-10

Continue Reading

Christ as The Cornerstone

Colored Stones

No stone can quite match the beauty, strength, or purpose of The Cornerstone.

The Cornerstone.

In Sunday’s Gospel, the Parable of the Tenants, Christ speaks of the Cornerstone as being rejected by the builders. Leading up to his recitation of earlier Scriptures, He tells the Parable of the Tenants.

First, we see the landowner send his servants out to collect from the tenants; we see the tenants cruelly murder the servants. Then we see the landowner send his son to do the task the servants were incapable of performing. The landowner thinks surely the tenants would respect his beloved son. After all, the servants were loyal and trusted and Good, but the man’s son held his heart in a dear way.

But the son too was murdered.Continue Reading

Annulment Approval Reaction – My Chains ARE Gone

Chains of divorce vs. Freedom of Annulment

My chains ARE GONE! Freedom in the Annulment

It had been less than 24 hours since I’d opened the envelope containing the two, thin, nondescript sheets of paper announcing the approval of our annulment.

Not much had changed in the 24 hours. I had done the usual x number of loads of laundry, hours and hours of classwork for my new teaching position. I had even managed to straighten up the house a bit, although cleaning the house was something I’d pretty much given up on for the immediate future.

I hadn’t seen any change since finding out I had never been married.

And Sunday morning I got ready for church just like I always had.Continue Reading

Annulment Approval Reaction – The End? Part IV

The Annulment Tribunal Seal

The annulment seal made it official – thank God!

Three short paragraphs of an introductory letter and the paper stating the actual annulment decree.

That’s all it took to announce the official end of a 14 year “marriage” or was it a 17 year “relationship?” Had we just dated for 17 years? I would stumble over, not just what to call the man who had shared such a significant part of my life, but over knowing what to call the time we had spent together.

What had we experienced all that time? An affair? Again, creepy. We were married for 14 years, but weren’t really married at all, so do I say we were together for 17 years or 14 now? It was so unclear. It still is, and no one in the church seems to know what to call us or that period either. It’s like it all existed in a sort of limbo.

There was a surprising lack of emotion as I held the papers in my hand. I turned them over looking for more. After all the long trips into a city I don’t know,  to the intimidating facilities housing our Archdiocesan headquarters, the tall ceilings, the glass windows, the formal check in desk, after so much surrounding the annulment process, the letter announcing such a big decision seemed so nondescript.

I turned the papers over looking for more. I don’t know what I’d expected, but it wasn’t this. I’d been prepared to be saddened by the loss, and there was a touch of sadness, but the sadness was shallow. I’d thought I might be overly happy. I’d finally be done. Done with the process. Done with my (insert unknown word for the man you had had a relationship with for 17 years here). Just done.

But the truth is, we weren’t done.

I still had to deal with He Who Has Yet To Be Named. I still had five boys to care for and Love and support, five boys to cook and clean for and to lead toward God. I still had college applications and kindergarten open house and a new teaching job.

The annulment didn’t mean I was done at all. It just meant that a part of my life was over. I could now move on. There are those who say, as difficult as the annulment process is, there is peace and closure when it is received.

I didn’t know. I think I’d felt some of that peace and closure even before. I think over the past five years, I’d drawn close enough to God that, whether the annulment was approved or not, I had some peace knowing He had plans for me.

Two thin little papers in my hands.

I guess I’d hoped for a gold framed letter, for trumpets and angels accompanying the decree. I’d thought the Heavens would send a messenger robed in white and glowing brilliantly bearing tidings,

“Hail you who we call by her maiden name, you who went through the trial, you were burned by the fire, you whom Satan took ahold of, you whom God would not let go of. Hail you who prevailed.

Thank your God for holding you in His hands! Thank your God for protecting you and now making you free. For you have been given a freedom that does not free from temptation or sin or from falling and hurting again, but free to know that God is with you when you are with Him.

Hail you who are free from the man who you once allowed to chain you, restrict you, hold you to earthly pursuits. Hail you who now have the Gift of Starting Again!”

Maybe I truly expected some miracle to accompany the result of the annulment decision.

Instead, I held two nondescript papers in my hands.

If I were on the subway heading to the Archdiocesan headquarters, the person sitting next to me would know nothing of the importance of the paper I held in my hands.

I lay the papers in my lap and thanked God.

Thank you my Lord, my Savior.

The whole reading and reflection took maybe 30 minutes. I folded the papers and got up. I carefully put them in a safe place, hoping I’d remember where that safe place is since it’s usually when I put things in a safe place, that I tend to forget them.

And I got on with my day. Receiving the annulment didn’t make today any different from any other day.

I’d wake up tomorrow, Sunday, not knowing it would be different.

Please join me tomorrow for one last post on my annulment experience.

My heart goes out to those whose annulments are denied and have not received that closeness, to those who long for a partner and even more for those who mistakenly think their self-worth is tied up in acceptance and approval of another human being.

Please let me reinforce that You are worthy. You are Loved, perfectly, wholly, unimaginably. You never know what conversions God has in mind for you, for your spouse, or for those you come into contact with when you turn away from seeking the love of man and toward sharing the Love of God. You have a special place, a special purpose. You can find it!

God Bless…

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The Annulment Process – My Story of Isolation

The Annulment Came in the Mail Today

The Annulment – Opening the Envelope.

The Annulment Official Wording

Part I – The Friendly Letter

Part II – The Man I’d Lived With

Part III – To Love Again

Part IV – The End?

Part V – My Chains ARE Gone!

Annulment Approval Reaction – To Love Again? Part III

The Annulment Tribunal Seal

The annulment seal made it official – thank God!

I put aside thoughts of He Who Has Yet to Be Named and his girlfriend and turned my thoughts to my own life, to my own possible remarriage, to what the annulment might mean for me. I guessed it really didn’t change things much right now.

An annulment doesn’t grant one permission to look lustfully at the opposite sex. It didn’t grant me permission to take out an add in the local newspaper, and just what would that ad say anyway?

SWF searching for SWM in his 40s or early 50s, must love children and the Lord above all. He must believe in our Constitution, support those who put their lives on the line for our Freedom, and Love America. Would also be nice if he liked camping, the outdoors, all sorts of sports, and not mind the mess five boys can bring along. Continue Reading

Annulment Approval Reaction: The Man I’d Lived With – Part II

The Annulment Tribunal Seal

The annulment seal made it official – thank God!

There was no duplicate to the annulment decree I held in my hands?

How would I protect this document? If something happened to it and there was no duplicate and I ever wanted to remarry, what would I do?

Would we have to go through the process again? Would the decision be the same? Could I ask my ex———— for his copy?

I didn’t think that would go over well, and it brought up another question.

Could I ask my _______________.

Ask my what? What did I now call this man I’d spent 17 years with? Who was he to me now? He was obviously not my husband. I was okay, if not exactly comfortable, with that after 5 and a half years.

But now he was not my ex-husband either. Who was he? How did I refer to him now? What name did I call him by?Continue Reading