Sunday’s Gospel has all the elements of a best selling novel. You have the villain in King Herod, out to destroy innocence and Love made tangible by slaughtering the infant Christ Child. You have the unsuspecting, naive Wise Men ready to lead the villain right to his most coveted prey. You have a Mother and Father in Mary and Joseph, Blessed, but human and frighted by the tasks presented them and in their desire to keep their Child safe, and you have the victim whose time has not yet come, Jesus Christ, yet an infant, incapable of defending Himself, far too young for us to imagine being harmed.
The reading has suspense, drama, and action. It ends with Divine Intervention, Wise Men willing to heed advice given to them, and the narrow escape of The Innocent Child, all the elements of an amazing story, one many today would question the validity of and yet, this is more than a story. These events are recorded history with few disputes among various peoples.
Most good stories are like that. It’s hardships that make our favorite stories so interesting…the Diary of Anne Frank, The Donner Party, Mary Jemison: Indian Captive, so many tales across race and religion, region and reason. What often makes the most memorable stories are those that contain the greatest struggle.
Even while going through the hardships of abandonment while pregnant, sudden, unwanted divorce and annulment, and the loss of our home and financial hardships, there were times I could not help but think that if this were happening to someone else, I might not believe it was real.
It would make a great story – except that it wasn’t “a Story.” It was my children’s lives; it was my life, and it was all true.
I can’t tell you how many days, weeks, months I stumbled blindly in the darkness, literally trembling uncontrollably from head to toe, confused, alone, scared, knowing that even with the best support one could ask for, at the end of the day, I alone would have to deal with what was happening, with our story.
With close to 50% of Marriages failing,
I quickly discovered I was not alone.
It was only a few weeks after my husband left that I opened my front door to the woman, tears of pain and anger streaming down her face as she told me her story. That was my first experience seeing the Truth of infidelity, of abandonment, of divorce of the stories that are played out in our homes and courtrooms in another, but it was not the last.
Since beginning Single Mom Smiling, I’ve had women writing to me (and a few men too) telling me their stories. Each one touching my Heart. Each Woman, each Man, each Child, each Family prayed for, each story carried with me until I one day meet our Lord and hand them all over to Him.
The thing about these stories is that we all feel we are stumbling blindly in the darkness, and, for the most part, we are. We are surrounded by confusion, anxiety, pain, fear, rejection, and worthlessness the likes of which our Married and single friends can’t understand. Those dark emotions pull us down, darken our skies, and make it hard to find the right path.
But darkness also provides opportunity.
Think back to the Matthew 2:1-12 and how important darkness is to the story. Mary and Joseph had traveled far to reach Bethlehem. There was no room at the inn, and so they were give a spot in a stable, among animals, and Jesus was born in the night, the Light in the dark.
Think of the Wise Men and how they found the Child. We know they are wise and wealthy, but it wasn’t their intelligence or their money that brought them to that stable. The Wise Men could not have found the Infant Jesus had their skies been bright. It is only because darkness surrounded them that the Light was able to shine so brightly guiding their way.
The Wise Men followed the Star but were not to proud to seek advice either; however, after seeking the advice of King Herod and discovering he did not know the way, Wisdom told them to leave Herod behind and continue, eyes Heavenward, to their ultimate destination.
Goos stories usually have a villain, an evil character who causes pain and heartbreak, but it is often the actions of the victim that compound the situation. Have you seen the recent horror movie Geico commercial spoof? Watch how the victims determine their own fate.
We get a kick out of this video because we see the foolishness of the victims. Who would hide in a woodshed full of chainsaws and carving equipment when being chased by a psycho?
And yet, we laugh perhaps because it hits too close to home and we find ourselves doing similar things. When our stories get too challenging, when our personal villains are poised to pounce, and when our darkness blinds us to what we need to see, we stumble and fall and revert to old habits hoping they will keep us safe. We sometimes lack the Wise Men’s ability to leave behind those who interfere with our ultimate destination, hanging on to things that might not ever have truly existed except in our heart where we wished them to be.
Imagine how the Wise Men must have felt turning to Herod. They were probably excited but also a bit weary from their long journey, hoping to find a moment to rest and refresh, some guidance and perhaps a fellow traveling companion, another king ready to meet The King of Kings!
Instead they got a villain. How different the ending of this story may have been if they’d clung to what they had hoped Herod would be instead of who he had shown himself to be, if they’d taken their eyes off the Light for his sake or their own!
When we are surrounded by darkness, it is inevitable that we will fall at times. When we stumble, we look down at the ground, putting our hands out in front of us to brace our falls.
Perhaps our biggest problem though is that after stumbling, even when we rise, we seldom look up again. When we do it’s to complain rather than to refocus. We keep our eyes to the ground directly in front of us, fearful of the next obstacle in our paths, and we end up walking in circles repeating the same mistakes.
When your story seems overwhelming and all Hope seems lost, when you are stumbling about in the darkness, reflect on the Wise Men and on their journey. You always have choices and in your choices you have power. You can choose to hang around with Herod, deceiving yourself into believing he has the same goals as you or you can move on, keeping your eyes on the Light to guide your way.
You can stumble and fall and be afraid to look up again. You can keep your eyes on the ground in front of you, afraid to look at the big picture or to focus on your ultimate destination or you can learn from your detours and recommit to the journey.
The story of the Three Wise Men ends with an Angel visiting them in a dream and telling them to return Home in another way. Perhaps you too have been told to return Home, to not repeat the same path that got you where you are now, to keep your eyes focused on the Star to guide your way.
Sometimes we are where we are now, we have the stories we do because we acted in a certain way. We did not know better, so we did not do better or expect better or Hope and believe and pray for better, but with Faith, we become more like the Wise Men. We use darkness to show us the Light and eventually we find our way Home by a different route.
You have your villains. You have your darkness. You have your story.
It is time to follow the Light, to change your way, and start your journey Home by a different route.
Your new story has already begun…
And, as always, thanks for commenting, liking, following, and sharing!
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4 thoughts on “A Star to Guide Your Way…”
I too hear the stories of Catholics that have been betrayed by their spouse and divorced. We know there is an ultimate villain, the devil, and we know he entraps people as described in 2 Tim 2:22, to do the devil’s will. We know that divorce is a crime against humanity and leaves lasting scars and we are asking for a different form of pastoral care – one that at the time of separation, before divorce, follows the Catechism and canon law. We want to show mercy to those entrapped by the devil. Mercy involves truth.
There are various reasons that marriages break up, and from my research, I’ve found that most marriages split when there is no grave cause the split. One person feels emotionally distant and chooses to leave. When they choose to leave, they may simultaneously find a new “partner.” You describe how your husband left because he started a relationship with a woman from Facebook.
We ask ourselves hard questions. Why is there such a push for annulments in many diocese? Why did Saint Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict criticize the overuse of psychological grounds for annulment? Why are annulments granted to over 98.5% of the petitioners in half of the United States?
If two parties were never actually married, and the reason was that one party lied when promising to be sexually faithful, is that a fraudulent contract, wherein the one who lied owes damages to the innocent party? What amount of money could ever repair that damage caused to a woman who had children with a man who tricked her into acting like a wife when he lied when he made his consent?
If the marriage never actually happened because of canon 1095.2 wherein one of the parties suffered from a mental problem (grave psychic anomaly per Saint John Paul II), then wouldn’t this mental problem be obvious in other areas of life, such that the couple could not relate even as a half-normal couple for many years?
If the marriage did actually happen, and the reason for the break-up is that one party decided to renege on his promises, shouldn’t the party at fault, be required as much as humanly possible to uphold his obligations to the family, for the rest of their lives?
No-fault divorce is a violation against nature, because it does not address these questions. The Catholic Church has no place for no-fault divorce. I was invited to speak in Rome about my findings regarding canon law which you can watch on YouTube. In my conclusion I describe how the above questions should be answered at the time of the break-up and relevant to determining a separation plan that is in accord with divine law and would be enforced in the civil forum. Recently National Catholic Register and LifeSite news covered our work.
National Catholic Register: Advocacy for Abandoned Spouses Fulfills Synod’s Call
Life Site news: Two wrongs don’t make a right: Is the Church handing its authority to no-fault divorce courts?
Hi Bai, Thank you for commenting. You have so many excellent thoughts here! You’re so right about the ultimate villain not even being the disloyal spouse, but the devil. I also could not agree more that divorce is a crime against humanity and leaves lasting scars. Too many people think you just “get over” divorce, but evidence shows this is not true. The intense pain fades a bit, but you’re right, the scars remain forever and last generations.
I also liked what you said here, “we are asking for a different form of pastoral care – one that at the time of separation, before divorce, follows the Catechism and canon law. We want to show mercy to those entrapped by the devil. Mercy involves truth.” YES! Pastoral care, not just after the abandonment, but BEFORE to do all that can be done to prevent the ripping apart of flesh, to keep two joined as one as one, to talk less of annulments upon seeing the struggle and more of the calling to stay together, to find Good in one another, to Love unconditionally and sacrificially, and to commit fully to one another and to the Sacrament. Unfortunately, in addition to a culture lax in faith, too many of our priests and religious are also lacking in the Strength and conviction needed to show the Mercy of Truth!
I didn’t quite understand this comment…Why are annulments granted to over 98.5% of the petitioners in half of the United States? What did you mean by 1/2 the United States?
Divorce is a horrible occurrence and you’re also right in saying that too many marriages split with no real reason. I also completely agree with the questions you posed toward the end of your comment and assessment of no-fault divorce. There is simply no monetary compensation that fixes a broken Marriage or a divided Family, and yet instead of pushing to make this easier on those abandoned, no-fault divorce does quite the opposite. It is bad enough when our governments condone such policies, but now there are those within our church that come close to doing so as well.
So many things go against life as God designed it to be…Thank you for sharing and for speaking out! I apologize for taking so long to respond. You are an inspiration, and I hope to carry messages similar to those you’ve given to Rome and the world too one day! We cannot be silent and not expect to be held accountable one day.
Wonderful! Once again you hit the sweet spot! I feel like this is/was my story and you have directed it towards me (though I realize it can be everybody’s story)…message taken and what a powerfull message, done with tact and kindness, so full of wisdom.
I realize I need to start following my star, quit letting the villain control my mind and be my own hero with the grace of God.
Great job Strahlen, this one hit home!
Thank you Sheri! I am so glad this hit home for you. We all have our villains, but with God and continued resolve, even the villains inside ourselves can be defeated! Your story is just beginning… XoXo
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