Are you a divorced Catholic wondering if there’s something you can offer? Do you question if you bring enough, or if who you are can be seen and valued?
One of my favorite Bible stories is when Jesus miraculously feeds the 5,000 with the meager lunch of a little boy. A few small barley loaves and fish are all this boy has. However, the little he has is what Jesus takes and turns into abundance.
Sometimes it feels like what we bring to Jesus is meager and small, just like those lunch leftovers. But no matter how small our offering, Jesus will always take, bless, and use it.
I can relate to that Bible story especially as a Catholic who has gone through a divorce and annulment. In the aftermath of that time, I have often wondered to myself, “What do I have to offer the Church as a divorced Catholic? Is there an offering I can bring and give for the good of others?” Sometimes I used to think the answer was no. In more recent years, I have realized the answer is a resounding YES.
Why is that?
Because we can minister to other people from our wounds.
One of my favorite spiritual teachers and writers is Henri Nouwen. A prophetic and gifted teacher, he has written many books on profound themes related to spirituality, ministry, prayer, and more. One of his books, The Wounded Healer, discusses how we can often most effectively minister to other people from our own wounds. This book is a great resource for lay ministers because it reminds us that we can minister to other people from the healing we have experienced from our own wounds.
Are you a divorced Catholic? Know this: You have so very much to offer the Catholic Church. Things you couldn’t offer if your life had turned out differently. You can either sit in your pain and hurt, or you can channel it to be used for the greater glory of God to help others walking a similar path. Allow the pain you have walked through to inspire, connect, and bring hope to other weary hearts like your own.
In some strange way, this pain has made you stronger.
One of my favorite quotes that permanently sits at my desk is from Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Church in California. He says, “Our deepest life message often comes out of our deepest pain.” The pain you have walked through could become the greatest gift of hope or encouragement you could share with other people. Your experience, your wounds can be used to bring healing to the wounds of other divorced Catholics just like you. Ask the Holy Spirit how and where he wants to use and send you.
What are some concrete ways as a divorced Catholic you can serve and share from what you have learned?
Here are a few ideas from my own life experience that might speak to you.
Accompany someone in the divorce process
Be a good friend or support to someone else who is navigating the divorce and/or annulment process. It can often be lonely and isolating, especially if you do not know anyone else who has gone through the same experience. Pray with them. Ask how you can best support him or her. Have a time to connect each week and see how you can best support this person.
Early in his papacy, Pope Francis spoke of the importance of the art of accompaniment in walking with people right where life finds them. I think this is especially important when it comes to walking with Catholic men and women who are navigating the divorce process.
Offer to lead a divorce support group at your parish
One of the best things I did as I waited for the legalization of my divorce was to attend a support group like DivorceCare. While you can find one or two options that are more Catholic based, I found this to also be a great experience with lots of helpful resources and support.
To have a healthy, vibrant parish community, it is important to offer lots of various groups that speak to the needs of parishioners. Walking with divorced Catholics is an important ministry that needs to be strengthened and developed.
See that your parish has resources and books for divorced/annulled Catholics
There are lots of great books (both by Lisa Duffy and Rose Sweet) and pamphlets that speak to the reality of divorced Catholics while also recognizing the importance of the annulment process for those married in the Church.
Connect with your pastor, deacon, or pastoral associate, and inquire what kinds of free resources the parish has and can also make available. We want to see the best information get into people’s hands. What things does your parish already have and offer? What else could they do?
Every single baptized Catholic has a role and a home in the Catholic Church.
Maybe your life has not gone the way you expected. I know I feel that way looking at my own life sometimes. God can use any experience you walk through for the greater glory in his Kingdom. Yes, even your divorce.