Are you reading this blog post as a divorced Catholic? I wish you and I could have a conversation in-person, sitting in a cozy coffee shop in the sunshine. Like you, I’ve gone through a divorce. While it was a choice I never imagined for my own life, it has become the most transformative and healing process of my life so far.
As I write to you, I’m hoping and praying you are surrounded by an army of support including your friends, family, and a church community. I hope you have people that carry hope for you on the days when is hardest to believe there is beauty on the other side of this experience. I hope you have trusted people with whom you can share your real thoughts and feelings as you navigate this time in your life. When I was going through my own divorce, I know those cherished people were my anchors.
There are two specific things I want to share with you today. First, I want to encourage you. Second, I want to challenge you in love. Let’s begin with the first of the two shall we?
I want to encourage you
Not only can you survive this difficult time, but you can thrive in spite of it. Several months before I realized I could not keep doing this anymore, a wise priest told me something that struck me. “Patty, God hates divorce, but he does not hate divorced people,” he said. God does not like the fact divorce exists in his creation, but he absolutely does not hate those who make that choice or feel it is their only option.
The pain and trauma of divorced Catholics, matters greatly to the heart of Jesus. If you’re a divorced Catholic, you still have a place and a home in the Catholic Church! We need you, just like we need every other person. Your experience matters, your story matters, and your pain and suffering matter.
The Catholic Church needs you because your experience can be used to strengthen and give hope to others in a similar situation. I know this to be true from my own experience. As I healed and worked through my own issues after my divorce, I began to see that I was not the only young Catholic woman who lived my experience. Out of my healing work, God opened up doors for me to walk alongside other women, share my story in hope, and develop local ministry efforts in my archdiocese.
The Catholic Church needs you because she needs to do a better job of addressing the concerns and pastoral needs of divorced Catholics. She can offer more support groups, and be more compassionate to the real pain of divorce and the effects of divorce. If we want to be the church Jesus founded, then we have to be willing to get into the messy pain of people’s lives.
You are loved and seen and known. You matter.
I want to challenge you
Next, I want to challenge you in love to do your healing work in the aftermath of your divorce. Take time to go to counseling and work through not only your own issues, but also issues that came up in your marriage. Take responsibility for yourself. Find a divorce support or recovery group at a local church.
If your marriage took place in the Catholic Church, I would gently encourage you to begin the annulment process, sooner rather than later. This is especially true if you want to date and remarry in the Catholic Church someday. The annulment process is not a way to shame you for your divorce. Instead, the annulment process is an important tool in deeper healing. Personally, I was grateful for the annulment process. It gave me additional time to heal, work, and reflect on myself and that relationship as I waited on a decision.
The annulment process is a good thing. I deeply believe it exists because of the merciful heart of Jesus. Even if you’re certain you’re not desiring marriage after divorce, I still encourage you to pursue the annulment. After all, we all are in need of deeper healing.
Whatever your experience of divorce has been as a Catholic, I pray it will draw you deeper into the heart of Jesus. For it is only there that we can find the hope and healing we all need and desire. Stay close to Jesus. Stay close to the Catholic Church and the Sacraments. Know that you have a home and a place in the Catholic Church.
If you have gone through a divorce, what helped you navigate that experience in your own life?