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Divorce & Annulments

There are so many burdens in life to bear, but in my humble opinion, being a single, divorced parent has got to be one of the heaviest crosses to carry. I’ve heard stories over the years that would make you drop to your knees and beg God to never let that happen to you. Just as I believe divorced men and women are the walking wounded of our society, so I believe being a single, divorced parent for many is a path to sainthood.

Take my friend Mary. Mary was a stay-at-home mom who lived in a big house with her husband and children, loving life and doing her best to be a faithful Catholic. She had just given birth to their fourth child when her husband announced that he had fallen in love with someone else and was going to file for divorce.

Mary, of course, was devastated. She got the short end of the stick in the divorce proceedings and ended up selling the family home and moving to a smaller one, pulling the kids from Catholic school and putting them into public school and getting a job so she could afford the bills while a neighbor watched her baby.

One day we were talking about all the changes that had taken place and how she was dealing with all the losses. Mary admitted the anger she felt toward her ex-husband was unspeakable. Each time he came to the house to get the kids, she would watch the kids hug their dad and ride off for a good time, then close the door and fall apart. It was sheer agony for her to watch her innocent children go to be with him and his new wife. She had seen other ex-spouses use their children as pawns in the game to aggravate each other. She said, “It would be easy to use the children to spite him. But, I love my children more than I love my desire for revenge. Right now, the biggest gift I can give to them is the gift of their father. And… I have to give it to them.”

What a powerful statement of honesty and responsibility. Does anyone talk like that anymore?

I’ve known many men as well as women who became stellar examples of unthinkable charity toward their ex-spouses and for those who knew them. One gentleman, Sam, had to work with his ex-wife in the same office every day. They both worked for their local Catholic diocese and he had to find a way to work alongside her, despite the fact she had left him and their teenage children for another man. For Sam, finding another job was not an option, so instead, he attended daily mass there at the cathedral and offered it all up for his ex-spouse.

Other parents I know, despite their terrible circumstances, will never say a single negative word about their ex-spouses to their children or tried to turn them against their ex. After going through my own divorce without children nearly 20 years ago and having an understanding of the terrible emotions associated with it, I wonder if I could have been as courageous as these people.

The daily struggles for single parents go largely unnoticed by most of us, yet the health and well-being of their children compel them to push through their worries of the present and the fear of the unknown and offer their suffering to Christ for others. They cling to their faith and allow their circumstances to bring them closer to God. It is amazing to witness.

St. Helen (246/50-330) and St. Margaret of Cortona (1247-1297) are two saints who were single parents and are now considered patron saints for those who are divorced and raising children alone. It’s good to know they are there when the temptation to give in to the stress and pain is nagging at you.

If I could prevent divorce from happening, I would give it everything I have. But since I cannot, my hat goes off to all you single parents who are walking the road to sanctity. Never forget the trials you are enduring are purifying you and you are a bright light for the world to see.

P. S. You can find Mary’s story and many more on the Voices of Hope DVD – part of the Journey of Hope Program for separated and divorced Catholics.

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15 Comments

  1. Stephen-725391 September 13, 2012

    I couldn’t help but think that this blog post is someway connected to yesterday’s blog regarding the divorced but not annulled single parents that found one another or am I being just too jaded?

    Has Mary received her Decree of Nullity?

  2. Lisa-727959 September 13, 2012

    Hello, Stephen! Glad you’re always there to keep me on my toes :)

    No, I had not read that article at all until I read your comment so there is no connection. Yes, Mary did receive her decree of nullity but did not date at all before receiving it.

    I’ll bet you can attest to how hard being a single parent is, too!

    - Lisa

  3. Tessa-694373 September 13, 2012

    Yes, my heart goes out to them…but what about the single person who has never known the joy of a marriage or parenthood and who may never know…NOW that is the real tragedy.

    • Lisa-727959 September 15, 2012

      Hi, Tessa!

      Being single can be so difficult! If you’re certain your vocation is to marriage and nothing else, keep being the great example of single life that you are and wait on God. He never disappoints :)

      - Lisa

  4. Marsha-846716 September 13, 2012

    Being a single parent myself, I would never conseder myself a saint. I am just working everyday to make life a little better for my son and I.

  5. Wendy-560795 September 14, 2012

    WOW, thanks for sharing this, I believe many are meant to read this to count their blessings

  6. Jacinta-881776 September 14, 2012

    This is quite an inspiration. Though being a single parent is a great challenge, but i always thank God for the gift of my son whom I love so much and the blessings I have.

  7. Susan-635047 September 14, 2012

    One group of very special people who are so often overlooked are widows and widowers who are out there raising their children without ever having a break during weekends, holidays, etc. We are completely single parents too!

    • Lisa-727959 September 15, 2012

      No doubt, Susan, widows and widowers are a very special group of single parents! My prayers and admiration go out to you all!

    • Christiane-898493 September 15, 2012

      Thanks Susan, for mentioning the widows! People make so many assumptions about single parents, I was wondering if I was just feeling defensive, somehow excluded – like my job is somehow ‘less difficult’ because he didn’t leave me on purpose?

      Not taking it personally, but Lisa, you have to realize widows have it just as tough. We have (some of us) young children who don’t understand why mum or dad isn’t coming back. We have not only our own grief to deal with, but the children’s… and of course, the in-laws who seem to believe that the widow or widower is now a living shrine to the deceased.

      Or maybe, that’s just me…

      • Lisa-727959 September 15, 2012

        Hi, Christiane,

        Thanks for your comment. I surely do agree with you and Susan, and I’m not trying to exclude widows and widowers necessarily, it’s just that since I write for the divorced community in the Church, I try to address their specific pain.

        Also, divorced single parents endure a different type of burden than those who have lost their spouses through death. Although the spouse is gone from the family, he or she is still around to make things difficult and keep the pain fresh and new. The divorced single parent often has to endure several years of bitter court hearings over custody, child support and other issues. For some, it’s a never ending saga of fighting for what’s right, for what is necessary.

        In the end, I admire all single parents and know their road is a tough one to walk.

  8. Jacqueline-855204 September 15, 2012

    Wow! What an inspiring article! Just beautiful! God always has a plan for us. God is in complete control. And we must never forget that we are truly never alone for he walks with us down every path of life, and more importantly we are nothing without “Him”.
    Be merciful…always!

  9. Paul-858743 September 15, 2012

    Huh?!

  10. Marirose-887295 September 15, 2012

    I totally agree with her statement:

    “It would be easy to use the children to spite him. But, I love my children more than I love my desire for revenge. Right now, the biggest gift I can give to them is the gift of their father. And… I have to give it to them.”

    My daughter recently thanked me for how decent I am to her dad (she is 21). People who practice this will see the benefits 10 fold in time. The other thing I would encourage single parents in is not to feel threatened by the other parents relationship with their children. There is enough love to go around. They need mom and dad and God forbid if someday you are not around the relationship with the other parent could get them through that hard time.

  11. Liliana-1031473 November 18, 2013

    Hi! I know is been I while since this article, I’m having a hard time with my husband ,we are separated and going to get divorce. This article is very helpful for me at this time! I know God has a plan for me and he wanted me to find this page to help me to deal with my situation right now!!

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