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.