Going through a divorce brings extreme challenges; situations you never could have imagined yourself involved in. It can leave you feeling frustrated and displaced, ignored and unloved until all you want to do is go away and find someplace where people will love you and want to be with you.
It makes sense you would look to your parish family as well as your own relatives for this kind of acceptance. You need a home base and a community for support. But many times, you may not feel welcome in your own parish, or even worse, assume you are not welcome in your parish when you really are. You might decide to leave the Catholic Church altogether because of these negative feelings and go someplace else.
If you find yourself in this position, I’d like to share a personal story with you that, hopefully, will help illustrate the point I want to share:
When I was six-years-old, I ran away from home on a cloudy and gray summer day. My family was living at my grandmother’s house while we waited for our new home to be finished. There were a multitude of reasons why I ran away that day. Part of it was because I was feeling irritated and displaced by our New-Jersey-to-Southern-California relocation. I had lost all my friends and didn’t know anyone. Then, my older brother kept teasing me about how he could see my epidermis and I was mortified by this, especially since I thought I dressed modestly.
But all this was exacerbated by the fact that my father came home too late in the evening to spend time with me and my mother was so embroiled in details with the new house, enrolling us in new schools and taking care of my younger siblings that I felt completely ignored and left out.
“That’s it, I’m running away!” I said to the wood-paneled walls in the “bed-rage” (garage made into a bedroom). I didn’t even bother to pack a sweater or take a snack. I was just outta there. I walked out the front door just as my brother reminded me I’d better cover up my epidermis or I was going to get in trouble. If “whatever” had been a 60s buzz-term, that would have been my response. What-ever!
So, I started down the side walk. I was so disappointed. I felt lost. I didn’t like this change and I didn’t like feeling as if I was invisible. But all of a sudden, I heard a sound that made me stop dead in my tracks…
Footsteps. I turned around and saw my mother just a few feet away running toward me. I was so surprised, I just stared at her like a deer in headlights. As soon as she reached me, she knelt on the sidewalk and hugged me close. “What are you doing?” She was crying.
“I’m running away,” I answered sheepishly.
“Why? Why? Don’t you know we love you?”
I hadn’t expected this to happen. My mom and I cried together on the sidewalk until she picked me up and carried me home. It was exactly what I needed and although the things I was upset about didn’t change immediately, they did eventually and I was a happy kid again.
My point is this: Getting to heaven should be paramount in your life, no matter what disasters may strike, and your Catholic faith is the pathway to get you there. Don’t let your divorce serve to distract you from this critical point—your fate.
Problems, such as feeling alienated, outcast, or inadequate because of divorce can be resolved through communication, so sit down with your pastor or other parish representative and talk about your situation. But don’t just leave.
If you are still entertaining the idea of leaving the Catholic Church, I encourage you to pause for a moment and imagine Christ the way I saw my mother that day… coming after you, embracing you, and carrying you home.
No matter what reaction you may have encountered from other people or what false assumptions you may have, you are a significant and important part of the body of Christ and you are home at the Catholic Church.
Please send me your comments, questions, and disagreements at firstname.lastname@example.org.