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Divorce & Annulments

If you are divorced and the parent of children you may be facing a difficult road when it comes to handling Sunday Mass. Most children of divorced parents find themselves in an arrangement whereby they spend alternate weekends with the other parent. This arrangement, though considered in the best interest for the children, may make it difficult to orchestrate getting to Mass on a weekly basis. With a little creativity and prayer, it doesn’t have to be impossible.

I happened to be lucky in this regard. My former husband and I made the conscious choice to raise our daughters Catholic. When I had to meet with my lawyer to discuss visitation arrangements, I made a point to tell her about this decision we had made together. I also told her I expected my former spouse—regardless of his own inclinations—to honor this arrangement on behalf of our children. I found that being specific in my expectations was helpful—not only for Mass attendance, but in other areas too.

My lawyer helped me to write this specific expectation into our visitation agreement: she included a statement requiring that my former husband take our daughters to weekly Mass. He was required to sign off on this as part of our agreement. I don’t know if this is a common request during these types of visitation negotiations but since my lawyer gave me the green light on it, I thought it important to share.  Don’t be afraid to ask for everything that is in your children’s best interest—spiritual development included.

If you and your former spouse will be living near one another, it is also an option to work out Mass attendance by having the Mass-going parent stop to pick up the children and then return them after Mass. There are many people out there who insist that each parent should have full autonomy over what happens during their individual times with their children. I feel however, that if at all possible,the children should be able to count on as much of the same continuity as before.

If you always went to Mass, that should continue to be a staple in your children’s life. If mom or dad object to taking them and you can work out a driving schedule that is satisfactory, this is what should be done. What matters here is getting the children to Mass, not who does it or how.

Depending upon the new living arrangements it is also possible to ask a family member or close family friend to bring your children with them when they go to weekly Mass. An important point to remember is that you may need to be flexible—your children may end up going to a completely different parish than the one they are used to. If this happens in your case, try to make it a point to attend that same parish at different times when you can. This way the priests and parishioners will see you as well as your former spouse. If the situation warrants, help your children and your former spouse find a new parish where your children will be comfortable. Maybe they can attend the same parish as their new friends on the block or with their cousins.

As easy as it may be to dismiss Mass attendance as “another argument I just don’t want to have,” I truly believe that if you put Mass attendance on the top of your list of priorities for your children, God will help you to find a way to make that happen.

Remember too that though weekly attendance is obligatory for all those who have received first Communion, our God is one of Mercy—and this Mercy must be poured out on all those who aren’t old enough to get themselves to Mass. Remember to pray and do the best you can to keep God first—one day both God and your children will thank you for it.

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8 Comments

  1. Michelle-989480 March 13, 2014

    Good topic.

  2. Peter-484745 March 13, 2014

    Since when do Catholics talk about divorce as though it was some normal, acceptable part of life?! I feel like I’m living in some crazy, dystopian novel. Except even “A Canticle for Leibowitz” couldn’t have imagined the depravity of our modern “Catholic” Church.

    “5 Key Traits Every Post-Divorce Dater Should Have” ???
    “Veteran Of Divorce? You Have A Priceless Gift To Share” ???
    “Divorced And Filling The Missing Parent Gap” ???

    These are articles on a Catholic site?!? Oh, but it’s OK, because you got an “annulment” first… No. The trend on this site to tailor content to old divorcées is disgusting and has to stop.
    “Every one that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her that is put away from her husband, committeth adultery.” Lk 16:18. Funny, I haven’t seen THAT verse come up on the trivia quiz…

  3. Joan-529855 March 14, 2014

    Peter, I agree with you completely. Divorce should NEVER be an acceptable part of life; it is devastating and destructive to EVERYONE. Unfortunately in the United States, every state now allows for “no fault divorce” so there is nothing a wife can do if her spouse chooses to “putteth away his wife, and marrieth another” You will appreciate what Fr. Zmudzinski has to say about annulments: http://fathersofmercy.com/news/fr-chuck-zmudzinski-annulments/
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Jeffrey-976998 March 14, 2014

      Joan, Peter doesn’t care. He just enjoys posting self-righteous comments on divorce related articles. Unfortunately without the benefits of many prayers, he won’t comprehend any of it until his wife puts him away and he runs headlong into the no-fault divorce laws himself.

  4. Joe-1044743 March 15, 2014

    “Visitation?” What a horribly offensive term that humanizes the unnatural, though amazingly popular, belief that men are somehow to be considered less worthy to raise their children than women. The persistent use of the term, and references to Government thugs (read: lawyers), obscure the real value of this otherwise important topic.

    Like the author apparently, Jeffrey seems to think it’s OK to divorce your spouse and use the legal system to deny them their natural rights. And to vilify Peter? Though I might not agree with him in everything he wrote, I thought this was a Catholic site? Call me self-righteous, if you will. No one would dare minimize the Sacrament of the Eucharist on this site. Why should the Sacrament of Matrimony be given any less respect?

    OK, end of rant.

    • Jeffrey-976998 March 15, 2014

      Joe, if that’s what you got from the author and me, then I really need to call your reading comprehension skills into question. Does it sound to you like I actually support no-fault divorce laws? In fact, it was the legal system that has denied, and continues to deny me my natural rights. You, like Peter, sanctimoniously presume every divorced person minimizes the Sacrament of Marriage because you have no experience, no knowledge, no compassion, no mercy, and have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

      And don’t lecture me about my response to Peter. He makes a hobby of vilifying every author of a divorce related post he can find on this site.

      Clearly this article doesn’t pertain to you. Is it a common practice of yours to comment on topics of which you are completely clueless?

  5. Sheri-991469 March 18, 2014

    Okay, divorce is obviously a controversial subject here, but the fact remains that it is a reality. When a Catholic divorces, they don’t leave the church or abandon their faith, and the church certainly doesn’t abandon them.

    The children are the issue here. I agree with the author that parents must keep Mass attendance as a priority for their children after divorce. It is so vital for children to have consistency in life and even more vital for the teaching of God’s love and mercy to remain. If Mass is no longer a part of childhood development, children run the risk of developing secular attitudes toward almighty God and his precious son, Jesus Christ. Sad consequences result when parents pull church attendance and teaching from their children.

  6. Catherine-996317 August 1, 2014

    As Christ is our hero, we strive to live like Him.

    When He encountered a woman who had had five husbands, He did not condemn her. He first accepted water from her, a very real sign of acceptance especially considering they came from cultures that were hostile to each other. He spoke to her with respect. He very clearly commanded her to go and sin no more. And he said it all with Love.

    Regardless of our past, I believe Jesus calls us to live going forward in love and compassion. That’s the very best He hopes for us, because we cannot change the past.

    I love the focus in this article on striving to keep our children connected to our faith, not in judging their parents for their faults.

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