Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
Do you desire to reconnect and participate fully in the life of faith that is your birthright by virtue of Baptism? I believe this is a deep desire that all people have, as we are “wired” for relationship with God as spiritual creations. But so many people are misled and lose the way. If this has happened to you, please read this with the tenderness with which it is intended; if you have a son or daughter who no longer believes that faith needs to be a lived expression, please copy this page and mail it to them. If I knew their names and addresses, I would write this to them myself.
Recently a woman came into the office — I am not including any details here in order to respect her confidence, but it could be any number of people I have met in the past ten years. She had suffered for years at the hands of an abusive spouse, had just tried to “keep it together” for her kids’ sake, had lost any sort of hope in the future, had become basically a shell of a person who dreaded the next impossible hurdle. She recently had gathered up enough nerve to get out of the impossible relationship in which she found herself, realizing that what she had, whatever it was, was not a marriage. Not in the sense of the Church as a sacrament, something forged in fidelity, permanence and openness to life. She came to the office without hope, dreading what I would say about what she had done. But she said that she was ready to do whatever was necessary to come back to God, if that meant working through the often-difficult soul searching of the annulment process.
We spoke about her situation at length. It came to light that she, a Catholic, had never been married in the Church, something she had regretted all these 25-plus years. She said she knew the entire time that what she had done wasn’t right. She had found herself drifting, outside the Church without an anchor. “What do I have to do,” she asked while crying,”to make this right?”
It was an amazing moment. She had not realized that she wasn’t married at all in the eyes of the Church, as Catholics must be married in the Church to be validly married. “All that is required,” I replied, “is confession.”
She looked at me blankly. “What do you mean? Everything is so hard, everything in my life is impossibly hard. How is it possible?”
“I don’t know, exactly,” I said, “how mercy and forgiveness is so hard for us but is so easy for God. The difficulty of our tears and our desire to return to him brings us his love where, for us, it would be impossible.”
Communion is restored. She got her life back that day and is back on the path God started her on so many years ago. Maybe her suffering can be a healing for you.
Today is pro-life Sunday. You can save someone’s life: life is so very precious to God. We often think of the unborn who are so terribly undesired and killed out of fear and a lack of hope. This is so against the witness of God himself toward us when we are undesirable. We think of the elderly whose lives are shortened for convenience and in the name of “quality of life” which ultimately is neither. We think of the poor, those whose lives depend upon us for the bread they need to survive today. And we think of those who have come to despise their own life because, in their aloneness, they have forgotten how the relationship of another can make possible the miracle of forgiveness and love where once, alone, it was not possible.
Today we reach out to all those who find their life confusing and difficult, a challenge too heavy to confront. No sin is too great, no separation deep enough to overcome the love of God who continues to touch and change his creation. And you have the job to deliver this Good News to them. Go, do it.
God bless you.