Yesterday I had a chance to reconnect with an old and dear friend. We had not spoken for quite awhile, despite being members of the same parish and living fairly close. I had not thought too much about it, really, chalking it up to busy lives. She has several children and they are all growing up pretty fast...the two youngest are still High School age. It wasn't until I saw pictures of those kids dressed up for their proms that I realized how much time had passed and so I made a mental note to reach out and comment on her FB posts as much as possible. I wanted her to know I was still around.
Last night she called. I was in the parking lot of the local grocery store when I saw her name pop up on the phone. I was so excited! I snatched up the phone and settled in for a bit of a chat, more than willing to put off my errands until I had had the chance to talk with her.
The news of her life made my heart sink. This beautiful, devoted wife and mother had been dealt a terrible blow by her husband. Suffice to say the marriage had, in the eyes of the secular world, ended. Now it was up to the courts and the attorneys to sift through the ashes and try to salvage something to insure the economic safety of the kids. She was now in charge of making sure the roof stayed firmly over their heads, food was on the table and any wolf showing up on the property was told that its face was not welcome at her door.
I know this woman. I watched her go through RCIA at our parish during a time of crisis in their lives - a crisis that would have destroyed another woman but which she used as the catalyst to bring all of them closer to Christ, By her example and her embracing of Catholic Truth she brought her children to the Sacramental Life. I had been there at her Baptism, watched her children receive their First Holy Communion and marveled at the healing power of Jesus and His Church as it manifested in her family.
Now I sat and listened as the tears in her voice matched the ones forming in my eyes. Her thoughts were not for herself - she was concerned about her babies, her children who are understandably devastated and have, temporarily, rejected the Faith because of their father's behavior. They are so angry. They are so very, very hurt.
The only time I heard this woman speak about herself was when she said, "I feel like I let everyone at the parish down by getting divorced".
In a flash I was thrust back over fifty years to the little girl sitting on the bench at recess at Christ the King, crying and feeling all alone. I was the only kid in the class who had a Daddy that did not live at home, who had walked away from me, my soon-to-be-born baby bother and my Mommy without seeming to have a care in the world. Without any doubt I knew it was my fault, that somehow if I had only been a better daughter and better big sister to the coming baby that Daddy wouldn't have packed his bags and told me that first big lie. "I'm going on a business trip, Princess. I will be back in a few days".
The hardest part about being me during those years was the attitude of the kids in my class. Good Catholics did not get divorced. Good women did not get left. The judgment upon my family was there, just below the surface, and would simmer through the holes of their own sin every once in awhile with cruel taunts on the playground. Occasionally, someone would try to be kind and loving, and that was almost worse. My Irish/Italian temperament (I will choke of a piece of pride pie rather than spit it out and admit I took too big a bite) would kick in and the child that tried to be kind because I was the kid with the divorced parents would be rebuffed with a fury only a seven year old can feel when they are wronged by a world way too big for them to traverse alone.
Last night, while that little girl inside of me raised her head once more, I tried only to focus on the pain my friend was feeling. I am no longer seven. I am sixty. Someone else needed me. My duty was clear. I could comfort myself later but right then, right there I needed to say the right thing to this lovely and scared and brave and strong woman on the other end of the phone.
Our call ended with promises of mutual prayers and support. She knows she can call me anytime. I told her to tell the kids I loved them and to remind them that other people's bad behavior is not excuse for them to walk away from Jesus and His Church...and to tell them we miss them at the parish and we need them there.
I also told her we love her, we need her and that she did not let anyone down. She has a rocky path ahead, one that plenty of Catholic men and women who entered into the Sacrament of Marriage only to find themselves discarded when the going got a little boring or tough had walked before her. I told her we want her there, that she is a necessary member of the Body of Christ.
I hope she believed me. I told her the truth about The Truth.
Only time will tell.