“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.”
Born and raised in Boston, I grew up a strict Irish Catholic. If I wasn’t at Mass with one set of grandparents over the weekend, my Dad made sure my siblings and I were there with him and my Mom. Maybe because of the connotation my Faith carries so closely to my grandparents’ or maybe just because I’m a very faithful person, my Faith has always been very, very important to me. I can remember being a little girl and doing my very best to memorize The Lord’s Prayer, The Hail Mary, and always saying my prayers before bed.
When I had my son my Faith only intensified. With all the things that can go wrong during a pregnancy, (up to 20% of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage), I knew it was only through the Grace of God that I could have been Blessed with such a perfectly healthy little human, with ten perfect fingers, ten perfect toes, and good health. Eager to have my son Baptized into the Catholic Church, I had Godparents picked out even before his arrival. I knew I would raise my son with a strong sense of Faith, just the way I had been. I wanted him to know that no matter how crazy life and the world seems sometimes, there is Someone bigger than us, watching over us, with a plan. My son’s Baptism was beautiful.
As life would have it, some major changes took place over the next few years, including two cross-country moves, a divorce, and my remarrying. When we settled in our now forever home, I went to our local Parish to become members and register my son for CCD. I couldn’t believe it, but it was already time for him to make his First Holy Communion. I also took the time to schedule an appointment with the Parish Priest to introduce myself and confess, as it had been some time since my last confession. Wanting to set a good example for my son by attending Mass and receiving Communion on Sunday mornings before CCD, I believed I was doing the right thing.
When I met the Priest at the rectory I introduced myself and he asked me to tell him about myself. I began giving him my back story and explained that I would like to offer Confession. Upon hearing that I was divorced, he immediately stopped all conversation, and handed me an annulment package, and began counseling me on the benefits of annulment. When I explained I hadn’t come for an annulment, but rather to Confess, he continued to talk in circles. I finally had to explain, (very uncomfortably at that), that I did not feel safe inviting my ex-husband into my life in any way, shape, or form, and whether or not the Vatican sent the annulment forms or I did, my ex-husband would look at any communication from me as an invitation to contact my son and myself. Despite my explaining the personal and painful reasons as to why I was so against my ex-husband having any involvement in our lives, this Priest continued to press the issue.
I finally asked him, point-blank, if he would be accepting my confession or not. Needless to say, I left without Confessing and full of emotions. I was angry, sad, disappointed, and most of all confused. In this day in age, when the Catholic Church is losing parishioners by the masses and actually closing Churches, how could a Priest turn me away, especially in light of our new Pope’s liberal policies? Young families such as ours are the future of the Church. Here I was, sitting in his office, trying to establish a relationship with both him and the Parish and he had no use for me whatsoever until I agreed to fill out the annulment paperwork. He even went as far as to offer help in filling out the paperwork should I find it “difficult or confusing.” I assured him I was more than capable of filling out paperwork, holding a Bachelor of English Degree, but again, I wasn’t interested in an annulment, simply a Confession.
He ended up being the Priest to give my son’s Communion Mass. It was so bittersweet for me. Sweet because I was watching my son receive this most Holy Sacrament, with images of him as a chubby baby, and teetering toddler flashing through my tear-stained eyes during the sacred ceremony. Bitter though, because I knew very well how the Priest offering this Sacrament felt about me and my terrible “sin.”
I’m not proud of my divorce. If I had it my way, people would get married and stay married forever. Unfortunately, that’s not reality. As sad as it makes me to admit, my son is safer and better off not having his father in his life (who hasn’t seen nor spoken to my son for over two years). I have since remarried a wonderful man who cares for my son as his own. My husband has loved my son fiercely since less than a month after his third birthday. There’s no way the God that I grew up learning about, praying to, and loving would punish me for leaving the abusive, dysfunctional, and dishonest marriage I was in.
We have since started attending another Church and will soon make acquaintance with the Parish Priest. I plan on being just as honest with him as I was with the latter, for I know in my heart, God is all loving and all forgiving, and I refuse to allow one negative experience with a Priest clearly lacking compassion and understanding ruin, taint, or instill doubt in my Faith.