spirituality

Remember the Year of Faith?

word-907384_1920When Pope Benedict XVI announced the Year of Faith and that it was to begin on October 11, 2012, I never realized how personal this would become for me. You see, just one day before, I had uncovered evidence that my 20-year marriage was over. And on October 12, 2012, my husband moved out – never to return.

Just like that, it was over. A year and a half of dating, twenty years of marriage, four residences, two adopted children, two cats, two dogs and, yes, it was finished. My life flashed before my eyes. It was said and done. How could this be and how could I not have had a clue?

This realization took me years to comprehend. I had married under the assumption this was going to be for the rest of my life. My parents had been married for 51 years before my mother’s death. My ex-husband’s parents are still married today. I saw no evidence of this looming as part of my future with this man.

Pope Benedict claimed that the Year of Faith was a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord.” That’s exactly what it was for me – a summons to keep my eyes fixed on Christ. The world had hurt me and healing would come only from my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I received love from my Church, my parish, my priests and my deacons. I truly believe God opened my heart that year to receive His grace.

I made it a priority to be at Mass each and every Sunday and all Holy Days of Obligation. I went to confession frequently, I spent countless hours in Eucharistic Adoration and I prayed daily. I read the word of God. In retrospect, I spent the Year of Faith as a student of Christ, believing that my very life depended on it. And, really, it did. My life does depend on this faith because some days, it’s all I have.

Pope Benedict XVI explains in his Apostolic letter on the Year of Faith that we must recognize the “interweaving of holiness and sin.” This is true both for the Church and for myself. I had to spend time, both in prayer and in confession, admitting my faults in the marriage. It took me a few years to have mercy on myself, my ex-spouse and on his girlfriend. The Father holds out his hand of mercy to everyone.

It has now been close to four years since my ex-husband left our marriage. I still struggle and I have had to re-think my purpose in life. I am no longer a wife. I chose instead to think of myself as a daughter – a daughter of the King. I will rejoice in this thought and pray that my faith will continue to grow. What strengthens my faith? In his book God Is Near Us, Pope Benedict says, “the Church of the suffering” gives us our hope. Christ achieved it all for us on the Cross.

Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life.” John 6:27
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Having a Spiritual Director

A few years ago, I found myself smack dab in “mid life” gasping for air. I couldn’t breath. The reality that my 20-year marriage had ended left me shocked. It was as if I had been run over by a truck — a big mud truckjeep-1318706_1280. Confused and unable to think clearly, I sought help from my parish priest.

The loss of my marriage was the initial reason I sought spiritual direction. Obviously, I needed professional counseling, which I received, but I also needed someone to guide me under the rule of the divine. Left to my own human feelings and sinfulness, I was headed on a path to destruction— in the opposite direction from union with God. I was headed out the door with a wrecking ball!

Spiritual direction is defined as being under the guidance of one who is trained in Scripture and Catholic doctrine and helps you become aware, or “awaken” you, to the spiritual relationship you have with God. In my case, I initially thought God was absent; however, that was not true. God was there, and had been all along; I was not listening. I was too absorbed in my own life, my home and what I wanted to do.

My first spiritual director was my parish priest. I came to my first appointment full of anger, hurt and sin. Because of my situation, he met with me more frequently than under normal circumstances. But eventually, we would meet once a month for an hour. His role was to direct me to the workings of the Holy Spirit in my life. As I would learn, prayer would become essential for me to move forward.

In spiritual direction, I was looking at my relationship with Christ. This was most helpful to me for I wanted to dwell on what I saw as “character flaws” in my husband. There was no need for that. I had my own character flaws to deal with and I spent time in direction learning how to change myself. I learned how to deepen my relationship with Christ. I would learn how to be humble and patient — characteristics of Christ, not me — which took a spiritually mature person to teach me.

After many months in direction, my parish priest was transferred to a new city and a new parish. By this time, I knew spiritual direction was mandatory for me if I was to grow spiritually through my loss. I had grown to love the peace which came with prayer and silence — something my priest encouraged for me.

My second spiritual director, and the one I still see today, is a woman in my parish trained in spiritual mentorship. I have met with her monthly for over three years now. She has maneuvered with me through my life experiences of the death of my mother, the end of my marriage and a bout with cancer. Her gentle guidance, and sometimes rebuke, has been indescribable because it has brought peace to my life.

I will admit, we’ve had some tough topics to conquer — forgiveness, honesty, and taking a look at that “wooden beam in my own eyes” (Matthew 7:3). My spiritual director is good for me because she points me to the truth. Without her guidance and prayer, I hesitate to think where my life in Christ might be. I envision I would be stuck under that muddy tire.

My life today is not what I had dreamed, but it is “my life” in Christ. Without spiritual direction, I feel I could have become a bitter, old lady. Instead, I am a woman seeking the heart of Christ, a woman with compassion for others who are hurting. The road is not always smooth, but what does Christ tell us? How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life (Matthew 7:14).