Monday, May 09, 2011

Mother's Day...

... tomb of St. Monica in Sant'Agostino.

Forgive me, St. Monica, I used to view you as an instrument of oppression used by the Catholic Church to make women stay in miserable marriages. Even to this day the thought of you fills me with crippling guilt. Five years ago I wrote this;

"I have so many mixed feelings toward St. Monica. I want to like her, I really do. I respect the devotion and perseverance she showed in her marriage. However; if I think about her too much I start to feel guilty. You see, Monica & I had similar marriages. The major difference between us is how we handled those marriages; I walked away from mine.

What kind of message does she send to women who are suffering under the cruel dictatorship of abusive and unfaithful husbands? I can only tell you the message she sent me. One of sheer debilitating guilt. Maybe I would have stayed if a child had not been born into those circumstances. Maybe I would have stayed and pray for that heathen beast's conversion. I did actually. I stayed for a year and half... praying every day. Nothing changed, things got worse and the Catholic women who introduced me to Monica, before I even understood the concept of saintly intercessory prayer, turned their backs on me while I followed their advice to offer up my sufferings. A bitter person could not have endured and possibly would have thought all Catholics were sadists. A bitter person would never have converted under those circumstances.

If it had not been for Fr. Joe and his kind advice I never would have found the courage to make the final decision to walk away. Yes, a priest told me to leave my husband. He encouraged me to find a better environment to raise my son. He also said for me to never stop praying for my husband. I followed his advice to the letter.

Here I am, three years later. A divorced single mother. It's not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. In fact the only condemnation for my actions I have encountered have been on this blog from my more judgemental anonymous commenters. Some days though, especially when I think of St. Monica, I tend to agree with all those anonymous remarks.

If we are called to live our lives as examples of our faith, what better example could I have given my son then to stay in my marriage and pray obediently with 100% faith in the Lord to improve my circumstances and convert my husband? Sometimes I think I was given a test and I failed. Maybe my son who have been so moved by life of faith and submission to Christ that he would have been another Augustine. Maybe not. Then sometimes I think that God led me to Fr. Joe's office and counsel. How can one really be sure?

Either way, while I deeply revere St. Monica and I am long way off from liking her."

As a wife her example is too painful but as I mother my love and devotion for St. Monica has exponentially grown over the years. The tears cried over a child are a universal experience that bonds all mothers.

So, Happy Mother's Day St. Monica and to all my readers.


Old Bob said...

Dear Kat, I have a friend of 21 years' standing who is in the same position you were; her daughters are 19 and 17, and her tyrant of a husband has liver and stomach cancer. The older daughter has run away from home; the second probably will as soon as she graduates from high school (she knows her dad did not want her and pressured her mom to abort her). Yet my friend feels it is her duty as a good wife to keep her vows and stick with her husband until he dies. The family needs a lot of prayers!

Buzz Bannister said...

Give it up cupcake, you did the right thing. Having been turned down more times than a bedspread I am in a unique position to say that after years of trying to make my marriage with my children's mother, when I came home to tell her my dad had suddenly died I found her in the sack with another man. Sometimes when you keep your nose to the grindstone all you end up with is a bloody nose. God's Grace far outweighs our heartaches--look to His Son and rejoice.

Anonymous said...

First of all--your NOT Saint Monica--her circumstances were different. God has called YOU to live your life and make your decisions--not Saint Monicas. Of course you could second guess your decisions--till the cows come home--does not change what happened, and there will always be the "anonymous" remarks sent to sting and hurt you sent from those who are far removed from your life--everyone knows how to live our lives better than ourselves!

Does not matter the water that has gone under the bridge--what matters now is the present--the water under the bridge today, it will be gone tomorrow. We make the best decisions we can--always with consulting God first.

So don't worry about what happened in the past--it's long gone! And throw a few of those "anonymous" remarks under the bridge, and let the waters sweep them quickly away--don't hold on the them!!!

egosumbarb said...

It is what you make out of your life NOW that matters. Don't be too hard on yourself because it looks like you're doing just fine raising your child in a loving and safe environment.

Kathleen said...

I am of the opinion that you were led to that priest and his counsel at that time to help you make the decision that you made. But then, who am I to say?

What I do know, is that I was in a similar situation, but it took me over 25 years to make the decision to leave. Over many years, 3 different priests had mentioned to me that while, yes, I was doing the right thing to pray, offer up my suffering, go to counseling, work on the marriage, etc, it was OK for the marriage to end. They were NOT saying I SHOULD end it. It was really far from it, but they did leave it open to that. This counsel took me by surprise, because it was not the advise I was seeking or expecting! In fact it was sometimes given in the context of confession and I was asking what I could do to be able to stay in the marriage! And this was a marriage that for long periods of time kept me away from the Church!

The third time came when I was visiting a Cathedral in another city, which I would often to do stop and pray and to visit with Jesus. It was not at an hour that I would have expected it and I don't believe it was posted, but a priest happened to be hearing confessions. So I went. After confession, the priest asked if I had time to stay awhile and talk. He asked me a few questions about my life and my marriage. Then he revealed that he was on the Marriage Tribunal. He counseled me on working on things in the marriage. He did not advise directly to end the marriage, but he did tell me that God did not want me to suffer that kind of abuse and based on what I told him, it did not sound like a sacramental marriage.

I went home. I followed his instructions and attempted once again for counseling for both of us, which my husband refused. It took me 2 more years, but I was the one who decided to end the marriage...something I thought I'd never do. Was I led to that priest by God or not? I'll never know exactly. But I do know, that now I can't imagine ever leaving the Church and I pray to Jesus and for Mary's intercession that I don't.

What I also know, is what I teach my children about life's decisions and what I "attempt" to live by. Tara an egosumbarb have already mentioned: The past is done, the decision is made. Our task is to move forward.

Don't play the blame and guilt game about what is past. It is what Satan wants us to do to take our focus off of God. We all make mistakes and God knows this about us! God offers us forgiveness. What matters now is how you live your life now and in the future.

I believe that God's will is not only about all the big life decisions that we make (although it certainly is about those too); but that we choose to do God's will...or every single moment of our lives. Live your life, take care of your son, pray, but ALWAYS put God first and you will be living in his will.

Yours in Christ,

Anonymous said...

Happy Mother's Day, Kat. I've heard St. Rita was another who had to deal with a troubled marriage. The other comment posts are right, what's done is done. Enjoy the rest of your stay in Rome.

elena maria vidal said...

You did the right thing. I've been in the same situation. We do not know exactly what St. Monica had to deal with and how she got through it. For one thing, they were a very wealthy family with a large house and servants and so she was probably able to have time away from her difficult husband. Each person's circumstances are different. But you HAVE to protect your child. If you don't, no one else will. And you were acting under the direction of a spiritual father so please be at peace.

Tiffany said...

Hi Kat! ST. Monica is my confirmation St. name and she has helped me soooo much. There is so much I identify with in her life. Faith, rosary and prayer is what saved our marriage. My husband has grown so much for the better since 2 years ago. I would pray all night vigils and fall asleep on the couch wondering what to do. At that time you could literally cut the tension between us with a knife. I was even briefly talking to a priest who told me he would say masses and prayers for us. This priest also mentioned that if things didn't change to really think about the best environment for me and our son. So I had decided to leave, I had given my heart and soul and prayers and felt that was all I could do, and really needed to put myself first to be able to be a better mother to our son. I was tired of doing it all, ready to go out the door and left the ball in his court. One day, my husband surprised me and found a (FANTASTIC) Christian counselor and begged me to give it one more try. I agreed thinking this will be a better way to tell him we are splitting up. We booked an emergency session. Praise the Lord, things changed. When he found out I was actually afraid of him he broke down and did what he needed to do to get help for us. So here we are today, bettter and stronger. I do believe there is an attack on families, especially when years later you wonder who this person is in front of you and where did your husband go. I just thank God, Jesus, Mary, Holy Spirit, St. Monica, St. Rita, St. Margaret, St. Rose, St. Terese, St. Pio, our gaurdian Angels, the priest who said Masses, for the prayers and intercession.

Baron Korf said...

Not all women are meant to be St Monica, just as all men are not meant to be the prophet Hosea (another bad marriage).

No doubt if you had stayed in that marriage out of love for God, He would not have abandoned you; but that doesn't mean that was the path meant for you.

Likewise in leaving out of love for your son, whom God entrusted to your care, He will not abandon you.

If you will forgive a little marriage humor: Socrates advised men to get married. If they had a good wife, they would be happy. If they have a bad wife, they would be philosophers.

Lola said...

Your example of why you left is similar to how I describe divorce to my darlings. After watching some of their little friends parents split, they've asked why people get divorced. "Many times the healthiest thing a parent can do is divorce the other parent and keep the children safe."

"What could be so dangerous?" they ask.

Well, I tell them drug or alcohol abuse, gambling, violence or just plain wickedness can be so destructive to a family that even Jesus would help them pack their bags*. And like your Fr. Joe, he'd tell them to never quit praying for the sick parent.

*My mother used to say some people are so rotten they'd make a saint cuss!

Nathan said...

My patron saint, Thomas More, believed it the height of presumption to seek out on one's own power the path of martyrdom; he believed that the special grace to take this path could be given only by God and His special calling.

And so when the possibility of such martyrdom presented itself, he used his prudential judgement, his wisdom, and all his knowledge, wits, and power to attempt to avoid that fate and to provide for the good of himself and his family, to place himself and them out of harm's way as much as his conscience and God's law allowed; and when at last there was no other way out save to violate the law of God and his conscience, when he could at last be sure that God had truly set this path before him and called him to it, he was able to walk that path confidently, knowing that the God who had drawn him to such a path would provide him with the graces necessary to follow it to the end.

The same applies to this case. The path of St. Monica is a difficult, torturous, and rare one; it is truly a path of martyrdom.

To seek such out in the absence of such a calling and in the presence of one's own known weakness and lack of will, a clear and present danger to one's loved ones, and most importantly in the presence of better prudential options freely available and able to be taken in good conscience would be in my opinion presumptuous, and likely doomed to failure; though indeed God may always turn presumption to the good.

Monica, living in a day and age where women had little or no rights, means of livelihood in the absence of a husband, or ability to separate themselves from him, and where in any event to leave her husband would be to also leave her children in his possession and to give up her ability to minister to other women, was given this cross to bear in such a fashion that she in all likelihood could not have in good conscience set it down, and so could confidently follow this path of martyrdom to the end fortified by the graces and support of Christ Crucified.

But given what little I have read of your own situation, and the counsels and options that presented themselves before you, it seems to me that you may be certain beyond a reasonable doubt that God did not call you to such a path. He called you to another one; and God only knows where that path will lead you.

And as Thomas More and many other saints and the Church itself testify, we should always thank God for whatever path and vocation he has called us to, and not be envious or begrudging of another's calling, even if it is an objectively higher one.

At least that is my thinking on the matter, fortified with some Thomas More, and I sincerely hope it is comforting to you. I apologize, though, if posting this on such a personal topic is in any way presumptuous on my part.

St. Thomas More and St. Monica, pray for us!

Shelley said...

We just have to do the best we can with what information we have at the time. We can always second-guess our decisions later, but that is seldom a profitable exercise.

I've often thought it would be so helpful if Jesus would come to my living room with a PowerPoint presentation of his will for my life, but he never has...yet! I keep hoping! But until then, I, like you, will just have to muddle through. It's the human condition.

But I think you did the right thing, for what it's worth. With St. Monica, I think it's necessary to take into account differences in cultural expectations: she was, in her time and place, doing the best she could with what she had, perhaps....