With pope as witness, 20 couples marry
Annulment, Calling, Marriage, Sacraments, Vocation

Divorce, Annulment, Marriage, and Pope Francis


The Church often finds herself in that tension between the ideal and the real – between the theological vision of wholeness and the lived experience of brokenness.  The situation of marriage and family in the 21st Century is one of those places of tension.  Divorce, annulment, marriage, and Pope Francis have been in the Catholic News a lot lately.  And I find my own personal lived experience weighing heavy on my heart.

What Catholic News?  The papal-celebrated-weddings:

Presiding over the wedding of 20 couples in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis celebrated marriage as the union of a man and woman playing complementary roles during their common journey through life…The newlyweds ranged in age from 25 to 56 and represented a variety of situations, with some already having children or having lived together before marriage. (Source Catholic News Service

…and the upcoming Synod of Bishops:

An international gathering at the Vatican this fall will be attempting to decide what to do about [the situation of marriage and family in the 21st Century].  Convoked by Pope Francis and with assemblies scheduled this October and next, the synod represents an effort at the top levels of the Church not just to identify the problems facing marriage but, if possible, point to solutions. Pastoral care for people whose unions fall seriously short of the ideal — a category that includes divorced and remarried Catholics whose first marriages haven’t been annulled — will be discussed in that context. (Source OSV Newsweekly)

I have talked about my experience of divorce before, but not so much about my annulment.  At the time, I was in my first year of teaching theology in a Catholic high school; a job I was elated to have… a job I felt called to do.  When I pursued a nullity of marriage, it was not because of an impending re-marriage.  It was because I needed a spiritual cleansing.  I needed this off my permanent record.

Honestly, the annulment process did not achieve that spiritual cleansing for me.  I wish it did.  I wish there was some prayerful recognition of closure that was more spiritual than a stamped letter in the mail.


Though the grace of the Holy Spirit came through my family, friends, and therapist… though the pastor that worked with me was kind and wise and patient… though healing and wholeness came, I will never forget the deep spiritual longing that I felt.

I love that the Church is discussing divorce, annulment, and remarriage.  I love that it is recognized as a pastoral problem that needs to be addressed.  I love that Cardinal Walter Kasper–a prominent German theologian and former Vatican official–has suggested one approach that the Church might consider in the Synod is to allow divorced and remarried Catholics (whose previous marriages are not anulled) to receive Communion provided they display “a desire for the sacraments as a source of strength.”

“a source of strength…”

Theologically, the Church holds the Sacrament of Marriage in high regard; an annulment declares that something essential was missing, the marriage was not sacramental, and it is possible to dissolve.  What Cardinal Kasper is suggesting is not that the Church relaxes its teaching on Marriage, but rather that for people in deep spiritual longing, the Sacrament of Eucharist may be a source of strength.

From my own experience, I have to say my greatest hopes and deepest prayers are that the Synod find a way to better minister to the brokenness.

Photo by Paul Haring/CNS

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Waiting Alone
Faith, Grace, Hope, Scripture



I struggle with Waiting.  Patience is not my strongest virtue.

I’m not talking about the banalities of waiting in traffic or waiting behind a check-writer in the check-out line of the grocery store.

I’m talking about Waiting to hear news about a job in the midst of unemployment. Waiting for a diagnosis.  Waiting for that life-changing email or phone call.  Waiting for a response.

Waiting for more information so that you can move beyond the gazillion choose-your-own-adventure style possibilities in your head and actually start doing the “next thing,” whatever that may be.

Most recently, this Waiting sat like a ball of anxiety in the pit of my stomach.  My boys got sick while we were visiting my parents in Malaysia.

Sick and Sleeping

When my younger one gets sick, it’s always been no-energy with a scary-high fever for the first 24 hours.  After that first 24-hours, the high fever always breaks and then, I can tell whether it’s worthy of a doctor’s visit or just a passing bug.  My older one has a similar cycle, but the high-fever isn’t quite so scary.  It was only a 24 hour wait.  I have waited longer for other things, but this was my children… in another country… it was just hard.

Waiting is hard.

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Action, Evangelization, Faith, Grace, Life

Stuck at the Gate? or Open to Grace.


You know how when you attend a retreat, your heart is brimming with peace, love and joy?  …how you are swimming in an awareness of God’s grace?

Grace is the free and undeserved help that God gives us (CCC, 1996).

Well, for the retreat I attended, I had just written a book on how to continue that retreat experience—Continuing the Journey—and distributed it to my first group of readers.  I was not only on that retreat-high, I was on the precipice of a new chapter in my life.

And I was exhausted.  But it was that good kind of tired where the adrenaline starts to fade and your entire body begins to relax.  And there was all that grace.

Grace is a participation in the life of God (CCC, 1997).

Bonus: at the conclusion of the retreat, I headed to the airport to join my family in the Adirondacks for a vacation.  It was the first of four weeks of traveling to visit family; Upstate NY, then Boston/New England, then China, then Malaysia.

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Morality Part 5: What Makes a Sin a Sin


It was a Theology Q&A session on a retreat – a safe environment.  Participants were encouraged to write down their questions on any faith-related topic and submit them anonymously.  The group was encouraged to raise hands and ask additional questions if needed.  This was their time.  There were over 30 retreatants, plus the team; women ranging from their early 20’s to their early 80’s.  When the topic of sin came up, you could feel the emotional intensity in the room.  As each question was answered, seven more hands shot up asking more questions.

When people ask, “Is it a mortal sin if…” more often than not, they are asking out of fear.  Somewhere along the line they learned that ___ was a mortal sin, and if you did [it], you were going to hell.  Some ask the question while thinking about their own behavior; others ask out of concern for a loved one.

Struggling with the concept of sin–and the fear of hell that accompanies it–can really damage a person’s faith, which is why this post is so important.

In Morality Part 1, I explained that When we say something is a “sin” it’s because it damages our relationship with God; not because it is “breaking the rules.”  It damages our relationship because it is either directly aimed at hurting God or at hurting those whom God loves.  And as Morality Part 4 explained, it’s only a sin if you know what you’re doing is wrong and you are doing it of your own free will.



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Morality Part 4: Form, Inform, and Follow


When I do laundry, after washing and drying, I’ll transport the clean clothes to the couch.  The couch and coffee table are my folding zone, a task I’ll tackle while watching Netflix, talking on the phone, or visiting with a close friend (one whom I am secure enough to expose my family’s laundry to).  The reality is that the folding does not happen immediately.  Often the couch is buried amid several loads of clean laundry.  Yes, I’ll get to it.  Eventually.  The thing is that my kids will want to actually use the couch to sit on, despite the piles of clean laundry.  Sometimes I take a little too long to get around to folding; I take responsibility for this.

Other times, like today, I’m within the margin of acceptable laundry-folding time. Regardless, the clean laundry got knocked off the couch by one of my kids.

Me: Who knocked the laundry basket off the couch and onto the floor?

Max: I fink I did it.  I’m sowwy, Mommy.  I didn’t mean to.

I know that he didn’t intentionally, maliciously knock my laundry on the floor, but still.  He could’ve been more careful.  And even if it was an accident, he could’ve fixed it.



While laundry on the couch isn’t one of the most pressing moral issues of our time, this conversation with my 6 year-old does provide a framework for examining moral responsibility.

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