Yes I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written here. I have to admit that writing the My Ride parable took a great deal out of me. See I write from the very deepest parts of my soul and that particular story explored some darker areas I would have preferred to leave in forgotten shadows. But spiritual direction and spiritual growth are all about facing that which is difficult to face.
So what have I been up to? Well, I’ve been working very hard on writing my annulment. Facing yet another area I would prefer to leave in shadows. So many people think this is just a backdoor Catholic version of a divorce. I had read a great deal about annulments and the process before finally starting the process for myself. Even with all my reading, I was ill-prepared for the emotional aspect of it.
See in a divorce, one or both parties decide that things just are not what they should be and they part ways. The civil divorce divides up the property and the custody (sickening that children aren’t treated with any more care than the family china). Both parties bring in lawyers who argue over who should get what while both parties stand in the hallway and argue over whose fault it was. But in the end, all the judge needs to do is divide everything as fairly as possible, sign here please, initial there please, and all is done in a matter of a few months.
An annulment is nowhere as simple. The marriage itself is it’s own entity and enjoys the benefit of Church law. Both parties are still considered married in the Church’s eyes unless the marriage is declared null by both a Tribunal and a Court of Appeals. If they don’t agree with each other, the decision goes to Rome. Only one party approaches the Tribunal, although both are given the opportunity to respond to questions.
I was the one who decided to seek the annulment. It was a difficult decision to make and not one that I took lightly. I’m not off looking to re-marry or to stick it to my ex one last time. But I know in my heart that this marriage, while pleasant at times, was never truly a sacramental one. I never brought the face of God to my ex. That is a difficult and painful thing to face. I could easily go on for pages, listing every little slight that I deem was his fault, but that’s not what petitioning for an annulment is all about.
It’s not about fault or blame. It’s about a deep soul-searching look backwards. It’s not looking for where did we go wrong and where did we go right. It’s about understanding the emotional and spiritual state I was in when I walked down the aisle. It’s about accepting responsibility for entering into a marriage with eyes wide shut, blinded by things I didn’t want to see and deafened to thing I chose not to hear.
As I talked to my friend John about the process, he compared it to one of the steps in AA – a fourth step, which is a searching and fearless moral inventory. An annulment is limited in its scope, but done right, it is searching and fearless. It is also deeply painful, exhausting, and draining.
But when I was done, I sat down with the same priest who had performed the wedding and had counseled us for nearly ten months. He helped me to draw out some of things I was still having trouble seeing, then sent me home to read and reflect on all that I’d written. I was able to write up a final summary and will submit it later this week to the Tribunal – all 35 pages of it.
I was challenged by an old friend who told me that she doesn’t believe in annulments. She asked me flat out why I was seeking one. Was it because I felt that I was young, naïve and was tricked into a marriage when I wasn’t ready? Was it to be prepared for when I met my soul mate and deserved a sacramental marriage blessed by God? I had a long talk with Deacon Ron about those questions. Neither of those was quite right. Finally, it came down to I needed to have the weight and burden lifted from me. It is like going to Confession to have a mortal sin lifted. I don’t mean to say that my marriage was a mortal sin, but that the weight of those unfulfilled vows is more than I can carry.
In writing the annulment, I explored the deepest places in my soul. I found many things hidden in shadows that I would otherwise have left in their hiding places. I discovered that the annulment process is not about getting the right decision from the Tribunal. It is entirely about the process itself. It is a purging and healing process. It’s about inviting God’s grace into the pain of a marriage gone very wrong. No matter what the decision by the Tribunal, the healing remains.
There is no healing in a divorce. Divorce is about winning and losing. In an annulment, there are no winners and no losers. If entered into with a clear intent and an honest desire for understanding, an annulment can bring peace.
Now you know why I have been silent for so long. While my writing is very much my ministry, I needed to take a little time to minister to my own wounds. I hope to begin posting more frequently as I have missed it very much.
I thank all of you for reading. May God’s blessings be on you this day.