Recently I received a heartbreaking email from a male reader with an all-too-common dilemma. Here is an excerpt, with some identifying details changed (and emphasis mine):
I wanted to get your opinion on something and as always, your prayers. Recently, some good friends of mine have decided to divorce after 6 years of marriage. We were in each other's wedding and remained somewhat close until 2 or 3 years ago. With having additional children (we have 5 children, the oldest being 9) our lives have made it harder to stay in touch. It was only until recently that the husband contacted me saying that he needed some help. His wife had been having an adulterous relationship and he found out about it. He was not without guilt, having had an emotional affair with someone else as well. Both had made mistakes and he was wanting to rectify everything. He went to our local priest, went to confession for the first time in 10 years, and wanted his wife to start counseling. She refused and has since continued her relationship outside of marriage. They have 3 small children.
The tipping point came this past weekend when I was at a store, and I ran into her (almost literally) in the parking lot and our eyes made contact. I couldn't even muster the strength to say hello. I left the parking lot feeling like I let God down. It was a perfect opportunity to simply say hello and break the ice a little. It has been killing me ever since. She's in a downward spiral, her parents support her adulterous lifestyle and are only adding fuel to the fire. She's all about material things right now and isn't thinking clearly about anything.
I now feel this call/obligation to write to her. Not to be judgmental, but to remind her of mercy. That she doesn't have to go through with anything, and that I stood by them at their wedding and heard them profess on that day a commitment to love unconditionally. That everyone at that wedding had an obligation to lift them up when times got tough and we've failed to live up to our part of the bargain. That I'm not going to sit by like the countless others and support her decisions. I want her to know the truth. I know in her heart of hearts, she is searching for God. She just doesn't realize it.
I know they are in the midst of divorce proceedings and I don't want to interject, but I feel I need to do something. I'm just very hesitant. Feelings are fleeting and I'm wanting to really test this to make sure it is the right thing to do.
What would you do?
What would you have told him? More importantly, what would you do if you were him?
Among the regrets in my life are about three occasions where I did not discourage, and even tacitly encouraged, the divorce of Catholic girlfriends. I can barely type those words. All those instances were many years ago, and today my response to women who come to me basically asking "permission" to divorce (without abuse or safety issues) is very different. However, my previous complicity still hits me hard. Were there "good reasons" for those divorces? At the time, I believed there were, but looking back, I'm not so sure. Perhaps it was simply my desire to see my friends "happy" that informed my bad advice. Or maybe it was simple cowardice on my part.
My answer to this reader was the following:
Please, please, please do exactly that! Oh my goodness, if only we had more people who thought like you!
What you say is really perfect because it is true that it is your obligation (and the others' as well even though they won't do it and would not even think to). Good for you and I will pray for you. Whatever happens you have a clear conscience after this. Oh, I hurt for those children who will be saddled with the lifelong effects of a broken home. It's always the children who must sacrifice for the adults, isn't it?
As someone said, the children are left to reconcile the two worlds that even the adults couldn't reconcile. What a heavy burden to put on the innocent.
May God reward you.
As it turns out, he spent many hours -- and many, many prayers -- composing the letter to his friend. He sent it, and he heard that she received it kindly, although he does not expect an actual response. He also had firm but loving talk with the husband and father, who has since fallen into similar sins.
My reader, praise God, did not sit idly by like so many friends and family do and "support" the break-up of this family. He did what his faith, his friendship, and his witness to the marriage obligated him to do: He spoke. He spoke the truth in love, but by gosh, he spoke.
The marriage/family/"gender" catastrophe in the culture today is happening because good people are too afraid to speak.
Like this courageous reader, you must speak.
You can do this. I promise you. Ask the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother to guide your hand or your tongue, and speak.