Usually I prepare these weekly reflections with an eye to using them as my Sunday homily. But when I saw the readings for Sunday, I went “oh-oh.” They have to do with divorce, so how can I apply that to the folks at St. Paul’s retirement community. Yes, some have been divorced, but most are widows and widowers who deeply miss their spouses, along with some couples who have been married 50, 60, 65 years. Several are in second marriages after the death of their first spouses – that’s a real tribute to the power of love. There are several romances going on – very tender and loving – but the couples insist they’re “just friends.” And that’s OK – it just shows me how much we need and crave that special companionship with a man or woman.
But divorce is a reality in our society. Sometimes it’s necessary, for reasons ranging from safety to freedom for growth. Sometimes it becomes obvious that the wrong choice was made. At other times it comes about because two people just start living separate lives. Other folks crave the emotional rush of a “happily after ever,’ and when that wears off, they’re off to find the next high.
But more and more I’m beginning to think that the deep down root cause of most divorces (absent serious external circumstances such as abuse, addiction, etc.) is a desire to avoid suffering. Let’s face it: A deep love produces extraordinary joy. But on the flip side, to love deeply one also has to be ready to suffer deeply. Marriage and deep friendships face the participants with extraordinary challenges to change, to grow, to accept the other with his/her faults, to let go of past behaviors, to develop a sensitivity to the needs of the other, to deal with moods, to come to terms with one’s masculinity or femininity, to deal with the loneliness when one partner is away for any length of time. And then, of course, there is the deepest suffering of all when one’s beloved dies. Love just doesn’t happen; it’s a heckuva lotta work. As I often put it in my wedding homilies, “Marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”
Love deeply, pray often, laugh frequently … good ingredients for any relationship!
Fr. Herb, C.S.C.