The People Speak Out

Local voices connecting globally

This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.  (Pope Francis)

Canon Law 212 calls upon the laity to speak up:

2 - The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

§3. - According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

I sent the following letter to my bishop:

Rev’d Marcus Stock,
Bishop of Leeds,
Bishop’s House
13, North Grange Road

February 2015

Dear Bishop Marcus

I write in response to the invitation of the Bishops of England and Wales to reflect on the gift of marriage and family life. Forgive me for writing anonymously; I do so to protect the identity of my husband and children.

I was raised in a “good Catholic family”. I learned my catechism and was drilled in all aspects of my “duties”.
• Mass on Sundays, followed by Holy Hour in the afternoon;
• Novena devotions on a Wednesday;
• Daily Mass (and First Fridays especially). As a girl, I was taught to “answer” the Mass in Latin for the times when there was no male “server”.
• Confession on Saturday night, then shoe cleaning and baths so we would all be smart and clean for Sunday Mass;
• Reciting the Rosary nightly during the months of May and October.
• I attended a Catholic primary school, grammar school and then a Catholic girl’s college.

You would be hard pressed to find something I didn’t know about the seven sacraments, the seven deadly sins, the seven virtues, the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit (Ghost).

But home was very unhappy because my parents were “trapped” in an unhappy and unsuitable marriage. My failures were picked over like a chicken carcass and any successes I had were never celebrated, in case I became “proud”. We had “duty” drummed into us at home and at school but no one ever told me that God loved us.

You may find that hard to believe that in 3 Catholic institutions and a “Catholic home” I did not experience a God of Love. In fact, I was in my forties before I came across a very holy priest who changed my life. I also heard some of Richard Rohr’s early tapes and read Gerry Hughes’ “God of Surprises”.

But in the 60s I couldn’t wait to leave home to get away from the bitterness and the scathing remarks. The only real way for me to do that was to get married and, in any event, I wanted to be married (I had a very romantic notion about falling in love and, to be frank, marriage was the only legitimate way to find out about sex).

Really I was in just love with the idea of “being in love” and my relationship with my future husband was very superficial. At one point I broke off our engagement, partly because I had serious misgivings and partly because I wanted a bit of drama. I was quite an intelligent girl, but emotionally I was extremely immature. My fiancée was a good Catholic and “ticked all the boxes” and I thought I loved him.

I recall my wedding day and thinking as I walked down the aisle, “Why am I doing this?” But I felt it was too late to stop it. The marriage has never been happy and we were sexually incompatible from the outset. We were both virgins when we married and I regret not having lived with him for a short time, as this would have made it clear to us both that we were unsuited. From very early on I fantasied about him being killed, so I would be free to remarry. Please understand, I never wanted to hurt him or for him to suffer, but I simply wanted OUT. Sadly, there was no way because of the “permanent bond”.

We had 5 children and now they are all grown up and away from home. Almost 50 years on and I still long for freedom. Marriage for me is a martyrdom of pinpricks. We have been together all these years and I kept and keep to the contract because of the seriousness of the promises I made, the fear of hell and also for the sake of the children. They simply would not understand if I left their father now.

I would be happy with a separation, although I am sure that, given my age, there will never be a true love for me. Extrication seems impossible, because the children somehow see us as a model of togetherness (because we have always been there) and financially we are tied together. I don’t want to hurt him or the children or my husband but it would be just wonderful to have some peace and space in my life and not spend each day trying not to nag or indulge in sarcasm. I do not like my husband’s habits and day by day find them harder to tolerate. I know he is a good man in many ways and tries his best but he has never been right for me and, sadly, he has been deprived of a truly loving wife. I know he deserves much better than me.

Although I see my children as precious gifts, I cannot see this marriage as any kind of a gift and I wish I had had the courage to ignore the Church’s teachings as soon as this appalling mistake was clear. At the time, the Church was very quiet about annulment but I believe that had there been better preparation for marriage and support and teaching for couples post marriage, I would have met the criteria for annulment as I simply did not have the maturity to make a binding decision.

Looking at the document I see it says:
“We believe that times of difficulty in marriage and family life can also be moments of growth in holiness and love and therefore have a special claim to the church’s pastoral ministry.”

Some of the post Vatican 11 initiatives seem to have disappeared: the involvement of lay people in marriage preparation (we didn’t have that); “Marriage Encounter” Catholic Marriage Advisory Council. It seems the only people who know anything about marriage are not themselves married.

Considering the questions:

1. What are your joys and hope of marriage and family life today?
For me there is no joy and little hope in my marriage. Only daily Mass gives me the strength to carry on.

2. What are your struggles and fears of marriage and family life today?
Just daily struggles to be patient, kind, tolerant, when I really want to scream and rant.

3. How can we better understand marriage as a vocation?
Only Saints should consider marriage – St Paul had it right! “It is better to remain single..”

4. How does your marriage enrich you? – I wish I knew

5. How does your family life enrich those around you? –
Our children see the “front” that we put on and we have one daughter and one son very happily married for which I thank God daily.

6. In what way, through the abiding presence of God, is your family “salt of the earth and light to the world” and a
place of and for the handing on our faith? –
We tried to hand on our faith to our children, but they have been put off by the dreadful liturgies we have to suffer. One does attend a more “joyous” church. The others have a residual faith and good morals and social conscience but see communal worship as a sterile waste of time

Please pray for my husband and me and for some good to come from this consultation.

I remain one of your lost sheep

May God bless you.{jcomments on}f