My latest article for CRUX outlines how the new procedures for annulments will help my as a parish priest.
One of the biggest challenges I have found as a relatively new Catholic priest is what I call the marriage mess. On the one hand, I have to support the full, sacramental understanding of Catholic marriage. On the other hand, I have to embrace and welcome my flock — many of whom are caught up in one way or another in the marriage mess. I do not condemn them for being in the mess. We’re all in the mess together. I feel compassion because I see the brokenness, deep wounds, and pain they and their families are suffering as a result of our shared cultural confusion and our broken families.
My job is to meet them where they are and walk with them to where they should be. This often involves some basic catechesis about the Catholic understanding of marriage. I’m astounded at the poor teaching so many Catholics have received about this sacrament. Not only do they not understand the rules about marriage for Catholics, but they also don’t understand the deeper meaning and purpose of the sacrament. They’re mixed up about marriage, and it’s not their fault.
Along with the catechesis, I have to tiptoe through the minefield of guilt, anger, and frustration they feel. They are often guilty about the mess they’re in. They feel angry at the Church and assume I am there to condemn them. They feel frustrated that the Church seems so strict and unbending. When the guilt is worst, I remind them of the words of Mother Julian of Norwich, that the Lord looks on us “with pity not with blame.” I do the best I can to help them see that the rules of the Church are there to assist them in being a truly joyful disciple of Jesus Christ — even if that is sometimes difficult and disappointing.
Go here to read the full article.