Some of you may know that I am in the process of going through the annulment process on behalf of my husband's previous marriage. My husband had been married briefly in his twenties and was single for 12 years before marrying me. When we met, I was very far from the Catholic church. I had just ended my time at a major Christian ministry and was attending church services at my hometown non-denominational church. When my husband and I finally married, we did so at that same church. I didn't seek any connection with the Catholic church because as far as I was concerned at that point, I was never going back. It simply didn't matter.
Last year, after my mother passed away, I started to feel this niggling thought of returning to the Catholic church. I fought it for a few reasons. It wasn't until I started to investigate returning that I realized just because I wasn't married before didn't mean the Catholic church could quickly convalidate my marriage. My husband's first marriage needed to be annulled first before that could happen.
When I met with the parish priest who is our advocate, he confirmed that I could not receive the Eucharist until this was done. I thought it was a good way to help me absorb the Real Presence because at that point, I wasn't buying into transubstantiation. In fact, I am aware that many Catholics don't believe in the Real Presence but that communion is simply a symbolic act. I understand well their beliefs. However, I will say that over the past few months, the Lord has been speaking to me about His Presence during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I am understanding Him in a new way and am so very grateful.
This denial of the Eucharist to me is not "cruel" but instead emphasizes the importance the Roman Catholic Church places on marriage. The Catholic church takes marriage seriously because our Lord Jesus Christ took marriage seriously. We know from the Scripture that Jesus spoke against divorce. But yet how often do we see Christians getting married for the second, third, or even fourth time and hardly anyone bats an eye?
When I was involved in the non-denominational churches, I remember meeting some people who were re-married. I remember couples getting divorced and it didn't seem much was done to speak against it, at least from the pulpit. I didn't feel that stern rebuke from heaven, and all seemed well if the two people involved just couldn't get along and decided to part ways.
After visiting another parish (the one I usually attend today), I made an appointment to speak with the senior pastor. I explained to him my situation, just to make certain that I was to refrain from receiving the Eucharist. He confirmed this was true. Then he said something interesting. He leaned toward me and said, "Isn't the Catholic church wonderful to care enough to do this?"
I nodded vigorously. In fact, my beloved priest hit the proverbial nail square on the head. I said, "You know what, Father? I feel loved. Cared for. It's like a child who will constantly push the boundaries with her parents. She feels loved and cared for when they say no, when they set rules and tell her it's because they love her so much that they'll protect her. That's how I feel right now. Protected."
Not condemned, but rather awaiting a possible reprieve. I made a mistake and I pray God will untie the knots that bind me. But to me, the Catholic Church is alone in telling me I screwed up and now I need to rectify the situation. That's what I love about Catholicism. It will tell you the hard things no one else will tell you but quickly add that you are still very much loved and it is because you are loved so much that a chastening must occur.
I want to point out what the Episcopal Bishops are doing in California. They don't seem to be taking marriage seriously at all. In fact, it's downright sinful what they're doing. It doesn't seem to phase them that the purpose of marriage is to raise holy families. In fact, the Episcopal Bishops say they are fighting against Proposition 8 because they are "calling for compassion, love and equal protections" for homosexuals.
The interesting thing is homosexuals already have equal protections. In fact, I'd venture to say they have a preference in the courtroom. As for compassion and love, they also receive this, but "tough love" isn't something they seem to value. Tough love is telling someone they're going down the wrong path. This is what Catholicism is known for and at the same time, reviled for doing so. If it's one thing a sinful world cannot abide, it is pointing out their sin.
The Catholic Church isn't afraid of making waves because she knows her calling. We have a Higher Authority to answer to and it isn't the Supreme Court. No matter how light the world makes of marriage, we know otherwise.
I hope I will be able to receive the Blessed Sacrament soon. Meanwhile, I am so deeply grateful more than I ever thought I'd be for Catholicism and her strong committment to the Sacrament of Marriage. For it is a sacrament, holy, and ordained by God for those called to this vocation. Returning to the Catholic Church has reaped many benefits, and to me, this is one of the greatest - honoring God's plan for love between a man and a woman.