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Praying Through the Pain

A timely book for separated and divorced Catholics

With the recent documents promulgated by Pope Francis to streamline the annulment process, a book published last November has moved into the spotlight. Catholic Prayer Book for the Separated and Divorced (Our Sunday Visitor) offers facts, insights and personal witness based on the experience of the authors, Woodeene Koenig-Bricker and David Dziena. Both divorced (though not from each other), they walk the reader through the pain and lead the way to recovery and reconciliation.

Koenig-Bricker is the founding editor of Catholic Parent magazine, as well as author of numerous books on saints and spirituality. An experienced Catholic editor, Dziena most recently worked for Our Sunday Visitor.

Both authors spoke with FFG associate editor Jason Godin about their book.

Fathers for Good: What have you found to be the biggest misconception about the Church when it comes to separation and divorce?

Woodeene Koenig-Bricker and David Dziena: That the act of divorce by and of itself causes excommunication. A person who is divorced but not remarried remains a member of the Church in good standing and is permitted to receive all the sacraments, including the Eucharist. Divorce alone does not result in excommunication.

A companion misconception is that a person who is divorced and remarried without an annulment of the first marriage is excommunicated. Again, that is a grave misconception. The person may not receive the Eucharist, but is, in fact, encouraged to continue to attend Mass and raise children according to the faith. A person in this situation may receive the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick at the time of death and, if willing to live in a non-sexual union (with the civil-law spouse), can receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and be readmitted to the Eucharist.

FFG: Explain the chronology of and theme for each of the book’s five rosary reflections and intentions.

Dziena: The thematic chronology and intentions are based on my experience of the best way to place the needs and intentions of others ahead of my own in prayer. The trauma and pain that comes with divorce can be overcome through the powerful prayer of the rosary. It also serves as a form of humility by placing my personal intentions last.

For example, praying for my children first is important because, probably more than any person or group, they are the most affected by divorce.

Next, praying for your former spouse can be extremely difficult because of past and ongoing anger and hurt that exists between the two of you. In my opinion, this is the most challenging part of this rosary, but also the most important. If a person can pray for the intentions of their former spouse after a painful divorce, then that person can find the peace and healing of Christ.

The intentions of the third decade are centered around family and friends that have been “lost” due to the divorce. Similar to praying for one’s former spouse, this too can be a source of forgiveness, peace, and healing.

The fourth intention is for your friends and, if applicable, your new relationship or spouse. Giving thanks to God for those who have stood by you, and continue to do so, is important.

Finally, praying for your own intentions grounds you and helps you place your trust in God.

FFG: You end the book with prayers for the intercession of five patron saints of the separated and divorced. Which one of these saints do you think has the most to teach today’s men thinking about separation and divorce?

Koenig-Bricker: Saint Guntramnus can have a special relevance for today’s men simply because he is one of the few male saints we know who actually divorced his wife. Unfortunately, in the past, a man who wanted to be free from the obligations of marriage could simply announce he had a vocation and was entering a monastery without actually divorcing his wife. She was, in turn, expected to enter a convent. Saint Guntramnus did divorce his wife and he did repent of his decision. He gives men (and women) a role model for the importance of considering the implications of your decision to end a marriage as well as an example of what to do if later you have discovered you regret your action.

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