What do I say to my divorced sister who just emailed that she is remarrying?


#1

Background: My sister divorced her husband several years ago. Both cradle Catholics; Catholic wedding; two young sons; married about 12 years. Husband did not want a divorce. We live across the country from each other, so I rarely see her. She telephoned me to say (almost out of the blue) that she had filed for divorce. I was shocked - especially when she refused to consider counseling, separation, Retrouvaille, etc. She said he was a good man and a great father, but she was just “not happy”. It was obvious that she was not happy that I did not just say “whatever you want to do is ok…” and I didn’t hear from her for quite awhile. Any communication we’ve had since has been very short and superficial. There was much I wanted to say, but she can be very spiteful and angry, and I was afraid of hurting our relationship even more by really discussing this with her - especially based on her reaction after that phone call. Our parents and other siblings have also not asked any tough questions for the same reason - they know how she is and want to preserve a relationship with her. Anyway, it wasn’t very long after she moved out that we started hearing references to her new “friend”, and sure enough, about a year later, she called in a very happy voice to say that she was “seeing someone” (the friend, of course). I just said, “Oh” and changed the conversation after a period of silence. Again, she seemed surprised that I was not thrilled for her. It was tugging on my conscience for months that I had a duty to speak to her about her spiritual danger, but again, I knew that it would probably drive her farther away, so I didn’t. Finally, an opening occured, and I sent her a heartfelt letter explaining my concerns, asking if she was pursuing an annulment, and sent some links to Catholic Answers, other Catholic websites, and enclosed some Catholic catalogs and pamphlets. I told her in the letter that I wouldn’t push her to discuss it because I didn’t want to hurt our relationship even more, but that I was willing to discuss it if she wanted. That was about a year ago, and she’s never brought it up in the few conversations we’ve had. Yesterday was the day I received a short email from her saying that they’ve decided to get married sometime in the next two months. They are buying a house and are very happy and excited. She also said the boys are “ok with everything”.

Obviously I’m struggling with this. I know she’s going to do what she wants, and obviously, she’s not concerned about what the Church has to say about it even though, as far as I know, she’s still taking the boys to church when she has them, and they are in CCD.

So what do I say? I can’t say, “I’m glad your happy” because I’m afraid she’s trading earthly happiness for eternal happiness - which I stated in my letter. ( I also said that I was sure he was a wonderful person and that we’d like him if we met him; it’s just that she’s still married in the eyes of the Church.) I can’t say, “I’m glad the boys are ok with it” because they must be terribly confused if they are taught one thing in church, and their mother says another is just fine as long as it makes us happy. She doesn’t seem to indicate that we’ll be invited to the wedding - probably knows we wouldn’t attend. I don’t want to drive her away forever… Anyone been there and done that??


#2

I’m not sure what advice I have, but I’ll just start typing & we’ll see what comes…

I respond in a similar way when my siblings or parents share news with me that I disapprove of. “Oh” and change the subject. For a while, there were also some very loooooonnnng silences on the phone line, as well.

One sibling did do something that clearly went agains the faith as I now understand it, but, like the issue of divorce & remarriage, is a terribly confusing issue to the average lay Catholic.

What did I do? I prayed. And prayed. And prayed some more. I was never shy about sharing the joy I find in practicing my faith and following our Church’s teaching. I tried to listen patiently for the right opening to share or teach a morsel of info. It was hard, because whenever that sibling called, the particular issue was always right there in my mind, like a rhinoceros in my room. But I tried to just open up and listen to my sibling in that moment, and rein in my simmering worries.

I shared my woes with a close, devout Catholic friend and she said, “Did you ever stop to think that this issue is not necessarily about *their *soul, but about the sanctification *you *need to undergo by praying for them, and that will result as *you *commit to the discipline of prayer & fasting on their behalf? God has placed this issue heavily on *your *heart because of something He wants to reveal to you.”

I thought on that one for months…

(Did I mention that I prayed alot, too?:wink: )


#3

I guess there is not much you can do, you’ve already reminded her of Church teaching and have supplied her with information. She has free will and can choose to sin if she wants to. I think you have already done the right thing in addressing your concerns, all that is left is to be her sister, love her, and be there for her if and hopefully when she wants to figure out how to do the right thing. And of course… never stop praying for her.


#4

As for what to say–I think that maybe another heartfelt letter, short and sweet, the fruit of silence, might be the best route. You mentioned that she has not responded to or acknowledged the first, but you never know how she felt when she read it. I agree that prayer will help. Maybe read some Mother Theresa and then send her the note–just let her know that you love her, that God is the one who welcomes prodigal children home, that the Spirit never stops pursuing a soul. I’m sure you can find a discreet, respectful, but honest way to express yourself, using your own judgement to decide exactly how much to say about the present situation itself. Again, if she lives across the country, it may be awhile longer before you hear from her.
Prayer will be your most valueable tool! Just remember what beautiful, holy confessions she will leave behind when she becomes a saint. :slight_smile: And pray for her boys. May the Lord be with you through this delicate time.


#5

“I wish you all the best. My prayers are with you.” And hoepfully, they will keeptheir wedding small, so you don’t have to turn her down.


#6

I divorced and remarried, and it was the WORST mistake of my life!!!

Personally, I wish so much that I had had someone back then telling me that one day I might wake up and realize that I put my soul in eternal danger. But I am a converted Catholic; with no Catholic family or friends. I was remarried five years before it hit me what I did.

If it was me, I would make sure that I had spoken my mind completely. I understand you not wanting to hurt your relationship, which appears to be strained (to say the least) already. BUT as her sister, I would think that you just wouldn’t feel right watching her put her soul in danger without at least trying to get through to her.

That said, you’re right, she’s going to do what she wants to do. I can’t honestly say whether or not I would have listened to anyone six years ago. Love is blind, deaf, dumb and foolish sometimes. :rolleyes:

Good luck and God bless,

Trish

P.S. Have you spoken with a Priest about this? He might be able to give you some good ideas on how to approach her, or whether you even should.


#7

Well, you could say, “Wow, your annulment came through quickly. I thought it would take longer.” Then you can gauge her response. Either she did get the annulment, or she didn’t and you may have an opening for furthering the conversation. But the bottom line is that you can use this as a way of sneaking some evangelizing in.


#8

For every generation, Satan finds a different crack in the armor to bring souls down into his kingdom. For this generation, it is the APPARENT sinlessness of breaking one’s marriage vows and re-marrying. You hit the nail on the head …

… many are trading their eternal happiness for earthly happiness.

Speaking from personal experience – that can indeed happen making matters all the worse.

Pray. Private & public novenas are very powerful weapons. And while it may take YEARS, if you are confident in your prayers, victory is something that you can count on. Again, speaking from personal experience.


#9

Thank you all for your compassionate responses. I did speak briefly with my priest about this after she told me she was seeing someone. He said to pray and offer sacrifices for her. I have, but I feel as if I must not have done enough. I’ll continue with more. Yesterday was my dd’s birthday. This dd answered the phone when my sister called to wish her a happy birthday. She didn’t ask to speak with me. I did speak with my mom about this yesterday. She said my sister called them a few days ago with the news, and that they are planning a very small wedding with only her sons and witnesses - no other family. My parents have been afraid to ask anything or express their concern due to the scornful way my sister already treats them. They don’t want to lose whatever relalationship they have with her, so they said they’d welcome him into the family. I’ve decided to send a brief note to her thanking her for keeping me informed, expressing my sorrow that we no longer talk about matters of any depth, and letting her know that I’ll always love her and pray for what’s best for her. I would appreciate any prayers for her from anyone who reads this post. Thank you.


#10

I think this is such a serious issue that you should make one more attempt (or however many it takes) to call your sister up and talk her out of this. If it costs you your relationship with her, then so be it. But you have got to do whatever it takes to drive in the reality to her that she can lose her soul over this. And this isn’t something that’s easy to rectify down the road when she wants to repent. It’s not going to be easy to do the right thing after she “marries” this man and has a few kids and then all of the sudden wants to make things right with God. A lot of people will be hurt along the way. Make it clear to her that she is still married in GOD’S eyes, not just the “earthly Church”.

I don’t care if you have to call her every day up until this “wedding day”, if that’s what you have to do. Her soul is on the line. If she was standing at the edge of a bridge, ready to jump off, would you ever give up begging her not to take the leap? No, you would do everything in your power to talk her out of it.


#11

She did:

[quote=ojmom]Finally, an opening occured, and I sent her a heartfelt letter explaining my concerns, asking if she was pursuing an annulment, and sent some links to Catholic Answers, other Catholic websites, and enclosed some Catholic catalogs and pamphlets.
[/quote]

Have faith, Ojmom. Rememer the gospel passage about the 4 men lowering the man through the roof to get him to Jesus? Our Lord said something to the effect of, “Because of their faith, this man is healed.”

Pray for your sister like*** your*** soul depends on it, and trust in God’s omniscience & omnipotence. Not yours.

I will definitely join in prayer for the two of you.


#12

Well - I do now. She called yesterday after receiving the note I just wrote to let me know exactly how she felt. She was absolutely furious and came at me with guns blazing. She spent most of the time screaming at me and interrupting me any time I tried to say anything, and then seemed not to hear what I did manage to say. She let me know that because I expressed these concerns, I am the worst type of “Christian” out there: a judgemental one. She let me know that Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners; that all a good Christian has to do is love one another, pray for their enemies, and not judge each other. She also basically said that if remarriage after divorce w/out an annulment is still considered adultery, then women would still be stoned for sexual sins as they were in the O.T. She said her fiance’s mother is a lay sister of a 3rd order and SHE doesn’t have a problem with their marriage. Apparently I am the only person who has expressed any concern. She said she has spoken with a priest about it, and she will always be a Catholic. She feels that any strain in our relationship is entirely my fault because I have “judged” her and plan to “shun” them, and she has only acted defensively to my cruelty.

I prayed for God’s help the entire time we were on the phone, got off and cried half the day. I still feel sick. At least by the end of our ‘conversation’, I had convinced her that it was not my intention at all to judge her - only to question whether she has thought through these actions which will seperate her from the sacraments of the Church; that I have no intention of “shunning” them; and that I want to maintain a relationship. She said we lead completely different lives and never see each other, but she’d also like to continue a relationship - we just can’t talk about religion.

StephanieC, thank you for your wise words. I will continue to pray and entrust her and her family to God. I feel so sad and hopeless, but I know that with God, anything is possible.

I feel so sick also because I have always tried so hard not be a “holier-than-thou” type Catholic. I’ve just tried to do the best I can with God’s help and have hoped to be a good example to others. I feel like I have failed miserably. I guess all I can do is keep giving those feelings back to God and continue to ask that His will be done despite me!

Thank you all again, for your advice, kind words, and wisdom.


#13

Thats hard to witness. Because it certainly sounds as if she divorced for that relationship. It sounds like it was a lover, who, in contrast, made her feel “not happy” in her situation.

I do think thats how the devil breaks up families much of the time - he makes the woman dissatisfied, makes her think she is getting left out of some amazing happiness that God doesn’t want her to have by “forcing” her so unreasonably to stay in her marriage. God does not know everything, and does not want the best for us]. If she can just get out of that pesky vow, then she can have it all. The jackpot of happiness.

It always seems to happen that when one in the marriage is wanting out, and is willing to put themselves and their family through the pain of divorce, for no apparent compelling reason, and is strongly against counseling, or any help to consider saving the marraige - that one, despite his or her protestations to the contrary, always turns out to be involved with a third party. At least is been that way in everything I have ever witnessed, among friends, and aquaintences.

You sense it, despite the denials, from the beginning. Then after, you watch them immediately remake their life to make their “dream” come through, with the third party, who suddenly shows up in the picture. Its an old senario.

(Its also what happened to mine, and the third party was meant to be a secret who was to mysteriously show up later, but, that plan was foiled.)

What good can come out of a union rooted in mortal sin? When the sinners are non-repentant? No good at all, surely - yet sinners usually appear to triumph much at first - but only for a time. It appears as if the result of sin is shining, beckoning fruit.

Because it seems like when one chooses the way the devil has tempted you, the devil rewards richly with the things of this world (his kingdom). Why? Because it beckons others to do the same, or at least make thems them dissatisfied with their choice to do things God’s way. Our Church calls it “causing scandal”. And it does.

Then, when it no longer serves the “master” (of the dark side, whose ways have been given over to) to have things go well for the sinners, because people are no longer scandalized, then things fall apart. The rewards and accolades are withdrawn. And all the worldly goods and acclaimations one gained the dark way turn to dung and ashes.

At least, thats how I have witnessed it many times.

So, this is a tragedy not in your control. You can only change what you can, accept what you can’t, and pray the wisdom to know the difference.

I would add, don’t be afraid to speak the truth. (what comes to mind, and I don’t know if this is wise, would be, at the right moment, preferrably face-to-face: "This liason began during your marriage, didn’t it?)

You don’t have to say much to let it be known you aren’t being fooled. But showing that you have loving charity even though you aren’t “fooled” into having it, is a witness, I think.

Don’t expect to see the truth change anything, but speaking it plants seeds which, you never know, may germinate someday.

Always speak the truth in love. Just love, just offer godly charity, in whatever way you can. And maintain the relationship in what ways are possible, for the sake of your nephews. Also for her and her ex and the new lover. All are part of your prayer burden now.

If you are seeking suggestion for how to respond, I’ll offer one to consider:

"I recieved your news of the upcoming wedding. As always, I am your sister who prays for you and wishes well for you. Most of all, I wish well for your soul.

"I will continue to pray for you and your children, as well as for both of your husbands – the one to whom you are married to in the eyes of God, as well as the one to whom you will be married to in the eyes of the world.

“May all that happens in your life be turned into a graces that lead you to the One who loves you with everlasting love.”


#14

First start, end and all the times in between pray for your sister, your relationship with her, and also to the Holy Spirit to put the right words in your mouth.

You may need a little help to give you some information that will help you in your effort. www.Growthtrac.com is a website that offers you a resource to explore. Perhaps you will find something that is close to your sister’s situation.

Even if she distances herself from you, you can pitch some seeds of sound advice in her direction and hopefully some will fall on fertile soil. Maybe it will take years for it to sink in or not, but at least you are trying.

Maybe just the seed or the statistics about second marriages that they have a tendency to fail unless couples are willing to explore why their first marriage failed, and that may need counseling…either individual or couple counseling before she and her groom marry.
Even if yoru sister marries outside of the church despite your best effort…keep praying that somewhere down the line, she may miss the sacraments and the graces offered and she may finally decide to get that annulment, and get her second marriage convalidated. All you can do is plant seeds and continue to pray for her. She has to make the next move.
God bless you!


#15

Send a Mass card … and then get on with your life.

These kinds of “strange things” seem to happen “all the time”.

I just go to our adoration chapel (or to church near work) and just pray for a while. Nothing that I can do except pray.

Add them to my prayer list.

[P.S. I just got an email that a good Catholic friend’s divorce was final. Five kids. ??? ]


#16

Ojmom,
God bless you! You have done a very courageous and loving thing with your sister. I think I would’ve handled it very much the same way. My dh and I dealt with dh’s cousin in a similar situation last summer. Dh and his cousin were not close, so there wasn’t a relationship for it to impact, but it was still extrememely stressful. It is very common to agree not to discuss certain topics with family. I think that is ok. You can still witness to them by loving them despite their sins and by being an example of a self-fulfilled Christian person. Your sister and you will be in my prayers!
TKC


#17

How about “Good luck”? Because she’s going to need it. You’ve said everything else and there’s nothing else left to say.

Keep her in your prayers because it sounds like she’s going to need them, too.


#18

ojmom,

There is another thread by someone else who is facing the same dilemna, so I will just cut and paste what I posted there in hopes that you keep your sanity in the midst of the abuse and manipulation your sister is wrongly heaping on you:

I’ve grown immune to charges of “being judgmental” for several reasons:

  1. “You’re being judgmental” is one of those phrases (like “bigot” and “wife-beater”) that people hope will shut us up when they can’t win their argument by legitimate means, so I see through it. Think about it: if someone parked in front of a fire hydrant and we pointed out that they could get a ticket and they responded that we were being judgmental, who would be the idiot here?

  2. Not all “judgment” is bad. “Admonishing a sinner” is a work of mercy. Personally, I think we need more judgment in the world; maybe people would think twice about some of the things they do, or at least we would restore societal pressure in favor of right instead of wrong. Stigmas can serve as a brake on society.

In fact, sometimes it is our DUTY to do things that might be considered judgmental:

Ezekiel 3:18: “If I say to the wicked man, ‘You shall surely die’, and you do not warn warn him or speak out to ddissuade him from his wicked conduct so that he may live: that wicked man shall die for his own sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death. If, on the other hand, you have warned the wicked man, yet he has not turned away from his evil nor from his wicked conduct, then he shall die for his sin, but you shall save your life.”

  1. Jesus did say:

Matthew 10:34-36: “Do not suppose that my mission on earth is to spread peace. My mission is to spread, not peace, but division.I have come to set a man at odds with his father, a daughter with her mother, a daughter-in-law with her mother-in-law: in short, to make a man’s enemies those of his own household.”


#19

I’ve meant to respond to these posts sooner, but needed to step back for awhile. I sincerely thank you all for your advice, comments and prayers.

Eliza10 - I’m sorry to hear that you went through such betrayal. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been and continues to be.

I didn’t mean to imply that my sister had met her ‘friend’ before she moved out. She told my parents that they were introduced by one of her new neighbors (after she moved out of her husband’s home) who is a co-worker of his. It’s possible that this is not the way it happened, but I prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt. In any case, she had obviously mentally and emotionally left her marriage much earlier as she was so happy about divorcing before she even moved out, and was so excited about getting “out there” in the dating world very soon after.

Norseman82 - You words were true - and somewhat comforting. For the past two weeks, it seems I’ve heard the exact same things on every Catholic radio show I’ve listened to and every Catholic publication that I’ve opened. I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence since I’m so sensitive to the subject right now, or if God is trying to confirm that this was what He wanted me to do no matter how painful it is.

When she called me, my sister opened the ‘conversation’ by reading a letter that she had written to me but never mailed. She insisted she would mail it to me even after our discussion, and she did. It really made me sad that she did, because I feel that she did it either 1) to try to hurt me more by really wanting me to know how much damage ‘my “judging” her’ had done to our relationship, or 2) she didn’t hear anything I said, and we didn’t actually resolve anything! In any case, one of her main points was that we have no hope of a future relationship if I don’t stop letting my beliefs affect my behavior and relationships. I really have no idea how this is possible since I strive to live out my faith in all aspects of my life, and pray for guidance every day. I didn’t want to confront her over these issues because I knew the outcome would most likely be very painful, but I felt I had to after praying about it for two years and still having it nag at my conscience. :frowning: I suppose she just means that I must no longer express anything resembling concern or disapproval over her decisions? After her “suggestion” at the end of our conversation that we are not to discuss religion in the future, I guess we just go back to infrequent, superficial conversations, and I pray for her and her family every day. I’ve also been praying for the ability to love her as God loves her. In the meantime, however, I’m left with the sad realization that for now, she’s become someone I don’t actually want much contact with. Any advice on how to deal with* that* other than what I’m doing???

On a positive note, we’ve just heard from a member of dh’s family that one of his sisters (dh’s entire family is lapsed or non-Catholic) is trying to come back to the faith! :smiley: Please pray for her to continue to cooperate with God’s grace, and that her agnostic husband will join her!!


#20

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