Guest post by Vince Frese. Visit his blog at vincefrese.com for more articles and insights.
The alarm clock started the usual morning routine by blaring its obnoxious tone. In my stupor, I fumbled for it and finally made it shut up. I was unusually tired, having had a very fitful sleep. The evening before, my wife dropped a bombshell on our marriage by telling me she was miserable and was leaving. As I was waking up, it was hard to tell if I was really just having a nightmare. Sadly, this nightmare was now my reality.
That morning, as I sat at a traffic light on my way to work, I was numb from the events of the day before. After the light turned green, I found myself turning left, instead of the usual right that led me to my office. I was heading toward my parish. Overwhelmed with emotional pain, I was drawn to go there. I arrived just as Mass was starting. I snuck into the back pew and tried not to let anyone see the tears on my face.
Mass is a Refuge from the Storm of Divorce
When it was time to receive communion, I shuffled my way up like a zombie. After returning to my pew I had a slight — very slight — feeling of peace. This surprised me. I normally only went to Mass on Sunday, and I never really thought much about receiving communion. It was just what I did when I went to Mass, along with the other routines of sitting, standing, and kneeling.
Here I was in the biggest crisis of my life, and yet, for a moment, I had this feeling of peace — actually it was more like a feeling of safety, really. I was not sure what was going on, but I knew I wanted more of it. I wanted that feeling of safety that Mass gave me in the midst of my raging storm. It was my refuge. That began my habit of going to daily Mass that I continue to this day.
Christ is the Great Healer
What I did not realize then, that I now know, is that I could not heal myself; I could not muscle my way through this crisis on my own willpower and strength. The essential ingredient to dealing with the crushing challenge of divorce, and eventually recovering from it and rebuilding my life, was my Catholic faith. My going to Mass that morning was a head-on collision with the Great Healer himself, Jesus Christ.
The essential ingredient to dealing with the crushing challenge of divorce, and eventually recovering from it and rebuilding my life, was my Catholic faith.
Like a foreigner exploring a distant land, I began to discover realities of my Catholic faith that I never knew, or had taken for granted. I realized that my Catholic faith has always believed that Christ is actually physically present in the Eucharist. That it is not just a wafer of bread, but God Himself. The more I thought about that, the more it blew my mind. Once that began to sink in, I wanted Him more and more. If there was one person that could help me through my mess, it was God!
What my mind could not comprehend, my heart knew with certainty: Christ, available through the Mass and the sacraments, was my life-line. The more I received Him, and the more I made Him a part of my life, the more I was able to withstand the pain and difficulty of my divorce and heal.
Draw Physically Close to Christ in Adoration
I realized that I don’t have to wait for Mass to get close to Christ. I could go to any Catholic church and He would be present in the tabernacle. And so I did. I would go into the nearest Catholic church and just sit in the front pew, comforted by the little red candle that let me know that Jesus was there with me.
I also learned about something called adoration. This is where the Eucharist, the wafer of bread consecrated during Mass, is displayed on the altar, usually in an ornate stand called a monstrance. During adoration, I could actually kneel within inches of Our Lord. This brought me so much comfort, taking away the incredible loneliness I was feeling as the people that I had loved the most were abandoning me. Adoration reminded me that I was not going through this ordeal alone — Christ was with me.
The Sacrament of Confession Restores Hope
Then, I did something radical: I went to confession. I wasn’t really planning on it. In my new habit of going to Mass more often, I went to Mass one Saturday morning. I noticed, as Mass was almost over, a line of people forming at the back of the church. As I was leaving, I overheard someone say that they were going to get in line for confession. I did an about-face and got in line behind them.
It had been years since I had been to confession. I was nervous to say the least. In fact, I almost jumped out of line several times, but I hung in there. What helped me was that I noticed that people were visibly happier, and some even smiling, when they came out of confession.
My heart was pounding as I walked into the confessional. I was so nervous, but I at least had the sense to let the priest know that it had been a long time since I had been to confession. His reply was, “Welcome home!” That blew me away! Him saying that made me feel so comfortable and really helped me to relax. I did feel welcome!
I spent the next fifteen minutes unloading all the pain, anger, and sadness that I had been carrying around with me for the months since my divorce hit. The priest patiently listened to me. He then gave me some really great advice about how to better interact with my soon-to-be former spouse. I walked out of that confessional feeling forgiven and a thousand pounds lighter. No wonder everyone was smiling after confession! I have made it a habit to go at least once a month, ever since.
Get More Jesus in Your Life
My receiving the Eucharist, and going to adoration and confession, got more Jesus into my life. If you want to heal, if you want more strength to endure, if you want more wisdom, the solution is straightforward: get more Jesus in your life.
Looking back, I am sure it was no coincidence that when my heart was hurting the most, my instinct was to seek help and healing in my Catholic faith. Those seeds planted by my mother in my youth, began to sprout during my crisis. What I could not put into words then, is so clear to me now: Christ longs to help you in your suffering and He makes Himself present in a such a powerful way in the Mass, the Eucharist and Reconciliation. Take advantage of these gifts!
Question: Have you ever experienced a feeling of deep peace or security when practicing your faith? Describe the event or circumstances.
© 2015, Vince Frese