God is Our Strength: Raising Children After Divorce

father and son walkingMy life as a Catholic father has taken some turns I could never have predicted. My divorce, annulment, and remarriage in the last six years changed the straight, traditional path that I always envisioned. However, one thing has been constant and unwavering—my faith in God and in Jesus Christ. In all I have done in my life, either professionally or personally, God has been my strength.

Divorce, even in the best circumstances, is not easy, especially for the children. In my situation, anger and tension have, unfortunately, remained close to the surface. I try to pause and reflect regularly on my own actions and what I can do to improve the situation.

Taking the High Road
Depending on your perspective, it’s easy to say that you are the one taking the high road while others are not. The reality is that each person involved in a conflict can be responsible for contributing to the tension.

Putting the well-being of my children first means not speaking ill of their mother. It means respecting their relationship with her and her family even when they are encouraged, either passively or intentionally, to pull away from me or my family. Taking the high road also means walking humbly with God, accepting lessons in humility, and admitting my own failings rather than blaming others.

You Can’t Control Everything
When my children are not with me, they do not attend Sunday Mass. This is one of the hardest things I have had to accept. I have learned that despite this, I can help them make their relationship with Jesus the first priority. When I am not with them, when I receive the Eucharist, I make a spiritual communion for each of them. When they join me on Sunday, I do what I can to involve them in parish life as altar servers and greeters.

They attend faith formation classes, go to confession, and attend youth nights at our parish. We pray grace at each meal when we are together, and pray each evening before going to bed. They know Christ and know and believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist. It is my prayer that these beliefs will sustain them and form a foundation for ongoing faith and participation in the Church’s life and liturgy.

Trust in God – Always
My situation with my children’s faith life is in some ways similar to what many faithful Catholic parents deal with when their children go to college. Young people who were once active in Catholic life often pull away from the Church in their late teens and early-20s. My experience in faith formation reminds me that this is not an unusual stage for young adult Catholics to go through.

Often, these young people reconnect with their faith later in life, with a renewed commitment. For me, I pray that because my children’s foundation of faith is strong, they will continue to be drawn to the Church, and that when they are able to choose for themselves how, where, and when to participate in worship, they will find their home in the Catholic Church.

Having worked in catechetics for over 20 years, I at times find it hard to face that I’m no different than other parents who face obstacles in teaching their children about the Catholic faith. I am trying to accept the situation for what it is, not what I think it should be. As always, I trust that God has a plan for each

Reprinted with permission from FathersForGood.org.

David Dziena holds an M A. in Pastoral Theology from St. Joseph College in Maine, and has worked in catechetical ministry for over 20 years. He is the co-author of the Catholic Prayer Book for the Separated and Divorced (Our Sunday Visitor). After receiving an annulment, he was married in the Church last year to Catholic author and editor Gloria Shahin. He has four children from the previous bond.