Thursday Night, Six O'Clock

by Rev. Raymond K. Petrucci

Teri and Jason's marriage ended in divorce three years ago. Their married life lasted for four years. Then Teri discovered Jason's infidelity. It appeared that her ex-husband lacked the desire and, perhaps, the capacity to be faithful. Unknowingly, Teri shared Jason with other women from the very beginning of their marriage. A friend of Jason and Teri will testify that Jason told hin a few weeks before the marriage that he was getting plenty of "practice" and developing "points of comparison" with a number of other women. These activities continued after the nuptials. In the beginning, Jason was very discrete with his sexual liaisons, but eventually his philandering became known to Teri. Confronting Jason, who arrived home that evening somewhat inebriated, she was shocked that he not only admitted to the affairs, but also revealed that his father always said, "you go to bed with your wife if you can't find anything better." Teri had borne a son, but she could not bear that. Teri informed Jason that all was known and that it was over. It was a Thursday night at six o'clock.

Opening the rectory door, I greeted Teri and Jeff - a new love - and invited them in. I was aware that the meeting was to determine the possibilities of an annulment. I explained that the ultimate reason that necessitated the meeting was Jesus' firm teaching of the sacredness of marriage:

"Some Pharisees approached him [Jesus] and asked, 'Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?' They were testing him. He answered them, 'What did Moses command you?' 'Moses allowed us,' they said, 'to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.' Then Jesus said to them, 'It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.' Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, 'the man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too." Mark 10:2-12

I informed them that the process of annulment in the Church was not a validation of divorce, but an attempt to bring justice and compassion to those divorced Catholics whose marriages lacked one or more essential elements for what the Church considers a sacramental marriage. Jeff sat quietly, his countenance exhibiting that particular appearance of one who was totally invested in an endeavor and yet powerless to bring it to its desired effect. Teri, however, was energized. She launched into the details of her life with Jason knowing that her future happiness depended on recalling a dark and painful past. As Teri was speaking, my mind was attuned to hearing what would constitute grounds for a solid case. There are numerous grounds for declaring a marriage invalid including: immaturity, brief duration, acute mental illness, consistent infidelity, force, far, gross irresponsibility, sexual deviance, enduring alcoholism or drug abuse, and disregard for the permanence of marriage or other Church teachings on marriage. Fortunately, for Teri (and Jeff), her marital history exposed what I believed to be a very good case for a declaration of nullity by the Marriage Tribunal of the diocese. My elation was mitigated by the fear that Teri and Jeff were planning to marry in the near future. In our diocese, even a good case would take a year or two to complete the annulment process. I was pleased to hear that they were not yet engaged and that they considered sacramental marriage a requisite to their growing relationship. I provided Teri with the materials required for the application for annulment along with assurances that I would assist her as needed in preparing and submitting her case.

As I walked Teri and Jeff to the door, I thanked them for their faith and for enduring the tortuous experience of disinterring so many sorrowful memories. I prayed that someday a fair wind would blow away the toxic cloud hovering over marriage in our present culture. Closing the door, I noticed Teri was filled with hope. I looked at my watch. It read six o'clock on that Thursday night.

Prayer For A Happy Marriage

Heavenly Father,
from the very beginning you wanted men and women
to find love and create new life in marriage.
Marriage is a mystery of your love for us
and of our faithful love for each other.
Help us to give ourselves seriously
to a marriage in Christ
who calls us to a union of true affection
and strengthens our resolves
in the sacrament of marriage.
Give us sensitive hearts,
discerning minds,
and ready wills,
eager to serve you
and to discover the truth of each other.
Nourish our sexuality
and direct it to good.
On our wedding day
unite us [you united us]

before your altar,
feed us with the Body and Blood of your Christ
and become the common center of our hearts
and our home.

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