I have been debating whether I should write this post. A part of me wonders if it is a pointless endeavor. Every time I have begun to write this, I have trashed it half way. Part of the problem is that I am not sure what my point is. And as every good writer knows two questions must be answered before one can write: “Who is your audience and what is your point?” But on the topics that are so emotionally difficult and overwhelming to express, I don’t know where to begin. So I will begin with one of the major reasons why I have continuously deleted my posts that I have tried to write for this site. I have lived in fear. I have lived in fear for a very long time. My ex-husband stalks me and I wonder if what I write will give away my identity. The effect has been silence. And the Catholic blogosphere continues on some topics that are just so far disconnected from my daily reality that it bears zero relevance to my life. And I realize that if “I” feel this way, I have a feeling other women, too, feel this way so I will speak and begin to tell my story and hopefully reach those Catholics who have been isolated by violence.
We all know the Church’s teaching on the family. As a matter of fact, my parish priest speaks often on how important family is and how bad divorce is and how important it is to live the Church’s teachings. The question I long to ask him is “what happens when the Catholic family is NOT Holy?” What is the Church’s message for ME and the many people in my situation where the “family” has been marked by violence and fear and where getting a divorce is FREEDOM and a HUGE relief? I will never forget one Sunday morning as the deacon–again–preached about the importance of the family and I looked out across the parish and noticed a couple of women I know who had just escaped terrible violent situations. They were typical battered wives. They had low self-esteem. They had had no money because their husbands had control over all aspects of their marital lives. They had finally had the courage to leave and escape and here they had finally made it to Mass and the deacon wanted to preach about the holiness of marriage. I wanted to tell him “Dude, we exist. And we can tell you stories that will make you want to puke.” When I look for resources on Domestic Violence the Church is is non-existent. Completely. Guess who is running these program for abused women and abused children? That’s right. The “F” word. Feminists.
The Church wants to talk about Christ Crucified? Let me tell you about Christ Crucified. WE are Christ Crucified. And if you want to meet Him face to face, I recommend going to your local shelter and the first thing you will notice is that the shelters are at capacity if not over, and there is a waiting list for their services. You want to live the Stations of the Cross and meditate on it? Go to your local Abused Children’s servicing shelter where children who have been abused, sexually assaulted by “loved” ones, and notice that all the rooms are full. Let me put it to you this way, there are so many abused children in this country that thousands of people are employed by it: family judges, children services, court appointed advocates, and attorneys.
I have been assured by my priest that Christ suffers with us. Don’t get me wrong. I do not doubt that at all (though there are times I have some very strong words for Our Lord). But those words can be very cheap. Why? Because WE are the Body of Christ. US. Christ is pragmatic. THE message that Mother Theresa gave to the world is that God wanted US to administer to those in need. If Catholics are so offended by feminism, then why are they conspicuously absent from Rape Hotlines, Domestic Violence shelters, and worse, the complete lack of conversation on it? Silence.
Here is a list of a few very practical things you can do to support the abused women and children in your parishes:
1. Acknowledge they exist. I promise you that they do. Estimates of child molesters is that 93% are religious. I don’t know about other violent offenders, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they are religious, too. There are many complex reasons for this, but suffice to say that where you have a parish, you have abused women and children in your midst.
A) How do you acknowledge them? If you are a priest or a deacon, talk about it from the pulpit.
B) Most importantly*** PRAY for them and their rescue and healing. Begin an anonymous prayer chain or begin offering Masses for families with domestic violence. Very very powerful. Also, begin to pray for the perpetrators of violence. I had friends that grouped together who did monthly novenas on my behalf. I cannot begin to express what these prayers meant to me. I credit them for keeping me sane.
C)When someone shares with you that they have been abused . . . BELIEVE THEM. Believe them. It seems unbelievable that the nicest guy in the world can also be a monster, but if we are Catholics we should not be surprised. We know about sin.
2. Support your local shelters. If you cannot help out financially, at least drop off toilet paper or diapers. For shelters that assist abused children, they take stuffed animals to comfort traumatized children, and gift cards to fast food restaurants. They also accept toiletry bags with clothes, soaps, combs etc.
3. If you know someone who is in a dv situation, let them know that you have heard and are praying for them and want to help. For those who can do it financially, offer to support the now single mother and her children. Consider giving your monthly tithe to her. You will not receive any tax deductions for your gift. But I will tell you from someone who was supported by many faithful Catholics that what you consider to be “little” gifts, are absolutely everything. Those gifts got me on my feet and they told me in a very concrete way that someone loved me enough to sacrifice for me and to suffer with me. If you offer money, don’t be surprised if someone says “no, I am ok.” It was extremely humiliating to learn to say “I need help.” Thank God for the anonymous donors or people who would just slip me cash in a card. Just follow what your heart tells you to do. A friend reminded me that without poor people Mother Theresa would not be the woman we know of today. It was God’s will that my community support me and it was God’s will that I accepted their charity.
I have many other topics to write about regarding violence. But this is a good starting point.