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This is a moderated blog is a project of the Ruth Institute. Have a story to share? We're listening.
It was one of my all-time favorite photos. I was laying on the floor playing with two of my children. My then 2-year-old daughter laid on my back, and my son was next to us. Everyone was looking up at the camera, smiling. But today, when I looked at this photo on the bulletin board in the kitchen, my face had a large “X” carved across it, likely by one of my children.
When my wife of more than 20 years decided to divorce me, I was the last to know. She cleaned out our bank accounts to hire a lawyer. She informed our three children. She published the divorce suit in the newspaper. Then she strode into my office one afternoon and looked at me with raging hatred. “I want a divorce,” she declared.
For the next hour,
I was subjected to a verbal blistering. Her complaints against me as a husband and father came fast and furious. In all, she spit out more than 40 “indictments” of my person. The only thing worse than being alone, she said, was being in a room with me. I was a weak person. She was sick of propping me up. She wished she’d never married me. I was an embarrassment. She belittled me without mercy. When she finished, my entire existence had been condemned.
Life as I knew it died that day. As a lifelong sufferer of depression, I was not remotely equipped to deal with it. After my wife had taken our two daughters and moved out, I stood in the bathroom, looking in the mirror. I hated myself. I must be to blame for this. I wanted God’s comfort, but the house seemed totally empty. I was so alone. He wasn’t there. I picked up an X-acto blade and started carving into my chest. I wanted to punish myself for my biggest failure. Blood was running down everywhere. I never felt so abandoned. For a moment, I thought of Jesus on the Cross. I felt ashamed of what I’d done. Then the tears came. They still flow.
God was there on that horrible day, even if he was hidden. Otherwise, I would not be here to write this. I still had more to suffer; sadness I’d never even imagined. My wife’s attacks continued, via email, on the phone, and in person. I was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward for a week. The nurses were shocked when my wife called, telling them she was waiting when I got out with divorce papers in hand. Furthermore, she planned to try to strip me of all custody rights.
When I returned home, my wife had taken down all the crucifixes, religious art, and sacramentals like holy water and piled them on my desk. That’s when I saw the hand of evil behind this attack. I was savaged for my Catholic faith. She told me I was a religious nut for having holy water. “Who does that?” she sneered. Somebody tore my wife down and put up a demon.
My attempts to establish a new life and still be a good father have taken many years. The divorce court allowed me just four days a month with my children. I was garnished for more than 40 percent of wages. When I was unemployed, the court took the majority of my state aid and gave it to my wife, who earned $100,000 a year. I ended up homeless, living out of my car.
If you tallied the cost of this divorce, the monetary figure was high, but the emotional toll was devastating. My son was out on his own and seems to have escaped unscathed. My daughters had serious medical issues, two suicide attempts, a sexual assault, and a lot of anger. I could not be there for them because my wife and a court said so. I turned to prayer to make reparations and ask God to heal the children, to call their hearts back to the faith. I pray to St. Michael for protection. I know Jesus can bring good from this. By offering up my sufferings, I can help. Lord Jesus, help me suffer well.