An Italian priest who serves as a spiritual director for dozens of divorced Catholics in Rome said that the Church needs to lovingly embrace its members who have suffered from separation.
“Through Baptism everyone is a child of God, God liberates us all, and in a particular way, this Pope, many times, has affirmed the importance of embracing everyone,” said Father Paolo Bachelet.
At 90 years-old, Fr. Bachelet helps families in difficult situations by working as an adviser for the Association of Separated Christians of Rome as well as a spiritual director for the divorced in the Italian capital.
In an interview with CNA, the priest noted that separation “certainly entails suffering, as Benedict XVI has said various times.”
However, “this suffering is a treasure for the Church,” he said.
“If one does not understand that each suffering is offered together with the sufferings of Jesus and offered to the Father for the salvation of the world, one cannot draw close to Jesus.”
“And the suffering of separation, when in certain circumstances the suffering of not being able to receive Communion is offered, becomes a treasure for the good of the Church and is another source of comfort.”
The priest then reflected on Jesus' words when said he whoever wants to follow him should be willing take up his or her cross.
“So all Christians have a cross, including those who are married,” he said. “With separation this cross becomes heavier, but it is always the cross of Jesus that Jesus knows we are carrying, and he helps us to carry it, whether it is light or heavy.”
Fr. Bachelet also underscored the importance of understanding that when separation occurs, one is not a failure, but rather the marriage is what has failed.
Given this truth, one has “to know how to move forward, move on and accept and overcome this mistake in order to remain stable, work and have faith.”
In his experience with broken families, Fr. Bachelet said providing them spiritual direction is not easy.
“I must say that I have learned many things precisely from living among those who are separated, and I assure you that for many, separation has been an experience in which only the faith has sustained them,” he explained.
“Some have strayed from the faith for a time, but many others found the need to deepen in their faith and they were helped,” he said.
“Experience teaches us first of all that in a separation, if one has the mission to be a father, he can also take on the mission of mother, and vice versa. Consequently, God sends double the help in order to carry out this new mission.”
“Likewise,” the priest said, “when one is alone, one is forced by circumstance to confront many problems and difficulties, and therefore many qualities and gifts come out that perhaps one did not know that one had.”
By following God after the breakup of a marriage, “instead of being destroyed, one's personality can be enriched by all of the activities that one does.”
“Afterwards, especially if the children are grown, one way of overcoming loneliness is to devote oneself to activities such as study, politics, helping others, sports…and one acquires new skills,” Fr. Bachelet said.