St. Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2010; $11.95.
”Not Just for Catholics” could be the subtitle for this book. While “Healing After Divorce: Hope for Catholics” conforms to Catholic teaching on marriage and divorce, it really offers help and hope to any person who feels as if life is crumbling on account of marital breakup.
The author knows whereof she speaks: When her husband of 30 years said he wanted a divorce, “I was shocked,” she says. And yet, as she surveyed the ruins of her marriage, she realized it had been a house of cards.
The most difficult aspect of divorce could be trying to comprehend God’s place in what might seem to be hell. Rowland contends that if a person is open to God’s mysterious workings, that person will discover God’s action at every step, beginning with decision time, during periods of helplessness and insecurity, and through the long healing necessitated by the strain.
If a person is listening, he or she will hear the Spirit’s voice when the marriage is over. A spiritual person needs to hear that voice before deciding to proceed with divorce. God continues to be present when a divorcing person is most helpless, when resources seem exhausted and when there is no one else to lean on.
God’s love can heal anything. Our creative God will not only renew us when we’re wounded, but even bring about new dreams and new creative life.
Very close to the center of the book, Rowland tells about a prayer experience in which she heard God asking, “Have you decided to live?” For a couple pages she muses about what it means to go on living after life as we know it ends and about the difficulty of making decisions while feeling like a failure. She asks the reader, too, “Have you decided to live again?”
A key point of the book is captured in a line that Rowland credits to Pope John Paul II: “You are not the sum of your weaknesses, but the sum of your Father’s love.” It exemplifies the compassion and spiritual wisdom of this little volume.
Surely Rowland’s own experience of divorce helped her write a book that could be so helpful to others experiencing the same predicament. Yet, I sense she is essentially a wise and compassionate person. Rowland, who has a degree in pastoral ministry, has at least two other published books on spirituality.
“Healing After Divorce” is a blend of practical advice, assurance about God’s presence and reflection exercises to help the reader personally discover the way through. The book is grounded in Christian tradition and sound psychology.
Rowland frequently cites Scripture and lists the Catechism of the Catholic Church in her bibliography. She refers to professional guidance she received and recommends that each person get competent help via a counselor, psychologist or clergy member.
An appendix describes the Catholic Church’s “annulment” process and says that the reader’s best source for information is a pastor or the diocesan tribunal.
While all of the book’s information is accurate and its recommendations sound, the reader might better trust them if the author cited more sources with authority rather than primarily books intended for a popular audience.