Twenty-Third Publications, New London, Conn., 2010; $11.65.
Authors Joseph and Linda Sclafani work in remarriage ministry with the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Fla. This book reflects their years of experience in that field and resulted from their diocesan remarriage preparation program.
The book is a suitable, hands-on resource for a parish or diocesan remarriage process. A couple might pick it up on their own before or after the wedding.
If you are in a relationship in which one or both of you previously was married and you now are considering marriage to one another, or you have entered a new marriage, you are likely to find more than a bit of helpful information and advice in this slender paperback.
“Remarriage in the Catholic Church” is addressed to persons who lost their spouse to either death or divorce. (Note that if a divorced person wants to marry in the Catholic Church, he or she must have obtained an official declaration from the Church that their first marriage was invalid). The book is divided into two sections: issues pertaining to all couples and concerns for couples bringing children into the new marriage.
There are no chapter numbers, seemingly giving permission to pick and choose sections that most interest the reader. Some will want to read the pages on “Feelings of loss and guilt,” whereas others will select “Overcoming loss due to death.” All readers might benefit from “Stages of emotional response,” and the individual and couple psychological and spiritual reviews.
Most of the issues addressed in the first half of the book are familiar to those who have participated in or guided others with a marriage preparation process: money, sex, religion and extended family relationships. Here the discussion also considers how the existence of a previous relationship and possible connections with a former spouse affect each of the common marital issues.
A few more pages deal with commitment, relationship priorities, and how and where to seek help with problems. Finally “red flags” are mentioned, plus some ideas for promoting a marriage’s success.
If either party to a new marriage has children, the couple will be trying to build not only a new life together but also a new family life. Adding an “ours” child to “his” and “hers” is a blessed possibility that can add to the complexity. Is it feasible to create one big happy family?
A child’s reunion fantasies or position between former spouses can make “blending” very difficult. Children may fear abandonment, perceive unfair treatment and resent changes necessitated by the new marriage. The book aims to make readers aware of such potential problems and to offer some general advice, without pretending to have all the answers.
Most of what applies to young children and teens has parallels for remarriage with adult children, which is also considered.
“Remarriage in the Catholic Church” has some bonuses for its users. Every few pages the words “Stop and talk” serve as the headline for several questions that help the reader think about the material or take a step forward. The questions are good for personal reflection as well as couple discussion. An appendix provides some exercises for couples to use together, concluding with playful ones.
Both authors are professionals well versed in the topic. Joseph Sclafani teaches psychology at the University of Tampa. His wife Linda is a clinical social worker and has worked with children, older adults and families.