As I knelt near the edge of the pew, angelic voices of small children singing alleluia mingled with the faint yet familiar aroma of incense filling the cavernous cathedral of St. Cecilia. I looked down, my hands folded in prayer, as row after row of the faithful in front of me, beside me, and behind me filed slowly to the front of the church. I avoided making eye contact with those receiving the small sacred wafer. I knew I no longer belonged.
As a second grader in Sister Leodegar’s class preparing for months for my first holy communion at St. Frances Cabrini Church, I took my religion seriously. My devotion waned as I hit adolescence, and by the time I married outside of the church for a second time with a divorce in between, I no longer belonged to this holy tribe of my childhood.
Humans have always been members of tribes. For married people, these include our nuclear family, our in-law family, people living at our income level, and our social circle of married couples.
Some make the courageous choice to separate from their tribe. Others are thrust onto a new path not of their choosing. Whether your spouse abruptly announced that your marriage was over or you have been planning your escape from an abusive relationship for months, divorce is certain to take you away from one of your closely knit groups.
I was lucky. I was not so ostracized such that I was forbidden from stepping foot in the house of faith of my youth. I did not lose my job like the minister who was fired following his divorce filing. I was not booted out of the Birthday Club, a half dozen couples who continue to encircle me with love and include me in celebrations despite my being the only singleton among them. And my finances have returned to the place where I can enjoy a girls weekend with those who have the budget of a two income household.
Divorce confirmed my status as an outsider. As I listened in awe to the magnificent organ, sang hymns from my childhood, and recited prayers I Iearned a half century before, I could still feel the pang of no longer being a part of a community that was once a part of my everyday life.
If divorce takes you away from a tribe that was sacred to you, my hope is that you are lucky like me and that you are able to find small ways to appreciate the gifts of any community which is no longer your own, even if it is as a visitor for a holy hour on a Sunday morning.