Regina Einig interviewed Luma Simms, author of My Plea, for the German newspaper Die Tagespost, in which a version of this interview first appeared.
As a divorced and remarried Catholic mother who wishes to bring up her children in the faith, do you think that the Church could make things easier for your family by changing the doctrine of marriage?
Being a divorced family is difficult, to be sure, and at times it is a severe providence. There are many external and internal struggles in the life of a divorced. This is why Scripture equates divorce with violence in Malachi 2:16 because divorce does violence to our soul, our family, our society and the Body of Christ. What my family and I need most is the love and care of a local parish community that is a haven from the ravages of the culture. A local parish that will feed us the gospel—full strength. And through the grace given to us through the liturgy and the word, we will be helped and strengthened The Church's mission is not to make things easier for me. Nor is the Church's mission to make things difficult for me. Because the mission of the Church is not about me, it is about Jesus. The Church is the Bride of Christ, and Jesus is her Bridegroom. Her whole existence is to love her Bridegroom, and do his will while she is on earth.
I am part of the Bride, I am part of Christ's Body. The Church acts as most loving and wise mother, to me, when she is being faithful to her spouse—Christ. Just as in a human marriage the children reap the greatest benefits when mother and father are in faithful harmony. But if the Church should take her focus off of Christ, turn and concentrate on me, and place my desires or my problems above that of her Lord and spouse, then it will be a detriment to me. Just as in a human marriage, if the mother places the well-being of the children before that of her husband, the entire family will fall apart. The most loving thing the Church can do for me is to be faithful to Christ.
Although I do not believe doctrine should change, I do think there is a lot which could be done on the local pastoral level to help struggling families. Our family has been blessed to have a compassionate, priest who explained everything to us with Christ-like demeanor. But I know that not everyone has been this fortunate. I understand people have been hurt and at times they have received rough and unkind responses to their situation. This is exactly where the gospel helps us. Jesus never compromised the will of his Heavenly Father, yet he knew how to love sinners and call them to repentance. Some of his listeners repented and believed in him. Others did not. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in the document, Concerning Some Objections To The Church's Teaching On The Reception Of Holy Communion By Divorced And Remarried Members Of The Faithful, writes: “Assuredly, the word of truth can be painful and uncomfortable. But it is the way to holiness, to peace, and to inner freedom.”`
Does the fact, that you are not allowed to receive the Eucharist have any influence in your personal belief in God's mercy?
No. God is a merciful God. We have to be careful not to conflate concepts of consequences, mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Pope John Paul II says in Familiaris Consortio:
“Together with the Synod, I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced, and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the Church, for as baptized persons they can, and indeed must, share in her life. They should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God's grace. Let the Church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope.”
As John Paul II, states, it is through these actions and with this spirit that the Church truly shows God's mercy.
Why do you consider the doctrine of marriage as a support although you are not allowed to receive the Eucharist?
Firstly, it guides and guards me in my current marriage. I have been married for seventeen and a half years and we have five children. Christ is the center of our marriage and of our home. Secondly, it helps me to train my children. We are bringing up our children in the training and instruction of the Lord. We came to the Catholic Church because we believe its doctrines to be true, and we want to raise them up in Church doctrine. Thirdly, it is imperative to my faith that the Church stands courageously athwart the zeitgeist. If I cannot rely on the Church to stand faithfully, then who will stand on the truths of Christ in this age? The consistent doctrine of marriage is a support to me in no small part because it indicates that the Church is, and always will be, based on the word of God. Finally, how can I expect my children to believe what I say about God and marriage if I do not believe or submit to what the Church teaches about God and marriage?
Since you are not able to receive the Eucharist, how do you experience the presence of God in your life?
My unceasing silent prayer is: Veni, Sancte Spiritus.
I also attend daily mass and Sunday mass. I go to Adoration, which in my parish is four times a week. I sit before the Blessed Sacrament in contemplation. I pray, read (the Bible and other books), and write in a journal during Adoration. In all these ways I experience the intense and overwhelming presence of the Lord. Also, Hans Urs von Balthasar's book Prayer has been deeply healing to my soul.
How did you find your way to spiritual communion?
It is a pretty plain story: One day I started asking Jesus to feed me and give himself to me, and to conform me into his image. Everyone was up receiving the Eucharist and I was kneeling in the pew. I did not want to sin against my Lord for partaking unworthily, so I begged him to come to me. Psalm 139 speaks of how intimately the Lord knows us: “Even before a word is on my tongue, LORD, you know it all.” So I would tell the Lord, “Lord you know me, you know the state of my heart and my soul, feed me as you see fit according to your wisdom and mercy.” He has never failed to feed me.
The General Synod of 2015 will discuss the situation of divorced and remarried couples. What is the best way to help them?
Proverbs 15:1 says: “A mild answer turns back wrath,but a harsh word stirs up anger.” We must always keep this in mind as Christians, especially when discussing issues which stir the emotions. With charity we can speak the truths of God. Having said that, the following are suggestions which may be helpful to the Synod:
On this issue in particular, it is imperative for the Synod Fathers to think of the children and of the upcoming generations. If in their desire to “ease” the situation of our generation they debase the doctrine of marriage, our children and grandchildren, and all the coming generation will pay a woeful price.
As I said above, although I do not want the doctrine to change, there is certainly room to produce better fruit in this area on a pastoral level. I believe the local priest, many times, is the person most knowledgable on the spiritual state of the couple. If the couple have hardened hearts, come to Christ impetuously, if there has been a history of divorces—all this will guide the priest in how to lead the souls of that couple. On the other hand, if the couple has a long and fruitful marriage, where Christ's work of grace is evident in their lives and in their home, then the priest will know this as well. Just like Jesus knew when to be harsh and when to be tender, the priest will know how to bring Christ's words to each couple.
I am convinced that spiritual communion must be studied more (this is a task I have already undertaken myself). I believe it is an unopened treasure chest, both for those who are not in a position to partake of the Eucharist and for those who are. St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Part III Question 80, writes of 2 ways of partaking: Sacramentally and Spiritually. He discusses the third way, but does not give it its own category the way The Council of Trent does. The Council of Trent in Session XIII Chapter VIII takes those two (sacramental and spiritual) and draws out a third distinction:
[O]ur Fathers have rightly and wisely distinguished three ways of receiving it. For they have taught that some receive it sacramentally only, to wit sinners: others spiritually only, those to wit who eating in desire that heavenly bread which is set before them, are, by a lively faith which worketh by charity, made sensible of the fruit and usefulness thereof: whereas the third (class) receive it both sacramentally and spiritually, and these are they who so prove and prepare themselves beforehand, as to approach to this divine table clothed with the wedding garment.
Both St. Thomas Aquinas and the Council of Trent indicate that there are those who take sacramentally but who do not do so spiritually, therefore the fruits of the sacrament are not exhibited in their lives. This means that partaking sacramentally will not guarantee to the divorced and remarried like me communion with God. In Part III Question 80 Article 1, Aquinas writes:
Therefore, as the perfect is divided against the imperfect, so sacramental eating, whereby the sacrament only is received without its effect, is divided against spiritual eating, by which one receives the effect of this sacrament, whereby a man is spiritually united with Christ through faith and charity.
There is much to be said concerning spiritual communion, but suffice it to say for now that it must be studied and taught to the faithful so that both, those who are able to partake sacramentally and those who cannot, will benefit.
Copyright Die Tagespost.