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Mother Teresa on divorce

With kind permission from the editor of the Cana eNotice Board, I propose for readers’ reflection what Mother Teresa wrote to the people of Ireland when faced with the issue of divorce. It was written at 54A, Lower Circular Road, Calcutta and dated November 7, 1995:

Dear people of Ireland,

I am praying with you at this important time when your country decides on the question of divorce. My prayer is that you be faithful to the teaching of Jesus: “a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife and they become one body. What God has put together, let no one divide”. Our hearts are made to love – a love that is, not only unconditional but also lasting.

What is the meaning of true love in marriage? A man and a woman who really love each other will never promise, when they marry, “I will love you and be true – for a while”.

They always promise “I will love you for ever and always be true no matter what happens and no matter what you do”.

Breaking the vow of marriage to be faithful until death is not only against true love but it also hurts the children in a special way.

Our children depend on us for everything: their health, education, care, values, guidance and, above all, our love. But in some cases the mother and father have no time for their children or the unity of the parents is broken so that the children leave home and wander here and there and the number of such young people keeps increasing from day to day.

Jesus on the Cross had to give until it hurt because that is what it took for Him to love us and save us. If a father and mother are not willing to give until it hurts to be faithful to each other, and to their children, they are not showing their children what it means to love. And if the parents do not show their children what love is, who else is going to show them? These children will grow up to be spiritually poor and this kind of poverty is much more difficult to be overcome than material poverty.

It is true that many families have experienced much suffering because of violence, alcoholism and, abuses which have often led to a breakdown in the relationship.

If the family prays together, they will stay together. And if they stay together, they will love each other as God loves each one of them. The fruit of prayer is joy, love, peace and unity in the family and this will be an example of love for the children and for the neighbours. And so, there will be no need for divorce. How can the spouses give up each other if they love each other? Divorce breaks, destroys and causes terrible temptations. And it also causes suffering and pain to the heart, to the children and to the whole family. Divorce is one of the biggest killers of family, love and unity.

If, for some reason, the spouses have to live separately, that has nothing to do with divorce.

When a country allows divorce, the harm is not only done to the families that are broken by it. Harm is done to the whole society because allowing divorce tells people that the promise of marriage is to be faithful not “until death does us part” but only “until divorce does us part”. But this is very different from what Jesus taught us about marriage: “What God has put together, let no one divide”.

I also know that there are great problems in the world, that many spouses do not love each other enough to be faithful until death. We cannot solve all the problems in the world but let us never bring in the worst problem of all and that is to destroy love. And that is what we are doing when we tell married people they can divorce each other and go with someone else.

Besides, a country that accepts divorce will soon have more and more broken families that lead to more disunity... and to more divisions in other families. This is not only because divorce is a destroyer of love, unity and peace but also because the divorced feel lonely and often find friends of their own age who are usually married. This kind of friendship breaks up other marriages and this just goes on and on.

Only for the sake of material riches and benefits the country should never bring in the greatest poverty of all which is spiritual poverty. And this is what a country does by bringing in divorce, which destroys love in the family and, in this way, brings in the greatest spiritual poverty.

Let us remember that divorce is not only wrong for Catholics. It is wrong for everyone because it is against love for a man and a woman to enter a kind of marriage in which they promise to be faithful only “until divorce does them part”.

Let us pray. The joy of loving is the joy of sharing as Mary and Joseph, during the time of suffering and difficulty, stand together in love, unity and trust. May this be a beautiful example for all families today.

I pray that Ireland, by giving a no vote to divorce, will continue to be a sign of unity, love and peace for the world, especially peace where it must start, in the family. Always pray together and you will stay together and you will love each other as God loves each one of you.

Let us pray. God bless you.

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