The St. Raymond Nonnatus Foundation for Freedom, Family, and Faith offers spirtual accompaniment for families in crisis. Our initial mission is outreach to those affected by divorce and separation. A friend of the foundation, Vanessa Chastain, is an adult child of divorce, and in this interview she tells her story of faith.
I was born and raised initially in California. I was baptized as a Catholic as a baby at Sacred Heart Parish in Saratoga, California, where I also received my First Communion and did Confession for the first time. The first prayers that I recall learning were a prayer to my Guardian Angel and the Sign of the Cross in Spanish. I had an interest in Our Lady. I was particularly drawn to depictions of Our Lady and the story of Our Lady of Lourdes, which I encountered in a booklet about the Saints when I was seven years old. Furthermore, I was interested in the Arts from a young age. I first sang when I was one year old and was involved in music during my childhood.
I found out that my parents had separated when I was eight years old, something that surprised me and affected me emotionally.
I moved with my mother to Sarasota, Florida in the summer after fifth grade. I continued to be engaged in the Arts and started singing at church. In addition, I liked working with computers and had diverse academic interests.
The earliest part of my teen years was spent handling the illness and death of my mother and the divorce of my parents, which occurred towards the end of my mother’s illness with cancer. This time period was challenging, but there was also a sense of great hope in it and a growing awareness of God. I received the Sacrament of Confirmation and was in Contemporary Choir at church for most of it, transitioning from children’s choir at the beginning of eighth grade.
The second part involved the aftermath of these events and took me to the end of high school. This time period involved spiritual battles. I experimented with bad things like transcendentalism and Yoga. However, God was still reaching towards me through the Catholic Church. I was involved in Contemporary Choir at church during part of this time.
In Holy Week of 2009 when I was in eleventh grade, I found out that there was a connection between my suffering, the suffering of my mother, and the Passion of Christ. Furthermore, I also learned about the Pieta, a concept common in Art of Our Lady holding her Son Jesus after His Death, as well as Our Lady of Sorrows, a title of Our Lady, and the related Seven Sorrows of Mary, sorrowful events in her life. I had difficulty understanding the Seven Sorrows of Mary, but I could understand the Pieta and Our Lady of Sorrows enough that these influences stuck in the back of my mind for years. Moreover, it was through the idea of the Pieta that I first thought of Our Lady as somebody that I could look to as a Mother to make up for the absence of my own mother.
These realizations during Holy Week helped me, but I decided towards the end of high school that it was not sincere to continue attending Mass if I was not sure of God’s existence. At that point, I decided that I was an agnostic.
Right before I started college, during the third part of my teen years, my grandmother passed away, and almost a year later, I was going through her things when I happened upon something that looked like an icon of Our Lady. Since then, I have heard that it was not an icon of Our Lady from somebody, but I am not sure if that is true. I was mysteriously drawn to it. Moreover, there was a small bust of Our Lady that I found very beautiful and was drawn to. I decided to keep both of them. I still considered myself an agnostic at the time. I continued to admire Our Lady during this time period and to be drawn to Catholicism though I rejected it.
When it comes to healing from suffering involved with divorce, it might be necessary to grow in trust in God. After all, trusting Him is necessary to handle suffering well. Prayer could help with doing that. I would suggest reciting the Rosary every day and engaging in daily mental prayer, especially with the ability to trust in God and persevere in trust as one of the intentions. That might help growth in trust to occur.
Lectio Divina is a method of prayer with Scripture that traditionally involves four steps. It is a great way to practice mental prayer as two of the steps are the two kinds of mental prayer (meditation and contemplation). It can help people to focus on the Truths of the Faith and the Persons of the Holy Trinity. Furthermore, for people who are dealing with suffering, it can help the person to reach towards God by focusing on Him and bringing one’s life to Him, with any suffering that one might have, to be made holy with His help.
Meditating on the Passion is trying to understand the Passion and relating it to one’s life in the context of prayer. An example would be the meditation (Meditatio) step of Lectio Divina with a passage from a Passion account in the Gospels. It is important for people who are going through suffering. It can help a person to understand how the suffering relates to the Passion of Christ and the Mystery of the Resurrection, and it can help the person find meaning in the situation and understand how to respond to it well (virtuously, with devotion, etc.).
The Seven Sorrows of Mary are seven events that involved suffering in Mary’s life. It can be helpful to meditate on these events, saying one Hail Mary with each event while meditating, or to do the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows (otherwise known as the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows). It is especially helpful in times of suffering. Our Lady of Sorrows (Our Lady under the associated title) can intercede for us, and we can find meditating on her sorrows helpful for dealing with suffering.
The St. Raymond Nonnatus Foundation
The St. Raymond Nonnatus Foundation is here for you and your family during times of crisis for spiriutal accompaniment. Please stay in touch with us through our website at Nonnatus.org or and send us your prayer intentions here at this link. Learn more about our monthly on-line support meetings held the last Thursday of each month at 8 p.m. ET for adult children of divorce. Information is on our website.
Our Lady of Mercy and St. Raymond Nonnatus, pray for us!