By Barb Arland-Fye
A quote from the young wife of a Ukrainian soldier holed up in a steel plant in Mariupol, tugged at my heart. “My husband wrote to me two days ago and he asked me to find an article about how to live without water as long as possible,” she told reporters in Vatican City, after meeting Pope Francis (Catholic News Service).
Yulya Fedosiuk, the wife of Azov soldier Arseniy Fedosiuk, made that comment in St. Peter’s Square on May 11. She was with Kateryna Prokopenko, wife of Azov Regiment commander Denys Prokopenko, for the weekly general audience of Pope Francis. They met with him afterwards, asking for his support for an international effort to evacuate their husbands and other soldiers from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, CNS reported.
Their heart-rending story comes as I anticipate celebrating our 37th wedding anniversary with my husband Steve this month. We may have missed an anniversary or two when he was on the road as a locomotive engineer, but we thank God we have never been separated by war. We pray the rosary daily for peace in Ukraine after finishing up Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours. Sometimes it seems like an inconvenience, but that thought disappears as I think about those husbands and wives separated from each other, dying to self for what they perceive to be the greater good.
When Steve and I said our marriage vows inside St. Patrick Catholic Church in Clinton in 1985, we could not have imagined how often we would lean into God’s grace in the years ahead. I hope and pray that the Ukrainian wives and their soldier husbands lean into God’s grace to carry them through whatever the future holds.
Married couples experience challenges, perhaps even crises at some point in their marriage, as Steve and I can attest. Through every challenge, we have grown to appreciate God’s role in our marriage. Through the sacrament, we witness Christ’s spousal love for the Church. Sometimes our witness falls short. I lose patience with something Steve has done, such as leaving paperwork strewn across the kitchen table or straightening out the cords on the blinds in my home office by anchoring them to lamps and heavy books.
In his apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love), Pope Francis said that joy also grows through pain and sorrow. The Ukrainian spouses are in the throes of their sorrow but as I reflect on the years of my marriage, I can see how joy grows through pain and sorrow. “After suffering and struggling together, the spouses are able to experience that it was worth it, because they achieved some good, learned something as a couple, or came to appreciate what they have” (Amoris Laetitia, No. 130).
When our older son, Colin, was 3, I took a trip to England with him to visit my parents but left Steve behind. We were drifting apart because of our different ways of coping with our son’s diagnosis of autism. In the midst of the trip, God’s grace helped me to see clearly that Colin needed his parents together to thrive. Steve and I began the long journey to learn how to “read” each other, how to respond to one another with compassion and understanding. Our son Patrick also had a difficult childhood but once again, God’s grace guided our domestic church through the rough patches. This past Sunday, the “Four Fyes” celebrated Mother’s Day a week late to accommodate everyone’s schedules and enjoyed precious time together at a riverfront restaurant.
Steve and I will continue to pray the rosary daily for the people of Ukraine. We pray for the husbands and wives separated by Russia’s cruel invasion of their country to lean into God’s grace and to discover the joy that grows through sorrow and pain.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at firstname.lastname@example.org)