Three themes rose to the top for me throughout Chapters 17 and 18:
- The unthinkable (or is it really so unthinkable after all?),
- The power of spiritual friendships, and
- The grace of forgiveness.
Perhaps the most frightful scene in The Accidental Marriage comes at the beginning of Chapter 17 when, while out for a leisurely drive with Megan and baby Grace, Scott stops at a well-known cable bridge so the three can walk along it. Scott, while holding Grace, is haunted by "Grace should have never been born" thoughts. He then walks toward the edge of the bridge and is paralyzed by thoughts of throwing baby Grace into the surging torrent flowing under the bridge. Megan intervenes, breaking Scott's trance, and he quickly hands Grace to her and runs off. Scott eventually finds sanctuary inside a church, St. Agatha.
I wondered if there was a connection with Saint Agatha, if Roger Thomas symbolically chose her to be the patron saint of the church where Scott wrestled with and sought refuge from his own troubling thoughts. According to American Catholic, when Agatha was arrested, the legend says she prayed, “Jesus Christ, Lord of all things! You see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am --- you alone. I am your sheep; make me worthy to overcome the devil.”
I admit it might be a stretch to suggest a connection here, but that last line is powerful stuff: make me worthy to overcome the devil. It’s easy to stand in judgment of Scott, to think I would never, COULD never, do something that terrible, but that’s the power of temptation. The devil takes our weaknesses and does all he can to turn them into his gain. When evil thoughts come into my heart, I pray to have the discipline to dash them against Christ immediately.
"There's an old saying … There are things within each of us that would shame hell. I've been married for forty-one years, and I've raised five children and nine grandchildren. If I were to tell you some of things I've been tempted to do to them over the years, it would curl your hair … The important thing is that I never did any of it. Neither did you." – Francis to Scott, Chapter 17
Those wise words in the quote above are from Francis, a sacristan for St. Agatha’s. The two first meet while Scott is in hideaway mode and then they continue to forge a nice friendship beyond that first encounter. Francis becomes a friend who Scott can open up with honestly and completely. When I read the development of Scott and Francis’ friendship, I thought about the power of spiritual friendships. I’ve heard it say that it’s good to have at least three good and trustworthy friends --- one older, one younger, and one about the same age as you. Francis served as an “older” friend to Scott, providing wisdom and counsel like you would find from a concerned uncle or aunt.
The Old Testament book of Sirach is filled with many nuggets of wisdom for almost every aspect of daily life. In the following from Sirach 6:5-17, we hear a few words about friendship.
"A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure. A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth. A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds," Sirach 6:14-16.
In some translations, that last line reads, “A faithful friend is an elixir of life; and those who fear the Lord will find him.” If an elixir is a life-saving medicine, then spiritual friends are like life-saving medicine, too. What a beautiful gift Francis became to Scott. What a beautiful gift spiritual friendships are to us all.
The Grace of Forgiveness
Being reduced to nothing can often be the only way some of us learn. The event on the bridge shattered Scott, pushed him to pass through zero, and then forced him to examine his life and ponder his path forward. Scott ends up writing a letter to his former boss, asking for forgiveness for the way he reacted upon being fired. Scott was treated unjustly, and one could argue his anger and actions were justified. Yet Scott extends kindness and forgiveness to one who many would say deserves the opposite. His kindness and forgiveness is eventually reciprocated when Scott’s former boss extends a peace-offering in return. This is a gentle reminder that the grace of forgiveness follows repentance; we must first be open to receive it. By the end of Chapter 18, it feels like Scott is establishing a sense of peace with his choices.
To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:
- When you teeter with unthinkable thoughts and temptations, what do you do to stamp out evil?
- Do you have an spiritual friend, "an elixir," who provides you with wisdom and counsel? How did your friendship begin and how do you continue to strengthen it?
- Have you reached out and directly asked for forgiveness from someone in your past? How did you initiate that conversation and what has been the result of your actions?
Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week's reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.
Next week, we'll cover Chapter 19. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Accidental Marriage Book Club page.
Copyright 2015 Lisa Schmidt
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