Christ calls, Asians respond

Lent series 2024

Philippines

Broken marriage goads evangelical Christian to rediscover faith

By Joseph Peter Calleja

February 14, 2024 04:24 AM

Anne Balista calls her faith in Jesus and Mary ‘the silver lining’ of all her suffering

Anne Balista says the countless wounds caused by a bad marriage are also 'a source of salvation' for her soul.

Anne Balista says the countless wounds caused by a bad marriage are also 'a source of salvation' for her soul. (Photo supplied)

Anne Balista is preparing to receive baptism on the eve of Easter this year, having put all the pains caused by a broken marriage behind her.

There is no denying the deep sense of loss, but the 52-year-old mother of three believes “the countless wounds caused by the bad marriage are also a source of the salvation of my soul.”

Balista, born a Protestant Christian, raised her three children and tried to keep the family together although she knew her husband was unfaithful. Her husband Simon, who works for a construction company, had numerous extramarital affairs, she says.

“There were many times when I wanted to separate from my husband. I caught him cheating on many occasions. His cellphone was filled with text messages from women he had been with while away at work,” Balista told UCA News.

One of the main reasons for staying in the marriage, which made her miserable, was religion.

Balista had been a devoted member of the Victory Christian Fellowship, an evangelical church, where legal separation was frowned upon.

"I knew he was cheating on me but I never expected this"

Her husband, a construction manager, was never home as he constantly traveled to project sites around the Philippines.

The last time he was home was during Christmas 2023. He was around for about two weeks before leaving for Mindanao due to some emergency work at a construction site.

Around mid-January, a woman claiming to be one of her husband’s mistresses called Balista’s phone and told her to quit the marriage as her husband was planning to leave her and move abroad with another woman.

The woman kept calling to tell her in detail about her husband’s sexual escapades. Then, she started sending her pictures of him with different women in different locations across the Philippines.

“I knew he was cheating on me but I never expected this. I didn’t know what to do,” she said.

Worse, her pastor advised her to endure everything for the marriage. “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder,” he said quoting Matthew 19:6.

“The gospel verse had been my mantra for a decade since I first suspected my husband. Now, I began to question what the gospel passage actually meant,” Balista said.

As doubts clouded her mind, she began looking for answers outside the evangelical church.

One day a former office mate, who serves in the parish, introduced her to a Jesuit priest, who heads the Center for Family Life at a Jesuit university in Manila. The Jesuit invited her to a retreat.

There, she met several women who were experiencing a similar trauma. Two of them were battered wives, one a former prostitute while the other had filed a criminal case against her husband for attempting to murder her.

"I was just focused on how to process my trauma to survive"

“I joined a community of abused women where each one had a story to tell… a pain to endure, perhaps for the rest of our lives. We came together to share our hurt, and in the end, were introduced to God who still cares for us,” Balista said.

By attending prayer meetings and reading Bible verses, she slowly began to feel the love of God, she said.

“I was not seeking solutions when I joined the group. I was not even thinking of religion. I was just focused on how to process my trauma to survive. That was my first and only goal,” she said.

Through her suffering she was partaking in the Passion of Christ for salvation, she was told

She began to feel that in “every moment of pain and indiscretion, God was there, taking care of and sustaining me.”

“This explanation hooked me into Catholicism. I began to experience a personal relationship with God because He is a God who suffers with me and, thus, understands me,” she added.

Besides attending prayer groups, Balista now wanted to know more about the Catholic faith.

“I started to attend catechism classes to know more about Christ. I was introduced to Mary, whose love for her Son, Jesus, changed the way I looked at her. Now, I understand, why Catholics have so much love and respect for Mary,” she said.

And so, she began to attend the catechism classes and decided to be baptized on the eve of Easter this year.

Archbishop John Brown, the papal nuncio to the Philippines, claimed in April 2022 that the nation had the highest number of baptisms in 2020 compared to other places in the world.

He said the Statistical Yearbook of the Church recorded 1,603,283 baptisms in 2020 and called the Philippines “a living testament of faith in the 500 years of Catholicism in the country,” during an interview given to Catholic-run Radio Veritas.

When told about the statistics, Balista smiled. “I know there are many others out there. In my case, my marital break-up brought me to Christ and Mary,” she said.

“Faith is the silver lining of all my suffering,” she added.

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1 Comments on this Story
RICKY
I sometimes feel that Religion plays a crucial role in the life of dedicated Christians who experience marriage ordeals, which often renders them to be torn in between the devil and the deep blue sea.