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‘I've tried to figure out what God wants me to do’

June 24, 2020

Editor’s note: This is an installment of an ongoing series featuring how Catholics of the Diocese of Ogdensburg are living out their faith. To suggest an individual to be featured in this series, please call the North Country Catholic at 315-393-2920 or email dfargo@rcdony.org.

By Darcy Fargo

POTSDAM – For Bob and Mary Farrington of Potsdam, living their faith together and sharing it with others in spiritual direction has improved both their relationship with each other and their relationship with the Lord.

After both experienced the trauma of divorce and were away from the Catholic Church, Bob and Mary Farrington found each other and married 15 years ago.

“I grew up in the Catholic Church, and I left all churches for about ten years,” Mary said. “When my son was born, I felt very strongly that I couldn’t do this on my own. My ex-husband was Methodist, so we started attending a Methodist Church, and I became very active there. When he and I separated and divorced, Bob and I got together. We kind of went back to the Catholic Church together. When I was really little, I could remember God being very important to me. As I got older and left the Church, I kind of just ignored what God wanted for a long time. Attending the Methodist Church, I learned about a loving God. Since then, my faith has led me and guided me constantly. I can’t even imagine what life would be like without God in it, without Christ.”

“For me, I grew up in the Catholic Church,” added Bob. “In late high school and college, I went away from church in general. I came back to church when I had kids. At first it was United Methodist.”

Bob said he tried a number of different denominations before being called back to the Catholic Church.

“My Catholic grammar school education instilled in me the basics of faith and a need to have God as a friend,” he said. “I’ve tried to figure out what God wants me to do throughout my life. When I’m able to do that – and I’m not always – and can follow God’s will, things always turn out better than what I could do myself. That’s the story of my life.”

Both said their faith, along with friends, counselors and quality spiritual directors, helped them get through their divorces.

“I can’t even imagine going through that without my faith,” Mary said. “It was hard enough. Without faith, it would’ve been way, way more difficult.”

“When I was going through my own divorce, trying to figure out which way to go and how to make life decisions and follow God’s will and discern God’s will was very hard,” he said. “Thank God for my spiritual director, counselor and friends.”

Their personal experience with spiritual direction made them see the importance of the practice, and the pair pursued training to become spiritual directors themselves. Bob attended a course in Niagara Falls, while Mary completed a course in New Jersey. Both also later completed a diocesan course on spiritual direction.

Currently, Bob and Mary work with around 20 directees.

“We learn every day from our directees,” Mary said. “The questions they ask, the issues they bring up, helping them discern God’s call, even in small, everyday things, and hearing people’s stories – there’s something there that brings the presence of God, an awareness of the presence of God is deepened.”

“I get a lot out of the stories other people tell,” added Bob. “They make me reflect on my own life. Even when our stories are similar, what works for me may not work for other people. That’s why I say the description ‘spiritual direction’ is not accurate. I think it’s spiritual accompaniment. It’s two people, walking together, sharing experiences and helping each other. I get as much out of spiritual direction as hopefully the directees get from me.”

The Farringtons say providing spiritual direction also makes them more aware of their need to develop their own relationships with God.

“I’m very aware of discerning God’s will in my own life, since we see other people discerning God’s will in theirs,” Mary said.

“You can’t really sit in front of people and ask about their prayer life if you don’t have a prayer life yourself,” added Bob. “Accountability is good. We provide it for the directees, but they provide it to us, too.”

Bob and Mary say they typically pray using Lectio Divina, a practice of praying with Scripture, spiritual reading, daily centering prayer and using the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

“And prayer together and discernment together has been one of the most important things in our marriage,” Mary said. “We don’t do anything until there’s prayer. We pray individually, we pray together, and we wait. It’s a lot of patient waiting.”

“And the patience pays off every time,” Bob said.

As they look to the future, Bob said he hopes the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic causes people to reflect and change.

“We’re here in the middle of this isolation,” he said. “There’s the way it was before, and the way it is now. Looking forward, I hope we can learn something from this that will make the future different and better.”

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