Weddings

COMMITMENT

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

On a beautiful spring evening some years ago, I enjoyed meeting my nephew for dinner over in the downtown area. As the evening went on, he asked me a question – actually he struggled to ask a question. He wanted to know my thoughts about commitment. Looking back on that conversation, I recall how overwhelmed this great young man felt by the very concept of making a commitment. I understood his point – I think. In younger years, having wondered seriously about making a commitment to married life, and having accepted the invitation to commit to life as a priest, I had some idea about what my nephew was asking. To make a commitment is hard, and more, it is frightening.

I’m not speaking about a commitment like taking a job or choosing a home or brand of car. I’m talking about real, life changing and ongoing commitments, like marriage, having a family, religious life and priesthood. The more we truly understand the nature and significance of this type of act, the more daunting it seems. Everyone tries to make the best choice possible, with prayer, research, consultation, etc. However, it seems to me, that the biggest commitments are ultimately decided not on a cerebral level, but rather from the “gut.” It is the inner self that informs us, draws us, and brings us to a place of peace about the big choices.

Every week I have the pleasure of meeting at great length with couples preparing for marriage. I seek to draw out of each person how it is he/she has come to this choice. More often than not, individuals cannot find the words to accurately explain their decision. That is to say, every explanation they give seems inadequate. For example, to say: “She’s my best friend” is a beautiful thing – but so not enough to describe a reason for a marriage commitment. Something more is called for.

Vocation is the word that describes – quite literally – one’s “calling”. To be a cabinet maker or a scientist, a teacher or mechanic and to really feel at peace and fulfilled in your chosen field would accurately describe a vocation. And how about marriage – is a person “called” to marriage? I believe one is called, and not only to married life but also to other life options. If this is true, who is doing the calling?

In truth, it is God who calls each of us – who has a plan for everyone, and we are fulfilled only when we hear and respond to that plan. Not long ago I heard the vocation question framed this way: God calls each person to BE in that place where the person’s deepest joy encounters the world’s greatest hunger. At so many levels and in so many ways, I believe this is how God manages our being called to the place and way in life that completes us. And the response to the call requires a commitment.

Many men and women find their vocation in married life. Marriage is a gift from God to women, men, children and society. For me, the key word in the above phrase is “gift”. No one can simply choose a life partner or religious life or priesthood on his/her own – it is a gift. And therefore living it out calls for one to live with a grateful heart and also a heart trusting that all that is needed to go forward, God will always freely give.

Fr. Ronan

NB: Next weekend all married couples will be invited to restate their vows to each other as we celebrate World Marriage Day at all of our Masses.

Two Become One

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

There are many young men and women in our Parish and others from outside of the Parish who wish to celebrate their marriage vows in beautiful Saint Mary’s Church. They notify us of this interest through the website* so that we know the specifics of their plans. Then I meet with them and begin their time of preparation.

Marriage preparation with these couples is one of the many joys of my life as a parish priest.

As we come to know each other, I ask them to explain to me how they met and, even more, to account the journey that has brought them to this moment of planning their marriage. Most often as they begin their story, always unique and beautiful, I tease details out of them and invite them to wonder how it all came to be. Wonder is the verb I ask them to use – not analyze, explain, critique or anything else. In my experience it is only by wondering that a couple can come to discover the truth about their relationship.

In the end, every story comes around to each person becoming amazed, humbled, delighted and awed by discovering in oneself and in the other, the love they have for one another. And when asked to explain how that came to be – it is not possible to offer an adequate response unless one takes the time to “wonder”. The truth is found in John’s gospel, “God is Love”. And this God is the source and giver of love to others. Love of its very nature is always generative and God’s love is seen and known in all creation and in each of us – we are the fruit of God’s love.

When seen this way, a couple comes to realize that it is God who is acting in this astonishing story of theirs and it is beautiful. The response to such a realization of being gifted is always gratitude – which of itself – forms a perfect prayer to God. I maintain that this prayer of thanks can become the mantra for married life, keeping God at the center of their marriage, freeing each of fear and worry and locating the miracle of the relationship on the work of God.
All of this may sound like a Pollyanna, sacrosanct view of married love, yet how else do we, any of us, explain love? Truth is, we cannot. And for that reason alone we write poems, paint pictures, create masterpieces of sculpture and art, glass and tapestry, choreographic dances, compose music and lyrics, write stories and more. Yet no work has or ever can describe and explain love. Because God is Love and God is above explanation.

This is not to say we cannot get close to God. For we have been given the most startling of all gifts in Jesus Christ, the GodMan born of Mary, who is the fullest expression of God the Father’s Love for humankind. It is in Him, through and because of Him that we get an authentic glimpse of God’s plan for humanity – God’s dream, if you will, for you and me and all of us: that we live in Love and choose each day to receive this gift from God in order to be complete ourselves and, as importantly, to give that very love away to another.

So it is that the love of husband and wife enables the two to become one, in mind, heart and body; each selflessly giving to the other to achieve a climax of completeness – what a paradox!

It seems to me all of us are searching to know this experience of love, the love that is fulfilled and fulfilling only when given away. This yearning leads to many seeking love in physical and sexual activity alone – believing it to be found there. Ironically it is impossible to “make love”, however, for God is Love. Many have learned this at a price.
And so we return to the beginning: God is Love, we are the work of God’s love and our destiny is realized when we accept this love as the singular force in life and give it away!

Fr. Ronan
*Couples interested in celebrating their marriage in our Parish can find information at our website: www.stmarystcatherine.org