Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Wonderful Life Together

Yesterday (9/27) I officiated Allison and Ryan's wedding ceremony, at Castle Hill in Newport, Rhode Island. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Not to emphasize stereotypes too much, but typically you expect the really mushy stuff from the bride. Ryan shows us it need not be so. Manliness need not prevent you from an honest and thorough description of your mutual love:

"Everything about Allison is pure. From the way she says hello to the way she says goodbye, Allison is Allison and not anyone else. She carries herself with such grace... Those of us who are lucky to be around her are comforted by her amazingly beautiful smile that without fail results in... reciprocation... She has a way of shining light on your day no matter if it’s been good or bad.... For the first in my life I can honestly say that I know how it feels to be loved. I say time and time again, I am the luckiest man in the world."

Now, this type of deep love is the foundation for a wonderful marriage. How do you build on that foundation? Allison tells us how:

 "We are two people who will do anything it takes to make our marriage succeed, and we are not naïve about the complications and heartache that touch even the most pristine of marriages. We are ready, we are eager, and we are committed to joining ourselves for our time on this earth. Ryan is the best decision I will ever make."

So, Allison tells us, the best way to build a successful marriage is to recognize your deep love as an essential foundation, but not sufficient in and of itself. You have to be ready, eager and committed to continuing to do the work necessary and never stop doing it. When you do, you can like Ryan, clearly say, "I know we are going to have a wonderful life together. I know our family will be secure and whole. I know all of this because I know Allison."

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Those Moments Have Made Us Who We Are

Yesterday (9/20) I co-officiated Stacy and Jean-Simon's English-French wedding ceremony with Jean-Simon's sister, Virginie, at Le Windsor, in Montreal, Quebec. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Stacy and Jean-Simon are a special couple. They each have strong personalities, without a shred of arrogance. You know where you stand with them. They mean what they say, and they say what they mean. You know these are the type of people you can count on. At the same time, they don't make a big deal of themselves. As individuals and as a couple they exude a fine blend of humility and quiet confidence.

They come from entirely different backgrounds, she, a Jewish English girl from the West Island, he, a Catholic French boy from the Town of Mount Royal. Yet, spend just a few moments with both of them, and accents aside, you would never know it. Their love for each other is just so deep, that it makes you feel all warm inside. They show you how powerful a force love can truly be.

What is it that allows them to all of exhibit these qualities, and share such a deep love. Well, with Stacy and Jean-Simon, you need not guess. They will tell you. They have not just let life pass them by. Indeed, as individuals and as a couple, they have taken the time to think about and reflect on experiences they have had in life. They have carefully examined these experiences, some negative and some positive, and they have found meaning in them. As Stacy says, "I believe that when good and bad things happen, it’s for a reason. We may not know right away, but in the long run, you realize why things happen the way they do."

Stacy and Jean-Simon have not only sought to give meaning to these experiences. They have sought to harness that meaning to improve their individual lives, to grow together as a couple, and to strengthen their relationship. As Jean-Simon says, "These moments (good or bad) have made us who we are and have solidified the love we have for one another."

Stacy and Jean-Simon, may you continue to be blessed with a rich life, full of meaning, and may you and your love grow only stronger, with the experiences you harness to enhance it.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Just a Little Purer

Friday night (9/12) I officiated Heather and Scott's wedding ceremony at the Dallas Arboretum in Dallas, Texas. They have been together since high school. They married 17 years to the day since their relationship began. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

In all things in life we learn by trial and error. Our love lives are no exception. In this precious area of life, that has inspired great works of poetry and music, while also launching a thousand ships, we stumble and get up again, we err and circle back, hopefully learning in the process, some of us quicker and others slower.

Still, while we advance and hopefully evolve, there is that sweetness of the first kiss, the innocence of the first hand we hold, the warmth of the first cheek we graze with a fingertip, that never goes away, and that we seek with greater knowledge and experience to recreate. Alas, it is lost with that person whom we shared them with.

Not so for Heather and Scott. , and still cherish in each other those very children they once were. They are that rare couple, that have loved each other in the innocence of youth, have allowed each other the room to evolve and grow, and have done it together.

They can still recreate that long gone world of the past, THAT September 12th, not of the 2014, but of 1997. And so, the shared life they have created together is just a little sweeter, just a little purer, just a little more authentic than many can enjoy. In that sense they are truly blessed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Building Their Relationship Together

Saturday evening (9/6) Father Joe Townsend and I co-officiated Meghann and Howard's wedding ceremony at the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:  

Howard vividly tells a fascinating story about Meghann: “Meghann is very pure of heart, she truly cares about other people and their welfare. One time we were in the airport waiting for a flight. Quite some distance away from us, a teenager had fallen asleep on one of the chairs in the waiting area and they had just announced last call for that gate. Meghann asked me if I thought that he was about to miss his flight. I replied that we don't even know if he is supposed to get on that particular flight. She said we had to wake him up just in case. At her urging, I shook him (quite persistently) until he finally awoke and we asked if the nearby gate was indeed for his flight. He immediately jumped to his feet and made a run for it, barely making it and without any time to even thank us. This was a perfect stranger, that no one even thought to notice, and Meghann was concerned that he might miss his flight (if it even was his flight). Meghann had nothing to gain by helping him out; it was simply the right thing to do. I like to think that had I noticed him sleeping first, I would've done the same thing. But in an airport full of people, Meghann was the only one who thought to notice him.”

Now, we can get into the depth of that story in a moment, but what really struck me about this story is how it reminded me of another old story. The Bible tells us that Abraham sends his chief servant to his native land to find a wife for his son. Being an astute executive, Abraham does not tell his servant how to find the right woman, rather having chosen the right man for the job, he lets him do it. So, how does the servant decide which woman is the right one? Waiting at the well, he decided he will ask one of the young women drawing water for a small drink, and that the one who volunteers to give him, all his men and his camels water, will be the right choice for Isaac. Indeed, once Rebecca arrives, she does just that, and is chosen as Isaac’s new wife.

Now, obviously, the point of this story is not to take this literally, nor to say that this happened in the way described, or even happened at all. The point of this story, like most stories in the Bible, is to teach an important lesson. The pinnacle of human behavior is to do the right thing, because it is right, and to help those in need, with no ulterior motive aside from the recognition that that is the right thing to do. When the servant sees that, as Howard might put it regarding Meghann, that, Rebecca is, “very pure of heart, [that] she truly cares about other people and their welfare,” he realizes that he has found the right woman.

Now, in the Bible or more commonly in fairy tales, that is all you need, and everyone lives happily ever after. In fact, Hollywood seems to glorify an approach where matters of the heart all just come naturally, and only if they do are they “real”. However, in real life, even when the “candidate” is “marriage material”, you need something else. You need to know that the relationship itself, like all things in life, demands hard work, and you need to put in the time and the effort to do that work. That is something that Meghann and Howard have never shied away from.

This is what Meghann reminds us of: “Howard and I have dated for several years, and truly enjoy spending time together. We have seen many wonderful times and have supported each other through the difficult ones. The Catholic Church encourages engaged couples to attend pre cana classes as part of the marriage preparation. These classes only reinforced that we are both entering into married life eyes wide open… Despite different religions and backgrounds, we both have very similar views and beliefs. Howard makes me laugh, is very smart and curious about the world and is very supportive and reliable. He loves me for who I am despite my faults, which I appreciate so much… I always want to hang out with him and I consider him my best friend.”

And Howard tells us that in building their relationship together, they passed the greatest of all tests. This is important to all married couples, so listen up: “We have even built IKEA furniture together (several pieces) and survived it. Apparently, there is a saying in Sweden that says any couple that can survive building IKEA furniture together can survive a lifetime. We are best friends, companions and we know we want to be together. We look forward to what the future holds for us as a team.”

Got That Happiness Thing "Made"

Friday afternoon (9/5) I officiated Sandy and Chris' wedding ceremony at their home in Richmond Heights, Ohio. It was a lot of fun seeing their family again, having officiated Sandy's brother Jon's wedding ceremony to Jenny, a few years ago in New Orleans, Louisiana. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:
Ask Chris to tell you one thing about Sandy, and he will use a sentence that is mutually true: "I have never been with someone that makes me as happy as Sandy does."
The very founding document of our nation prominently mentions the pursuit of happiness, third only to life and liberty, as one of reasons for those Englishmen throwing off the yoke of their monarch. This stands out even more, if you know that they were borrowing this phrase from Locke, who had spoken of life, liberty and property, not the pursuit of happiness.
Now, if our forebears imbued our nation with legitimacy, insofar, as it could enable us to pursue happiness, the question that follows should be more than obvious: How does one do just that, achieve happiness. I believe that Sandy and Chris in the way they have lived their lives, help us understand.
First, you need to be patient. We live in a world where speed is prized. Why is my burger ready only after an agonizing 60 seconds? Why does my iPhone take an unbearable 10 seconds to retrieve that email? Can you believe that it took Amazon a full 24 hours to get me that new flatscreen TV? Sandy and Chris understand that "good" and "fast" aren't all that often equal. Just look at what happened when Chris asked Sandy out the first time, and she explained that the timing was just not right. He didn't give up. All he said was, "I will wait for you. I am not going anywhere." It took about a year, she said yes, and you know the rest...

Second, you need to work at it, but not make a big deal out of yourself. Just do what needs to be done. The Talmud says that the Patriarch, Abraham, would "talk little and do much." Basic business and customer service practice similarly tells us to, "underpromise and overdeliver." Both Sandy and Chris' family and friends can tell you how they embody this quality in their lives as individuals and as a couple. 
Third, and this is closely connected to the other two, you need to let go of your apprehensions, be inspired, relish your life experiences, and learn from them and from each other. Indeed, Sandy tells us that Chris has turned around all her, "'I'm never going to's'", and also says, "I have never believed in anyone more than I believe in Chris,” whom she fondly calls her “Frank Sinatra”. Chris, in turn says, "She inspires me to be a better man. At this point I could not be without her. She is the yin to my yang, the peanut butter to my jelly, and the twinkle to my star."
So, folks, just remember, have patience, get the job quietly done, let go of your apprehensions, be inspired, relish your life experiences, and learn from them and from each other. Then you've got that happiness thing "made..."