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I sat down to write some brief remarks from the father of the bride for my oldest daughter’s wedding on Friday. This came out … so I started over. I went with light-hearted instead. But Cecilia liked the idea of sharing the original version here.
Cecilia, I know what you can expect from your marriage.
Intense joys followed quickly by intense sorrows —euphoria and rage, deep comfort and monumental irritation. You will be driven to the end of your limit and desperately want to quit. His boyish charm will become irresponsible immaturity. Your quiet charm will become maddening secretiveness. The sources of your love will become shallow pools. The arguments will come and it will seem like everything — joy, peace, happiness, the future — is at stake every time.
But if you hang on — and I pray to God you hang on (literally, I’m praying every day you guys will hang on) — if you hang on, you will find the amazing thing that follows the first phase of marriage. The irritations will remain, but will become background noise. Joy will take over the foreground— the joy that is only possible to those who have dedicated their lives to someone else and fought selfishness away with every ounce of their being. The fights will still come, but much less will be at stake. What will overwhelm you is not anger but peace and gratitude for what you have been given.
You and Ryan are in love now — really and truly in love. I don’t doubt it. And I have no doubt that your love for each other one day will eclipse any love I have ever had. But so far it has not. It hasn’t grown greater than my love for your mother. Not yet.
Now you love each other enough to give your life away to the dream of what it can become. Later, you will have to keep giving your love away to the much lesser reality of what your life will actually be.
Today, you see what is best in each other, and quickly ignore the bad. Later, what is worst about each other will have defined many hours and days of your life, maybe months and years of your life, and you will love each other despite it, and together make what is best about each other far, far better than what it is now. Your disappointment in each other will become far more forgiving. Your joy in each other will also become more realistic — more subtle and more profound.
Today, God has given you a glowing vision of what your spouse is truly worth, and you are giving your lives to that vision. Later, he will take the glow away and ask you to give your lives anyway.
And if you do, you will be happier than you can possibly imagine right now.
“It can seem difficult, even impossible, to bind oneself for life to another human being,” says the Catechism. But “Christ dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to ‘be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ,’ and to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love.”
Marriage is like climbing an impossibly steep mountain, struggling up the side and getting tired and sick of it and finding you still have twice as far to go.
It’s a huge drag, unless you do one thing: Look away from the mountain. Take in the unique vantage-point you have been given. Below in the valley you will see the lives of those who have shaped you and those you shaped, and ahead you will see the beauty that calls you forward.
And then the climb up the mountain will just be a conquest of ever greater heights.