Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. (Mt. 13:45-46)
Sometimes in life we discover a “pearl of great price” that was right before our eyes all the time, yet we were blind to it. Some have this experience with their Catholic faith; the treasure is either not seen or taken for granted. As we rediscover our faith and learn more about it, our eyes are opened, revealing the hidden jewels. One of the best-hidden treasures of our faith is the Sacrament of Matrimony. God says, “The two shall become one.” Mathematically, it looks like this: 1+1=1. I wonder what Einstein would think! It is God alone who can knit two hearts into one. He alone can accomplish the miracle of the sacrament within. Does it happen right away? No, it takes time. You cannot rush a work of God.
One of the first things I ask when my husband and I entertain couple friends is, “How did you two meet?” Often their account rolls into how they met, fell in love, and of course how he asked her to marry him. Each couple’s story is their unique love story. Here is Patrick and my “Love Story.” To keep the word count down, I am only going to recount the way my beloved Patrick asked me to marry him. I’ll never forget that day.
The year was 1974 and it was a perfect October day. My then-boyfriend and I were headed back to Miami, Florida from Louisville, Georgia. We had gone together so Pat could meet my parents for the first time. Going back in time with my over-sixty-year-old brain, I recall that I was doing most of the talking. The conversation took a right turn into the future as Patrick began speaking about where he would do his residency in Family Practice after his graduation from U. of Miami medical school in the spring. As we were driving back home, he casually mentioned, “You know, a Family Practice doctor should have a family.” Not very romantic, but I barely noticed that he did not get down on one knee, there was no diamond ring placed on my finger, and no kiss exchanged. (To be fair, he was driving the car at the time.) He stuck to the facts, just the facts, that’s my “Practical Pat,” a nickname he has earned.
What did I say? “Yes,” of course, “Yes.” I, a nineteen-year-old starry-eyed stewardess, was in love. All that mattered to me was that we were getting married. I wanted to tell the world; after all, I was marrying the man of my dreams.
The next day I was the flight attendant on a route to St. Pete when a friendly passenger asked me for a date. “Oh, no, sir,” I said politely. “I am engaged!”
He questioned sarcastically, “So, where is your ring?”
“Good question,” I thought to myself. I smiled as I walked away. The words, “Where is your ring?” stayed with me in the days that followed. Not wanting to make an issue of it with my fiancé and after repeated incidents, I found a solution. What did I do? I bought myself a peridot ring, my birthstone, which resembled a one-carat diamond in size and color. This solution worked, at least temporarily.
On May 1, 1974, we became man and wife with this ring, traveling towards marital oneness. As the years went by, I became more like the world than I like to admit. Temptations grew in my heart and soon came out my mouth. I had conversations with myself that went like this: “I am a doctor’s wife and all the other doctors’ wives have diamonds, large diamonds, costly diamonds. I want a diamond too.” Soon these words popped out of my own mouth and were directed at my husband. I pestered Patrick for not just a diamond, but a large diamond.
Pestering turned into nagging and before too long, my guy relented. Pat agreed to get me a diamond engagement ring. I think it was just to get me off his back. Now in my mind, the word large meant a two-carat diamond or at least a one-carat. Not my practical Pat. He reluctantly took me to the jewelry store and graciously chose a half-carat ring. Disappointment must have showed all over my face as Pat said, “Ellen, think about this, we can trade up when we have more money.” I was a little embarrassed to have such a small diamond, but I understood. As the years went by, the diamond he purchased began to grow on me. As I matured, I realized the love that went into buying it and the sacrifice it was on Patrick’s small residency salary, with two small children to support. I apologized to my husband for my bad attitude.
In the winter of 1977 I returned to my Catholic faith wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, my husband did not share my enthusiasm. He was an agnostic. My enthusiasm for Jesus began to put a rift between us. I desperately desired that he share in my new life in Christ. I began to pray fervently, “Dear Jesus, please send us to where Patrick will find you.” This prayer came with a promise, “If Patrick finds Jesus, I will give my diamond ring away to build the kingdom of God.” What happened? Patrick did — and I did! Not only did Patrick convert to Catholicism, but also became a deacon. God was faithful, giving me more than I could ever ask for or imagine.
Since 1979, I have not had a diamond engagement ring. This year I approached Patrick about buying another ring to represent our forty-three years of marital love. This time he willingly agreed. He knew how much it meant to me. As I began the search for the perfect jewel, I was led by God to purchase a pearl instead of another diamond. The more I prayed and searched, the more I was assured that it was God’s choice. We decided that the ring would be a birthday present. The week of my birthday, the scripture reading was about the “pearl of great price.” It was confirmation! I rejoiced in God’s choice and we bought the ring.
When I look at my pearl and diamond ring, and it is beautiful, I see not just an expensive jewel, but rather the forever love that is imprinted on my soul. God has sewn our lives together through good times and bad, in sickness and health, when rich and when poor. The “stitches” are tight, making our two hearts one! The grace of the sacrament of our marriage has been lived out, day by day, week by week, year after year. Falling in love, living in love, and living through Christ’s love is a work of God. Jesus is the formula needed to make the math problem 1+1=1 work.
Jesus is the only pearl of great price. The pearl in the center of my ring symbolizes that Jesus is not only the center of our marriage, but also the center of our lives. My ring has become a witness to all who inquire, “Why a pearl?”
What is my ready reply? “I am glad you asked me!”
This is our love story. What is yours? “Jesus, the Pearl of Great Price” is the only jewel that will last forever. Is Jesus the center of your marriage? Is Jesus the center of your life? He is worth the treasure hunt! What does Albert Einstein think?
“Sometimes what counts cannot be counted and what can be counted does not count.”
Copyright 2017 Ellen Mongan