1963 was a crazy year. The Viet Nam War was escalating, and two crazy, young people fell in love and got married. My dad had $50 in his front pocket and draft papers in his back pocket. They did not have the dream wedding that my parents lavished upon me and my sister. They did, however, have what matter most. First, they had Jesus present in their marriage from the beginning as they were united with a nuptial Mass. Then they celebrated with their immediate family and the friends who were in the bridal party. From that day to this, my parents have been sustained by their faith in God, a family who is close, and good friends that are supportive.
This month, on November 9th, my parents will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. As my mom would say, “It is a miracle!” She recognizes that through God’s grace and love alone does a marriage survive the good times and bad, the sickness and the health. In a day and age of fast food, disposable diapers, and “It’s all about me,” marriage has also, too often, become fast, disposable and self-centered. My parents’ marriage, on the other hand, has been an example of what the Church teaches: “Authentic married love is caught up into divine love” (CCC #1639).
Divine Love is generous beyond measure. My parents are very kind and giving people. I have witnessed them helping neighbors in need, forgiving those who hurt them and opening their home to other children who needed a place to stay. My parents wanted a large family, but when that proved not to be God’s will, my mother began working in the school system where she opened her heart to children with special needs. She may only have three biological children, but she has many spiritual children throughout the town of Catonsville. My dad is still a daddy to us, though my siblings and I are all grown up. When a need arises, Dad is there to help. My parents have always given us our daily bread – not only providing us with our physical needs from the very beginning of our lives, but more importantly, looking after our spiritual needs, too.
This generosity leads love to become sacrificial. Indeed, Divine Love is self-sacrificing. A real sacrifice causes some sort of suffering. It is, however, a suffering that brings joy and peace. I have seen my dad, who is a homebody, go on cruises with my mom, who would love to travel the world; likewise, I have seen the sacrifice of my mom missing out on trips on which she would love to go because she loves my dad even more. This may be a little example of sacrifice, but in a world that is all about doing what makes me happy, I have witnessed the closeness and deepening of love that a sacrifice made for another can bring about.
Sometimes, sacrifices are thrust upon us, as it has been upon my mom. My mother has, for as long as I can remember, suffered physically. Instead of making her weak, however, it has made her into the strongest person I know. I know my mom never feels good. Still, one would never know it. She gets up, puts on a smile, and goes out into the world to make it a better place somehow. On rare occasions when you can see the pain on her face, then you know that it is real bad and it is time for dad take her home and get her to bed. Most people, though, who have had the pleasure of meeting my mom never realize the suffering she is constantly experiencing. She never complains, although she does long for her resurrected body. I am confident that most of the blessings that have come to my brother, sister and I are the fruits of mom’s patient endurance of her pain, as well as Dad’s prayers. My parents planted the seed of faith in us at Baptism, my father tended it by sitting down with us on Sundays and teaching us from the Baltimore Catechism (which was taken out of our religious education programs), and my mother watered it with her tears of suffering. Together, my parents cooperated with the Holy Spirit to raise children faithful to the Lord. This was the greatest mission God gave them, and they have done it well.
My mom and dad, they are the perfect pair. My brother, sister and I tease and say they are like Mary and Martha. Dad will soar to heaven via his prayer life. Mom will be embraced by the Lord because of her great charity towards the least of His brethren. Piety and charity. Mary and Martha. Together my parents make the perfect saint. What a beautiful example with which they have provided me and my siblings of married life.
So I praise God for the love and fidelity of my parents. I thank Him for the good friends and close family with whom He has blessed them. Many are celebrating with them here; some are sending blessings from above.
Thank you, Mom and Dad, for your example of faithful fulfillment of one’s vocation. May God continue to bless you both. And may we continue to be the beneficiaries of those blessings! I love you and I, literally, always will.
Now, friends of mine, tell me, in what ways have your parents provided you with glimpses of Divine Love? I would love to be inspired by your stories, too.