June 7, 2010

My Last Wedding

On Saturday I did my last wedding here at the parish. As I was cleaning up from the ceremony, I got a little emotional for a moment; I think it was the beginning of my grieving for my assignment coming to an end.

In my three years as a parish priest, I have witnessed twenty-six marriages, and prepared about five more that were witnessed by guest clergy. It's been a big part of my life. At one point marriage preparation envelopes were the largest single thing in my office file drawer. In the middle of my time here I had seventeen couples on my checklist spreadsheet for paperwork and stages of the process. Now the spreadsheet is empty. No more calls to check in and remind brides about paperwork or evenings in the parlor reviewing the "FOCCUS" instrument.

I'm very grateful for having had the opportunity to work with all of these folks, and for the privilege of witnessing their mutual offering to one another in the sacrament of marriage. Preaching at weddings has helped me to understand certain things more clearly, truths that apply just as much to the vows of religious consecration.

When you begin to touch the very eternity of God, whether by falling in love with another human being or by the prayerful solitude in which a call to celibate consecration begins to emerge, that very eternity demands a commensurate response. The only imitation that will satisfy in this life is to say "forever." This is why love pushes us into permanent commitment; it's the least we can do, the least that will satisfy us. It's why two kids who know nothing of permanence and much less of eternity can write 'together for ever' on the wall; they have experienced the love that is God himself translated into our experience, and God's eternity pushes them to say such a thing even though they don't even know what it means.

Our freedom does not consist in preserving the false liberty of always keeping our options open, wandering through life and refusing to land, but in the freedom to dispose of ourselves fully and completely. Of course I knew this before on the cognitive, theological level, but those whose marriages I have witnessed over the past three years have taught it to me at the deeper level of the heart. Thank you.


Anonymous said...

I was a couple of years in the parish when asked to return to studies.
I remembered St. Maximilian Kolbe's words from the office on August 14th.
Fortunately, my bishop found a parish where I could live with other priests and keep some semblance of priesthood offering Masses and hearing confessions. (If possible, try to learn the extraordinary form, especially as you friars have your own Missale Seraphicum.) But, weddings, baptisms, funerals, and anointings have become quite a rarity for me.
It was a difficult transition for me. But, I trust you'll do well.
In any case, I am praying for you.
-An archdiocesan priest-

Brother Charles said...

Thank you, Father, for your advice, confidence, and prayers.