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The Catholic Moment: One wedding, seven marriages

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

By Jeanne Hunt

In the month of June every parish church will have one or two weddings each Saturday. The bride will be radiant. The groom will be handsome and strong in his determined resolve to wed.
Everyone will gather around them, resolving to support them in their vows. The banquet will be filled with music and dancing. It is the finest moment in the young life of this couple. If they are very blessed, they will have this one shining moment, their wedding day — and seven marriages.

Marriage is messy. What we know about the years after the wedding day is that the couple will move through the stages of their marriage with a pattern of ups and downs. Marriage experts tell us that at least seven times during the life of a marriage, they will look at the each other and say, “What was I thinking?”
People change, and rarely will a couple change together. Suddenly you look at your beloved wife and wonder what happened to that beautiful woman who wanted to dance until dawn or that handsome lover who wanted nothing more than a romantic dinner and a heart-to-heart conversation.

In each of these periods of transition the couple must reevaluate the relationship and recommit to a new marriage. It is messy to put aside pre-existing expectations, old patterns and familiar presumptions. It takes courage and love to begin again. That’s where God comes in: The sacrament of matrimony takes for granted that no two human beings can handle this miracle alone.

When couples declare their vows before God and ask God’s grace to fill their relationship, the stages of marriage are guided by His unseen presence. Catholic marriages invite God into the messiness of new babies, change of careers, sexual difficulties, depression, mid-life crisis, forgiveness, old age, etc.

Joe and Anna had one of those enduring marriages: Joe was a dynamic, successful man. He was a war hero, a Catholic deacon and a volunteer fireman. When he walked into a room, he was the center of attention. Anna was his quiet partner. She was an Irish beauty who was demure and graceful. She loved to be a silent partner to Joe’s strong presence.

In the 43rd year of their union, at a Sunday morning brunch with their seven children surrounding them, Joe suffered a stroke. I rushed to the hospital when the call came to the parish. Joe was profoundly affected. He was unable to walk or talk. He was about as capable as a three-month-old baby.

I was ready to tell Anna that her marriage was over. Then she said something to me that I will never forget, “Jeanne, I have a new marriage. I am now the wife of a profoundly handicapped stroke victim.” Anna knew that the old ways had passed away and a new order had begun. She met that challenge head-on with love and God’s grace. Miraculously, Joe recovered. Anna’s devotion and support brought Joe back to life.

What I realize is that those June vows we are about to witness will endure beyond a beautiful wedding day if the Divine Lover is invited to put His arms around the human lovers and walk through the next seven marriages together.

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