Monday, December 28, 2015

Celebrating Silver: Sealed with Surprises, Gifted with Grace

Twenty-five years ago, the “ask” to senior prom wasn’t as creative as it is these days.  Nor was the typical marriage proposal!

Maybe it was just us and our otherwise knuckle-headed friends, but there were few elaborately planned and extravagantly executed proposals. It was typically a matter of picking the right time and place and then hoping for the best.

Our not-so-clever engagement involved a decent dinner out (“Hyde Park’s Answer to the California Fern Bar”?!).  The evening started with my uncharacteristically pushy request for a back corner table, followed by awkward small talk, and then a nervous toast after Tracy had had enough to eat and before my dinner had gone completely cold.  In other words, strategic thinking at its best :) 

The toast was simple, but in its own way perhaps prophetic:

“To the surprise of the Sacraments, and a lifetime of adventures in grace.”   

In some ways, the marriage proposal managed to surprise both of us; since we were among the first of our friends to get married, it probably came as a surprise to many others as well.  Since cell phones were not yet legion, we had to scurry back to a land-line in order to share our joy with family and friends across the country.

Central New Jersey at the end of December may not seem like a destination wedding by today’s standards, but it was absolutely magical.  Aunts and Uncles who had never ventured near NYC flew in through a snowstorm.  The quiet parish church was packed, and it somehow felt like there was a heavenly host of helpers joining us through the ceremony.  Immediately after we had exchanged our vows, Tracy’s legendary sigh (or was it a gasp?!) brought down the house.

At the reception, two memorable toasts reiterated themes from the powerful homily at the wedding, reminding us: 1) the main work of a husband and wife is to help each other get to Heaven; 2) from those who have been given much, much will be expected.  A vocation to Christian love is serious business, we were reminded.  But we were young and so took the challenge as an exhortation.

Have I mentioned that, even though it was the end of 1990, people proverbially partied like it was 1989!?  The feast provided by my gracious and exceedingly generous in-laws impressed even the Midwesterners, who thought they knew prime beef until they saw that reception.  The seafood station was spectacular; the brass band a throwback to days gone by.  However, swept away by the whole experience, my one regret from these 25 years is how little I ate at the reception!  (Since then, I’ve tried to make up for this mistake many times over, as some may have noticed.)

The blessings of babies brought the surprise of Baptisms, first Reconciliations and first Communions, along with five memorable Confirmations.  These Gifts have propelled our children into their own journeys of missionary discipleship--another awe-inspiring marvel to behold.  When people wonder where to find God in our all-too weary and increasingly secularized world, I try to remind myself that not everyone has been blessed with extended family and friends as we have.  

May we never grow tired of thanking Christ for using our fellow companions as instruments of his peace and mercy, even as He continues to inspire and challenge us through them on our journey Home.  In an easy re-write of a vintage line from the spiritual life, "There but by the grace of God, go we."

In sum, it has indeed been an adventure in grace.  Tracy still laughs at almost all of my jokes, and the kids have come to appreciate my dance moves, even when the setting isn't quite right. To crib a classic line from my father-in-law: I’m so glad I said Yes!