We’ve all been digging out of the storm that we got this week, and I think most of us are grateful that we didn’t get socked with snow the way they did down in Washington. Call it “Snowmageddon” or “Snowpacalype,” it was a storm for the record books.
It’s one that people will be talking about for years to come.
Jen and Raymond became engaged last summer, and set last Saturday for their wedding date. They were to be married at St. Paul’s Cathedral outside Pittsburgh. Jen had dreamed of a beautiful winter wedding. She even selected a snow-flake shaped diamond necklace for the occasion. Every day, she prayed for just a little snow. She thought it would be so pretty.
Well, be careful what you pray for.
Nearly everything that could have gone wrong…did.
As the bride’s father put it later, with a smile: “We make plans, and God laughs.”
The night before the wedding he had to ditch his car in the snow about a mile from his home. After trudging through the drifts to get to his house, he realized that he had left his tuxedo in the car.
Saturday morning, the bride and her bridesmaids arrived at Macy’s to get their hair and makeup done, only to find the store was closed because of the storm. Four hairdressers managed to make it in though – some getting there on foot – because they didn’t want to disappoint the bride.
The horse-drawn carriage ride to the reception had to be cancelled.
The priest, a family friend, was snowed in and couldn’t get there. Another priest from the Cathedral agreed to fill in.
By the time the wedding started, two thirds of the guests didn’t make it.
Remarkably, the bride wasn’t upset. Jen works as an intensive care nurse at a nearby hospital. She watches life and death every day. She wasn’t going to allow herself to be bothered by the blizzard of the century.
Well, of course, the wedding happened – smaller, and simpler, but just as meaningful. Maybe even more meaningful than they realized. St. Paul’s Cathedral in Pennsylvania became their shelter from the storm.
On this Valentine’s Day weekend, when the Church is also marking World Marriage Day, there are lessons here that I think can be applied to life – and to marriage.
First, be careful what you pray for. Or, as St. Teresa of Avila once put it, “More unhappiness is caused by answered prayers than by unanswered ones.” So if you pray for snow, don’t complain when you get a blizzard. That’s true about a lot of things, not just the weather.
Second, the world doesn’t owe you a horse-drawn carriage. Sometimes you have to just get out and walk. Life is infinitely easier if you have someone walking with you – not ahead of you, not behind you, but beside you.
Third, to quote the old Beatles song, we get by with a little help from our friends. The story of the Fishers’ wedding is about more than two people and a wedding that almost didn’t happen. It’s really a story of community – of people looking out for one another, helping one another, uplifting one another. No marriage exists in a vacuum. We need the support of friends, the wisdom of parents and grandparents. We need other hands to pull us out of the snowdrifts. And trust me: there will always be snowdrifts. And ice patches. And times when the power goes out and the refrigerator is empty.
And fourth: God’s house is more than a place for a party. It is our shelter from the storm.
The readings from today help to remind us of that.
In Luke’s gospel, we hear again the words of the Beatitudes – how the poor, the hungry and the weeping are, in fact, blessed. We might wonder how that is possible.
But go to the first reading, from Jeremiah, and you will hear the ancient prophet’s words of comfort and consolation – words that can help any couple through any storm.
“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.”
God is the silent partner — the Great Collaborator — in the happiest, healthiest, holiest marriages. Give Him your trust, and your hope. He hears every plea, mediates every argument, nurtures every new life into being from the love of a husband and wife.
When I celebrate baptisms, I encourage the parents to make their home what has been called, so beautifully, a “domestic church.” The bond between husband and wife is the sanctuary of that church, the sacred space. There, “the trust in the Lord, the hope in the Lord” can flourish.
That domestic church is one without walls. You could find it anywhere. It is at the kitchen table, and in the living room, and in the bedroom.
It is at the other end of the phone, when you’re calling from halfway around the world to say goodnight.
It’s in the car, on the way to the hospital, or in the subway, on the way to work. It is a place where a smile is a prayer, and a kiss is a psalm, and just a look in the eye can contain an entire liturgy. That is the domestic church.
Somehow, I think Jen and Raymond Fisher may already understand that. They certainly know that a marriage is more than a wedding. And as we mark another World Marriage Day, I pray that other people come to understand that, too.
Remember those words from Jeremiah: “Blessed is one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.” If every couple took those words to heart, imagine how blessed every marriage would be.
Because if you live those words, no storm is too intense. No blizzard is too blinding.
Every day can be seen for what it truly is: a blessing that has been given, and one that needs to be shared.