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    A View from the Pew


    This week’s view from the pew occurred at a 3:00 pm wedding that I attended yesterday in Rhode Island. Two of my former students married each other in a very lovely little Catholic church located in the center of a historic town near the Atlantic ocean. Location, location, location. Taking full advantage that the liturgy would celebrate the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, I took the morning off and looked forward to this highly anticipated event with my husband, a colleague and many, many friends.

    Well. This celebration managed to reduce me to a puddle in a pew. Within the last 45 years as a pastoral minister and liturgical musician, my responsibilities included preparing the wedding liturgy with the couple including the music, the readings, the environment, the ministers of the liturgy, along with executing the music and the delicate art of issuing a beautiful worship experience for the couple and their diverse community of guests who may or may not be familiar with Catholic worship. Yesterday, I worshipped alongside my husband, a rare occasion because of the nature of my work, along with his part time pastoral work as a liturgical musician. Yesterday, we sang and prayed together, together at a Mass that resembled our own wedding 27 years ago. People responded to the prayers. The assembly actually sang the well-performed music with robust enthusiasm, drawing us all into the spirit of the celebration and the worship of God in deep joy, faith and gratitude for this young couple, their wonderful families and our mutual friendships. Over and over we heard how thankful we everyone felt to be included as guests at this feast of life and love. 

    Two events tipped me over the edge and caused me to consider buying stock in Kleenex Tissue.  The first incident occurred as the presider welcomed everyone to the celebration. I wondered how the parents of the bride and groom must feel at this very moment, when their two beloved children would exchange the consent to love, honor and cherish in each other in sickness, health, and everything else that a marriage entails. I watched the bride’s dad embrace his wife of over 35 years as the welcoming comments continued and  reached for my second tissue (the first shriveled as I watched my ‘kids’ from college take their place as witnesses and bride and groom), simultaneously nudging my husband to glance over to catch a glimpse of a beautiful moment that gave witness to devoted and lasting love. A gorgeous and grace filled moment reminded me of my own sacred vows to the man standing next to me who promised the very same thing over a quarter of a century ago. Out of my range of view but equally committed as long-time married partners stood the groom's parents. Both these couples raised two of the finest young people I know. Does this young couple know what a precious gift has been given them in their parents, I wondered? They just don't make them any better than these two salt of the earth couples. 

    The second occurrence that profoundly moved me took place at the end of the distribution of Communion. We sat quietly, listening, reflecting and praying to the sterling lyrics and music of Richard Gilliart’s The Servant Song, which expresses not only the love of the newly married couple as young lovers, but of two committed people who cleave to each other in service on the pilgrim road, through all the yucky muck that surfaces within a shared life, the humor that keeps it real, the profound joys and cavernous sorrows that become part of our earthly sojourn simply because stuff happens. Sitting next to my husband with whom I share a beautiful marriage along with the extraordinary experience of parenting three wonderful children, the care of elderly, sick parents, the loss of health and any number of hospital stays and a shared love and regard for our vocational call and gifts in our respective fields, I felt the deepest gratitude for my own marriage as I watched this new young couple begin their own story of love and faith. And yes, I managed to wipe my face from the watershed that poured out of my eyes as I held my husband’s hand throughout the reflection. “Any streaks?” I asked him, positive that I created tire tracks on my cheeks. Pat looked at me, smiled and shook his head. “Beautiful,” he said. Does it get better than this? 

    For an exquisite liturgy of life and a celebration born out of people who just ‘get it,’ thank you, sweet friends. Thank you.