My sister was married yesterday. I was there in spirit. I woke in the dark wee hours of Tuesday morning -- 4:18 a.m. -- to discover a text from Jill on my phone, sent a couple hours earlier, while I slept: "We are going to Cana right now! Won't be long!!"
4:18 was what time? 11:18 in Jerusalem. And they were leaving Cana for lunch, according to the itinerary, so they may be there right now.
Jodi slept peacefully beside me. I lay on my back, eyes wide, and began to pray.
I wore a tux in Jill's first wedding, a lovely outdoor ceremony on a little island in the Chippewa River in Michigan where her high-school sweetheart had grown up. We were fallen-away Catholics then -- my mom, Jill, and I -- and her first husband's family was of no particular faith that I knew, so they were married by a the pastor of the Wheatland Church of Christ, who was a neighbor of my folks, in a short ecumenical service. It was a day of great joy, the start of something wonderful -- though we had no idea in what way.
We were also in Michigan this past Easter when my niece and nephew made their First Communion, and Jill and Kayla were confirmed. This was my first opportunity to meet the man my sister had begun seeing during the previous year -- a man with whom she was unabashedly smitten. After all she had been through, it had been strange to listen from afar as she met and fell in love with somebody new. I've watched a handful of female friends go through divorce, then quickly and repeatedly fall for the wrong guys, and I had to swallow hard. I don't want to see her hurt again.
My parents, on the other hand, had met Rusty and seemed to like what they saw. That helped, especially because Dad has a knack for gauging people. Still, it was difficult to show up at Easter as the only close family member who hadn't meant this man -- and as the person (quite frankly) who was most inclined to not like him. I had my guard and filters up, but he came through clean: a genuinely nice guy who likes good music, a Catholic convert who enjoys talking about his faith, a veteran of the Navy and other life battles who loves his young son and his aging parents, and a good man who did not hesitate to say that he would gladly spend his life working hard to treat my sister right and to get her to Heaven.
They told us that weekend that they were planning to marry, although they weren't yet engaged. Then they told us they planned to do it at the church in Cana, in the Holy Land, on a pilgrimage to learn more about their faith. We were amazed. How much more different could this possibly be from her first wedding? How far had my sister journeyed, in such a short time?
"Do whatever he tells you" -- these words from Our Blessed Mother from the Gospel account of the miraculous wedding at Cana were a statement of faith in her son, that, although He insisted it was not yet his time, He would not allow a need to go unmet for God's faithful -- that from misfortune he would work wonders in order to manifest God's love in our lives. He did it again and again during his ministry, and again in the most profound way on the cross on Calvary.
And again yesterday, at another wedding in Cana.
Before she left, Jill told me she was thinking of ways she could have her closest family and friends with her on her wedding day: a family rosary, a lucky coin, that sort of thing. From Jodi and me and our family, she asked that I write a prayer for them to meditate upon.
I was overwhelmed. I had planned to write a letter, but the idea that I could add something substantive to this sacrament when the very location was a homily and blessing seemed like more than I could possibly deliver. I wrote a letter that said as much, then asked that, the night before their wedding or the morning of, they consider doing the following:
- First, ask the priest to hear your confessions, that your hearts may be pure and open to God’s graces.
- Second, read the only scripture that ever mattered to me at the time of our marriage (and the only detail of our wedding I insisted upon): Tobit 8:4-9.
- Finally (not that the prayer of Tobiah and Sarah needs any improvement or addition), please share the following as our prayer for you both:
Father in Heaven, in your wisdom and love, You said:
“It is not good for the man to be alone.”
You made man and woman both in Your holy image,
unique in all of creation, as both spiritual and physical beings,
made for each other, as complements and co-creators, living and life-giving.
Then, in the fullness of time, you called Our Blessed Mother to bear your Son,
and St. Joseph, her husband, to raise and protect Him,
giving to our Lord and to Your people two shining stars to guide us
in holiness, obedience, fidelity, chastity, and courage
in marriage and family life.
We love you, O Lord, and we thank You for Your many blessings:
For life and love, for mercy and grace,
for Your living example of selflessness and devotion shown by Your Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
We ask Your forgiveness for the times we have failed to love as You love,
and for the strength each day to forgive and to try again
O Lord, please bless my beloved and me,
that we may make a true and generous gift of self to each other and to You;
that we may be a light for each other on the pathway to heaven;
that we may be a living sign of Your love and fidelity;
and that we may be a beacon to draw others nearer to You.
This we pray with confidence in the name of Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Another friend of ours tells a story related to the biblical account of the wedding at Cana, in which we imagine ourselves as the servants, who, on the word of a wedding guest -- a poor but faithful mother from Nazareth -- and the orders of her son, also a guest in the house, lug six massive crocks to the city well, carrying back, on foot, more than a hundred gallons of water for who knows what purpose. As a result, they got to see Christ's first miracle...
When I texted Jill later in the day yesterday and told her how I was with her in prayer, she agreed, and closed her reply with, "Thank you, Jim and Jodi, for leading the way..."
Sister, we were just carrying the water.