By Barb Arland-Fye
In the midst of our staff’s preparing for a special section in The Catholic Messenger honoring Christian marriage, I am preparing to observe my 25th wedding anniversary.
Steve and I were married May 25, 1985, at St. Patrick Church in Clinton, which has since been torn down. The country club at which we had our wedding reception also is gone — destroyed in a fire a couple of years after we were married.
Those losses were not a harbinger of our married life, thankfully. Like so many of the couples who have submitted photos for our special section on marriage – to be published in late June — we have experienced joy and laughter as well as sorrow and tears.
Personally, I think the first year was the one of the toughest. We were commuting between two homes — an apartment and a farm — and trying to juggle conflicting work schedules. It didn’t seem like we saw much of each other that first year. This past weekend, in the classes I am taking with deacon candidates and their wives, we learned that the most vulnerable years for married couples are those first two years.
In the fifth year of our marriage we learned that our first-born son had autism, and the doctors made it clear that major challenges lay ahead. Steve and I coped differently, which temporarily strained our marriage. But adversity — and most definitely our Catholic faith — strengthened our resolve to stick together. Love sustained by faith seems to be a central theme of the letters The Catholic Messenger has received from readers participating in our special section on marriage.
“We have had too many unique experiences in these 60 years of marriage to relate here, but in summary, we are so grateful to God for our blessings of children, grandchildren, health and a love of each other and our family,” wrote Raymond and Mary Jane Goeke of All Saints Parish in Keokuk. They will be married 60 years in August.
“There have been so many enjoyable, loveable, wonderful times that we have never lost track of. It has always been the best. Thank God for these almost 60 years,” wrote Don White of marriage to his “Child Bride” Nancy. Members of St. Anthony Parish in Davenport, they have grieved the loss of two children.
I couldn’t imagine losing either of our two sons, 23-year-old Colin and 15-year-old Patrick. They fill our lives and have influenced our growth as parents and spouses. As the years pass, we’ve gone deeper into prayer and our faith community. I’m not sure Steve and I completely understood the ramifications of living marriage as a sacrament when we said our vows before Father Lou Leonhardt, our families and friends inside St. Patrick’s.
We knew we were in love and that life was full of possibility and potential. But did we recognize that the “lived” experience of marriage wouldn’t always be attractive or clear-cut? Did we know it would include trying to figure out how to get medication into a child who wasn’t willing to take it? Or searching desperately for a lost child at dusk in a large city neighborhood? Or losing sleep over a challenge at work? Or forgiving one another for a slight or for failing to put dirty socks in the clothes hamper? Or worrying about whether a mole is cancerous?
We know that God has gotten us through every trial and has blessed us with plenty of laughter and joy along the way. We have a history together and God has engraved it in our hearts.
In one of his PowerPoint presentations on Marriage as Sacrament during the deacon candidates’ formation class last weekend, Deacon David Shea noted: “A couple marrying say before society: I love you and I give myself to and for you. A Christian couple says something more: I love you as Christ loves his Church, steadfastly and faithfully.”