By Barb Arland-Fye
During a phone conversation with my mother last weekend, I asked how she was coping with her bad back. Her latest strategy: listening to classical music to help her sleep at night. What does Dad think about that? I asked. He just goes along with it, she said with a hint of humor in her voice. It helps him, too, because he sometimes has a hard time falling asleep!
My parents, Mary and Ray Arland, celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary today, June 15. I appreciate the blessing of that milestone for them and for their four children. My parents understood from the beginning their dependence on God to guide them, to encourage them in their vocation of marriage.
“‘God makes of the two spouses one single existence.’ This has concrete daily consequences, because the spouses, ‘in virtue of the sacrament, are invested with a true and proper mission, so that, starting with the simple ordinary things of life they can make visible the love with which Christ loves his Church and continues to give his life for her.’” (Pope Francis, “The Joy of Love”)
Three years after they were married, my parents moved from the small town they had been living in to return to the Twin Cities for a career change. “We were one paycheck away from disaster,” Dad recalled. They had faith that God would see them and their children through the challenges. Dad worked long hours in the insurance business, which meant Mom bore most of the child-rearing responsibilities. “There weren’t many working mothers at the time. We were all in the same boat,” Mom said. She remembered getting up in the middle of the night to feed the baby. Looking out the window across the street she saw the light on in another house, and that gave her comfort. “There was somebody else awake in the world,” she recalled.
Our family attended Mass on Sundays, observed holy days of obligation and prayed before meals. Mom also prayed with us before bed. Our parents sent us to Catholic school to reinforce the faith they strived to instill at home.
Life was good, but not perfect. Sometimes my parents didn’t see eye to eye, but they eventually worked things out. My brothers and I argued over toys, treats and who was Mom’s “favorite.” Mom always assured us that she loved us equally and didn’t have favorites. When more serious challenges have occurred from time to time, my parents turn to each other and to God to persevere and to overcome. “We pray about it and it always seems like things work out,” Dad said.
Pope Francis notes in “The Joy of Love,” “there is no need to lay upon two limited persons the tremendous burden of having to reproduce perfectly the union existing between Christ and his Church, for marriage as a sign entails ‘a dynamic process …, one which advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God.’”
The vocation of marriage “calls spouses to imitate Jesus by their willingness to sacrifice themselves in everyday situations for each other and their children,” the U.S. bishops state in their 2009 pastoral letter on marriage. “Marriage is a school of gratitude, in which husband and wife are thankful for the gift of each other.” (Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan.”)
One thing I’ve taken away from my parents’ marriage is the sense of humor they’ve developed over the years, a concrete example of God’s grace permeating their marital bond. Blessings on your 60th wedding anniversary, Mom and Dad! Enjoy the classical music!
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)