Twenty years ago today, my sister and brother-in-law began their vocation to the married life. Memory is a funny thing; there are details about that day which stand out in my mind in more vivid clarity than the events of this past Monday do. It's hard to believe that two whole decades have passed since that day, but there it is.
In those two decades my sister and brother-in-law have had much joy and many blessings, chief of which are their seven wonderful sons. There have been sorrows, too, of course. But I think they'd both agree that the times of happiness have far outweighed the times of sadness, and that even sad times are easier to handle when your best friend is right there by your side.
We live in a culture where people lavish each other with diamonds and other expensive trinkets for staying married to each other for a mere ten years. Statistically, few couples who marry will ever reach that twentieth anniversary, and there's a spirit in our modern culture which suggests that so long a time is unnatural, somehow. People grow and change, after all. If the clothes in your closet don't fit too well after twenty years, how do you expect a "relationship" to be a good fit for such a long time?
Leaving aside the unflattering objectification of the human person this attitude represents, there's also the sad misunderstanding of what marriage really is. Marriage is not like a career, which can be switched if it's not fulfilling. Marriage is not like a hobby, which can be dropped if it no longer interests you. Marriage is a vocation, a calling, that begins not with romantic feelings (though those are important) but with an act of the will. The feelings, the close connection two people feel for each other, and the desire to be always with the other are the precursor to marriage, but marriage itself is the public choice of this one person to be permanently and exclusively united with you, husband choosing wife, wife choosing husband. And the bond of marriage is meant to be permanent, lasting until death, and exclusive, forsaking all others. For Catholics who have this understanding it is simply not possible to believe that a valid sacramental marriage can end as long as the spouses are both alive.
So my sister and brother-in-law are living witnesses to this important truth. Their life together, their generous response to God's call to welcome children, their deep faith and involvement in the life of the Church, and their presence to the community around them sends out a welcome beacon of hope in a secular world that has largely abandoned the values they live by. As a homeschooling family, too, they've probably been an inspiration to others without even knowing it. The twenty years of their marriage have been the source of the best of good fruit.
I am proud to know them and to be a part of their life.
Happy anniversary, Mr. and Mrs. S. May God continue to shower your life together with rich blessings, and may the next twenty years be even more wonderful than the first have been!