Published February 1, 2007
I obliged by asking him all the necessary questions for him to pull out the photographs of those seven little ones, and he had a personal story to tell about each one of them. He chuckled as he proudly declared that grandchildren were the reward that God bestowed upon parents for not killing their own kids! How proud he was of those children and grandchildren.
During the meal, he told the three of us who were priests that he wanted to request something of us. After supper as we were leaving the restaurant he asked if we would each offer Mass for his recently departed wife, and then the tears came. He wept openly and without control. It was clear to the three of us that his request came from real Faith and from a depth of love that none of us would ever completely understand. As we walked to our car, one of my priest friends commented that we will never appreciate fully the depth of loss that we had just witnessed. The bond that connects husband and wife is a grace that we who are celibate can never completely grasp. The author of Genesis described it best by writing: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.”
What a wonderful grace the three of us enjoyed in being able to offer comfort to this tremendous man of Faith in promising to bring his beloved bride to the altar of God, but what an equal grace he shared with us in letting us know once again that there is a Sacrament of love that enriches the Church with children (and grandchildren) and completes the lives of men and women in ways that defy words to describe.
The marriage that he shared with his bride for almost 50 years had to have also been filled with challenges, with disagreements, with tears and angry words of conflict, but those were lost when he remembered the joy and devotion that he had shared for nearly half a century with that wife whose loss brought him to tears. His sorrow born from that love gave an image of marriage that was so much more profound than the descriptions of sexual passion, physical attraction, and pre-nuptial agreements that we so often read about in relation to marriage in our society.
Gladly will I offer Mass for the repose of the soul of his wife—whom I never met—and for her husband whose love for her was a testament of Faith. The holiness of Marriage is a matchless gift for the Church and a sign of Christ’s Love for us, which is everlasting!