By BILL CLARKE, Commentary | Published February 6, 2020
Too Slow for those who Wait,
Too Swift for those who Fear,
Too Long for those who Grieve,
Too Short for those who Rejoice;
But for those who Love,
Time is not.
-Henry van Dyke
Every February brings the hoopla surrounding Valentine’s Day. Roses. Chocolates. Champagne dinners. Jewelry. Engagement rings. Ornate greeting cards and lots of other things designed to help us say “I love you!” to someone special.
I’m strongly in favor of this tradition, grounded in St. Valentine, but some of the promotion is a little over the top. Thank God love is a virtue that survives in spite of all the hype.
This year my wife and I will be blessed to celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary. We are thankful to reach this milestone and are planning to attend the annual anniversary celebration hosted by the archdiocese for couples who are celebrating their 50th or 60th anniversaries during 2020. We attended the 50th celebration, and the highlight was joining more than 100 other couples in a group renewal of our vows.
In anticipating this beautiful event, we thumbed through the pictures in our wedding album. One picture, in particular, grabbed our attention. It was a shot of me reciting the vows to my soon-to-be wife who was gazing at me lovingly with a huge smile that perfectly captured the excitement of the moment.
I looked deeply into her eyes and said, “I, William, take you, Patricia, for my lawful wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
In reminiscing about our vows, we thought about the meaning behind the words that we have lived by all these years:
“I take you, Patricia, for my lawful wife … ” It wasn’t a legal contract that kept us together, it was our mutual love as we grew from young love into a deeper, more mature love.
“To have and to hold, from this day forward …” We held on for dear life at times as we gradually evolved into one body like two rivers flowing together and becoming one.
“For better, for worse …” Yes, we’ve had a great many of the better times, especially the gift of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; the joys of family life and learning how to become parents, exciting and rewarding careers, many friends and beautiful experiences. And, as all families, we experienced many of the worse or difficult times, but with the grace of God we persevered. In total, the better times have far outweighed the worse.
“For richer, for poorer …” Just like so many of our contemporaries, we started with meager belongings. Our first apartment was a collection of hand-me-downs, a décor we jokingly referred to as, “Early Grotesque.” But, we didn’t need much, love got us through the “poorer” years. We eventually acquired things that are now gathering dust in the basement or experiencing a new life as second generation hand-me-downs.
“In sickness and in health …” Yes, we’ve had our share of health issues, but we have persevered and survived, thanks be to God.
“Until death do us part.” Well, let’s not go there, quite yet, but when we do, it is with the realization that we will continue striving to receive the gift of eternal life and remain a loving couple as we serve God, each other, family, friends and neighbors.
Renew your vows
I can’t think of a better way on Valentine’s Day for a married couple to show mutual love and enduring commitment than to renew wedding vows, either privately or better yet, at your parish or to sign up for the annual renewal ceremony hosted by the archdiocese. This year, the event for those with five and six decades of marriage is on Saturday, Oct. 3. Watch your parish bulletin for details.
At one of our significant anniversaries, we arranged to have a special anniversary Mass celebrated by the priest who guided us through our Pre-Cana program. He has remained our spiritual mentor and counselor all these years. We invited our wedding party plus family and friends and were thrilled when all but one groomsmen were able to attend. We did a re-enactment of the entire wedding ceremony but with a special twist—we had our children walk down the aisle with us. They gathered around us on the altar, proud yet thankful, as we renewed our vows. It was very emotional and truly memorable.
You can spend a lot of money on a special Valentine’s Day gift, but the luster soon wears off. Consider arranging a renewal of your wedding vows for a beautiful memory that will endure forever.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Bill Clarke, former business executive, teacher and senior citizen, emerged from his third retirement to serve as the associate director of professional development for the archdiocesan Office of Formation and Discipleship. To send your thoughts to Bill, email firstname.lastname@example.org.