20 years ago, I met my wife after Holy Thursday Mass in the local diner down the block from my parish in NYC. Two years later to the day, we were married in that same parish.
No…the reception was NOT in the diner.
But the reception was “one heck of a party” to quote my dear friend, Brett Hoover. Great food, dancing, all of our friends and family. What more could you want? It was a picture perfect day coordinated by the folks at Moran’s Restaurant, a great Irish pub under the watchful gaze of a great manager, Tom Murphy. Moran’s has gone away these days, but we celebrated many an anniversary there each year when we lived in NYC and Tom catered my first book party.
But on the Thursday before our wedding, I thought that we’d have to move the wedding venue.
I delivered a bunch of items for the wedding to Moran’s staff on Monday. By Thursday, half the stuff had been stolen and the wedding favors, lavender M&Ms in bags had been overrun by….
The place needed to be de-loused. New chocolate needed to be bought. With two days to go, the restaurant closed and everything was in the balance. I tried hard to keep my cool, but it seemed obvious to me that the manager was completely stressed and felt horrible about the whole thing.
The first vow that was taken before the wedding was by that manager promising us a significant discount and his word that the day would be perfect.
True to his word, Tom came through. It’s still the best wedding I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been to some good weddings). People still talk about it who were there. St. Paul’s helped us craft an amazing sacramental celebration and Moran’s provided the perfect Irish pub setting for our wedding.
But mostly, I remember receiving so much from that day.
I received, first and foremost, the eternal love of my wife. It’s a love that has lasted through far more than ants in the chocolate, but it’s never wavered. Marion’s love has lasted through all the ups and downs of 18 years. Our commitment to each other reflects the highlight of Holy Week for me: The Washing of the Feet. It’s there that Jesus received the dirty feet of the disciples willingly and joyfully and washed them clean. These were feet that would soon abandon him and yet the nailed and broken feet of Jesus forgave even before the betrayal.
“Marriage is not about happiness; it’s about commitment.” Those words were spoken to us by the younger and older couples that led us on our engaged encounter weekend as we prepared for marriage. They’ve stayed with me through every fight, disappointment, unexpected conundrum for the last 18 years. In short, we have each other’s back and we learn to wash each other’s feet perhaps even more thoroughly each and every year.
My take on this is that marriage is measured not by years, but by feet. How many feet have Marion and I had to wash in these 18 years of marriage. We need to continue be open to receiving each other’s “dirty feet.” So perhaps, this time reminds us more and more of that?
None of us want life to be like this right now, but it is indeed a great time where we can be open to receiving life in new ways. I think that is what marriage has taught me: Expect the unexpected and receive it joyfully. On the other side of receiving what is given may just be a deeper and more profound experience of God than we think.
“Dirty feet” isn’t always fun, it is not always, or in any way, easy. For someone like me, I like the disciples, step into a lot of bad places. But the joy of forgiveness is always at the heart of any good relationship. I have noticed that the relationships where forgiveness was not easily offered by me or by others to me, were ones that simply lacked commitment–on one or both parts. Those faults are regrettable and disappointing, but they make marriage to my wife all the more an experience of gratitude.
So today, I hope you can wash feet. I hope there are ants in your M&Ms. I pray that you are blessed with someone like I have in my wife, Marion, who graces you with love, mercy and an undying commitment.
And I pray that you might be able to receive it.