Learn more about my latest book – All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters. Available now!

For Bob. God Gave Me You. #tbt

For Bob. God Gave Me You. #tbt

The ultimate “Throw-back Thursday” for you and me.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 7.47.25 PM

October 23, 1982

At 22 I said “I do.” And I’d do it all again.

Ok, we gotta get better at this. This is the last photo I have of us -- from May?? (before I cut off my hair!)

Ok, we gotta get better at this. This is the last photo I have of us — from May?? (before I cut off my hair!)

Love this song!

0710

From Katie and Benjy’s Wedding, 2013… yeah, life is good.

 I have a little sign that hangs in our kitchen: “Happiness is being married to your best friend.”  Yup.

32 years. And a lifetime warranty.

 

:::

From the archives, at 30.

The F.U.N. Quotient… for Bob (cantata edition)

Once upon a time, my husband Bob was a choir boy. I guess you can take a boy out of the choir but you can’t take the choir out of the man. Or something like that.

Just this past week he revealed that this Bach cantata was his most favorite piece of music from those years. He further revealed that he had bought us tickets to hear the cantata performed. It was a most special date.

Thought you might enjoy this music. And if you don’t have much time, skip to 13:30 in the program for an amazing few minutes with the Chorale 4.

This is only the translation of the Chorale 4:

Zion hört die Wächter singen,
Zion hears the watchmen sing,
Das Herz tut ihr vor Freuden springen,
her heart leaps for joy,
Sie wachet und steht eilend auf.
she awakes and gets up in haste.
Ihr Freund kommt vom Himmel prächtig,
Her friend comes from heaven in his splendour,
Von Gnaden stark, von Wahrheit mächtig,
strong in mercy, mighty in truth.
Ihr Licht wird hell, ihr Stern geht auf.
Her light becomes bright, her star rises.
Nun komm, du werte Kron,
Now come, you worthy crown,
Herr Jesu, Gottes Sohn!
Lord Jesus, God’s son!
Hosianna!
Hosanna!
Wir folgen all
We all follow
Zum Freudensaal
to the hall of joy
Und halten mit das Abendmahl.
and share in the Lord’s supper.

Find the whole cantata translated here. 

 

One of my best days… (with scenes from my daughter and son-in-love’s wedding)

One of my best days… (with scenes from my daughter and son-in-love’s wedding)


One month ago, on July 4th, my only daughter, Katie, married her college sweetheart, Benjamin Sung. For them it was a wonderful, glorious day! May it be the first of many happy ones together! Our two sons, Bobby and Peter, were groomsmen. Let it be said that my husband and I wore impossible-to-hold-back-smiles almost all day long.

:::

For me, it was one of my best days. Ever.

It’s hard to know where to start, other than to say, there are days that, if you are paying attention, you will experience an awareness that, this day will be among your very best days. Sometimes, you may not realize it until it is over, and that’s alright too. For when you have one of your best days, it stands out in your memory as a kind of timeless transformative experience.

I’ve been a parent for over 26 years. I’ve found that there are joys and holy moments that are both personal and intimate and known only to myself; nobody else will ever know them, save maybe those closest to me, because they are deeply ingrained in the memory of my heart. And yes, some of those quieter days are among my best days. But then, there are other days — “events” that are momentously shared and photographed and recorded. This day, the wedding day, was one of the those events that was full of joy, both the personal kind and the public kind.

The best days are the ones that shed light and meaning on every other day.

This is what I’m talking about. When you have babies and little children, you start to train them in the faith and morals that you wish to see them enter into and, God-willing, receive as their own. There are numerous conversations and teachable moments and experiences that you repeat over and over again, at every stage of growth in childhood and adolescence. It is hard, painful even, at times. You pray like crazy for these children. You often wonder if you should bother, but bother you do. Then you stand there in hope that something of what you know and say to be true is being heard, tested, adopted. You spend years building a case for the truth and efficacy of the Christian life, by first being challenged to live it yourself, warts and all… and then you pray that despite your own foibles, your marriage reflects something more than a partnership, but a marriage that begets love larger than itself…  that marriage is a wedding of souls and purpose for the sake and the good of someone else –and later, several someones — other than yourselves.

And you pray some more. Lots more. And then you wait. You never know when one of your best days might happen.

For me, Katie and Benjy’s wedding was one of the best days: to see your adult child embrace their faith — and find a faithful mate who shares it — and enter into Holy Matrimony with full awareness of both the graces and the responsibilities therein, is a blessing that is an order of magnitude beyond just being proud of your child in the moment. No, this is a deep stirring that what you are watching unfold had divine origins, and that you somehow are being afforded the sublime privileged to partake in it. You cannot begin to describe the stunning gratitude that is bursting in your heart. For you are so grateful to God that you are there to witness a love grounded in something bigger than ourselves, greater than our emotions or ego, stronger than our doubts and problems, and more beautiful than wedding attire and flowers. You are experiencing something truly, eternally, significant. It is the gift of God’s love being made visible.

On July 4th we were privileged to witness two souls stand before God and do the seemingly impossible — something that can only be afforded by grace — pledge loving fidelity forever. To see the joy this couple had, and the confidence they have both in grace and in each other is extraordinary. This married love is the crowning of a chaste friendship that led to a slow-burn blossoming romance that has inspired their friends and their loved ones. It is proof that good flows from the goodness of God’s plan for men and women, and self-sacrifice before marriage becomes a firm foundation for happiness and blessings after the wedding day.

A sacramental marriage today is rapidly becoming counter-cultural. Let us pray for all married couples who try to follow the gospel’s lead to the best of their abilities and share their faith with their families and others through their vocation. Most especially, let us pray for the newlyweds that are among us. Their Christian witness will surely be put to the test. But despite any struggles to come, may they come to know and find the deepest truth of love is right there with them in those moments.

There. Is. No. Greater. Love. Than. This.

Katie and Benjy: may that Love always be the hallmark of your best days!

 

:::

Let me thank all of you who have kept our family and our new couple in your prayers! I have permission to share a few photos and details of the happy day here on the blog.

There was a nuptial Mass at our local church, with a reception that followed afterwards that afternoon. It was hot that day! 95 degrees! (When have we had a heat wave like that, New England?? Whew!)

Our new son-in-love is Benjy Sung, a middle school math and science teacher. The couple first met through a Christian camp years ago and stayed friends over the years, even as they both attended different colleges and study-abroad.

The wedding Mass had a bilingual (English and Cantonese) Liturgy of the Word and Prayers of the Faithful, and there was an East-meets-West flavor at the reception: We incorporated a Chinese tea ceremony, explained below.

Afterwards, the couple took off for a honeymoon while Bob and I entertained family guests at our home for the remainder of the July 4th weekend, before taking off on a week away in Maine ourselves. So here’s a few photos that we hope you will enjoy!

A very calm bride awaiting the limo for the ride to church! (taken with my iPhone)

A very calm bride awaiting the limo for the ride to church! (taken with my iPhone)

I love this one with the tabernacle captured between their exchange of vows  ©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/professional

I love this one with the tabernacle captured between their exchange of vows
©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/professional (with cropping and effects by me in iPhoto)

Katie and Benjy102

Mr and Mrs Sung!
©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/professional

Brothers Peter and Bobby with Katie.
(Screen shot from wedding proofs from Derby Studio, http://www.derbystudios.com)

Katie and Benjy133

Traditional Chinese tea ceremony that welcomes the new couple into each extended family, as the new couple honors their elders.
©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/professional

After the tea ceremony, back into a bustled wedding dress -- plus sequined Sperry boat shoes for the bride & sequined Converse for the Mom! "A time to dance..." ©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/professional

After the tea ceremony, a change back into a bustled wedding dress — plus sequined Sperry boat shoes for the Bride & sequined Converse for the Mom!
“A time to dance…”
(Photo by a Facebook friend.)

First dance....  ©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/professional

First dance….
©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/professional

First dance... ©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/professional

First dance…
©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/
professional

The big finish! ©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/professional

The big finish!
©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/
professional

Father-Daughter dance (taken by a Facebook friend)

Father-Daughter dance
(taken by a Facebook friend)

Mother-Son Dance ©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/professional

Mother-Son Dance
©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/professional

Katie and Benjy196

Watching the Mother and Son — yes, I am a puddle.
©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/
professional

Cake!  ©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/professional

Cake!
©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/professional

Happy parents! At the Tea CeremonyL to R: Anita Sung, Pat Gohn, Bob Gohn, Francis Sung ©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/professional

Happy parents!
L to R: Anita Sung, Pat Gohn, Bob Gohn, Francis Sung
©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/professional

 

 

Back from vacation… with a few thoughts and a few photos

Back from vacation… with a few thoughts and a few photos

Hiya!

I’ve missed you.

The blogging/podcasting/writing fast has been a healthy one for me.

As you may know, I took the last several weeks off to prep for and enjoy my daughter’s wedding, plus take some needed time off with family and friends. After launching a daughter this year, and a book, plus a DIY refinishing of a bathroom, and other pre-wedding household chores, I was in need of recharge.

So much has been going on in my life, and in the news, that it’s hard to know where to jump with a blog post today… but maybe I’ll just start with a few photos… (with promises of a new podcast, wedding photos, and thoughts about Pope Francis and World Youth Day still to come later this week!)

But first a piece of advice… If you ever have the joy of being a mother or father of the bride (or groom), be sure to make sure there are a few pennies left over from the celebration to treat yourselves to your own post-wedding vacation. You won’t regret it. After spending some time with our out of town guests following the July 4th wedding, Bob and I went to Maine. It gave us time to walk and talk, and read and rest, and to count our blessings.

Not to mention we got to do other Maine-like things that Downeast Maine is known for…

Eat lobster…

IMG_1119

You must wear the obligatory paper bib, Bob! (I did as well!)

And sail…

Under sail on the Olad, a schooner out of Camden, ME.

Under sail on the Olad, a schooner out of Camden, ME.

And watch the sunrise…

IMG_1161

 

IMG_1177

Lincolnville, ME

And find a lighthouse…

IMG_1066

Pemaquid Point at dusk

or two…

IMG_1220

The light in Camden harbor.

Eat more lobstah (and say it like a native)…

IMG_1052

The quintessential lobstah roll

Find pretty harbors…

IMG_1350

New Harbor, ME

IMG_1152

Belfast, ME

IMG_1277

Camden, ME

Search for puffins…

And find lots of creative ways to do nothing… and relax…

Watching the grass grow... as we overlook Penobscot Bay.

Watching the grass grow… as we overlook Penobscot Bay.

 

I pray you are having good summer…

Thou hast fixed all the bounds of the earth;
thou hast made summer and winter.

-Psalm 74:17-

:::

All photos taken by me on my iPhone 4S.

Bird lovers may be interested in learning about The Puffin Project.

30 years ago I said “I do”. Here’s a recap on faith, grace, sex, kids, and love…

30 years ago I said “I do”. Here’s a recap on faith, grace, sex, kids, and love…

Bob and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this week. Dang! Has it been that long? It went by so fast! 

My latest column at Patheos is a look back, and a testament to the graces of living the Sacrament of Matrimony these thirty years. It’s one part our experience, one part what we have learned, and one part verifying that God’s plan for marriage is still a viable, and noble, and satisfying enterprise.  Bob and I often joke that we’ve seen it all, done it all… all the having and holding… and all the cycles of better, worse, richer, poorer, sickness, and health… and that we’d do it again. Here’s a small section of a much longer missive…

People ask what makes our love special, or what “works” for us, and we tell them: long before we fell in love with each other, we fell in love with Jesus. There’s an old proverb in Scripture that says, “A threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiates 4: 12). Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote a whole book on the subject that it takes three to get married, and we believe it.

We have faith in God, and faith in each other. When we said our marriage vows in the church that crisp fall morning in 1982, we knew we would vow for life… and that what we lacked in our own strength would be made up for by grace.

Talk to any Catholic couple married for a few decades or more and the subject of grace is bound to come up. They may not always use the word itself. It might be their reference to “God only knows” or an indescribable or halting acknowledgement of something that is bigger and grander than they are. But what they will say next is also true: that this love has changed them, made them better, even transformed them.

There is a glue that is stronger than our human love… it is divine grace. Sometimes we think it is just because we were fortunate enough to marry someone better than ourselves — that we lucked out — or discovered someone who believes the best in us despite our frailties, a soul mate. But what we’re really seeing is the truth of the matter: the radiant beauty of God is in our spouse. God magnifies their best human qualities, attracts us to them, and then He give us the privilege of knowing His Love through them. And yes, I’m here to say, in all honestly, that the profound gift of God’s Love made visible in my life, today, has a few wrinkles, some gray, and a few extra pounds.

Just in case you think I’m offering some kind of romanticized view of the love of God and the love between married couples, let me also say that there is a side of grace that is gritty, tough and sturdy under fire. This is the power of the vow; the grace and mercy that flows from the choice – the consent – of the lovers. When we think we cannot hold on any longer, the power of the vow keeps us true.

Read the rest at the Catholic Channel at Patheos. Feel free to subscribe to my columns here.

Mr & Mrs since October 23, 1982. (This photo is from last summer.)

It’s all about the relationship! Or, getting personal with Jesus in the Year of Faith…

It’s all about the relationship! Or, getting personal with Jesus in the Year of Faith…

Christ Pantocrater, Cathedral-Basilica of Cefalù, Sicily. (Courtesy of Xerones on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/xerones/
464417485/in/photostream/)

The heart of the matter, when it comes to the Year of Faith is not the lines of the Catechism that you memorize, though that’s laudable… or the bible study you will be leading at your parish, though that’s fantastic… or the course your gonna take on Catholicism, though that’s a great commitment… or the service to those in need you might undertake, though that’s really needed.

No, the heart of the Year of Faith, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, is an actual beating heart… it is the heart of Jesus that beats wildly for you and for me.

In my column over at Patheos this week, I share a little bit about how my hubby and me have a big anniversary coming up… one of those that end in “0” and how that long-lasting love all began with an encounter, an introduction, a meeting that led to a whole lot more. And yet, the heart of the matter of this Year of Faith, as I was saying, is how the really great love of our life ought to be Jesus, above all.

Here’s a sampling…

The relationship is the thing.  It’s that way in marriage… and it’s that way for the Year of Faith. Both require only one thing… that I encounter my true love and renew my bond with him, and live a life that reflects the depth of that love.

I first met my husband when I 16. A mutual friend introduced us — during a fire drill, of all things — as we stood outside on the front lawn of our high school waiting for the “all clear” to go back inside. Our friend wanted to introduce us because we were both into playing guitar. Turns out, I had already seen the boy before, and I had at least one class with him… I just had never spoken to him. You could say I had known of him, but I didn’t know him.

[snip]

The true task of the Year of Faith is so simple we might miss it: it is a call to be in a relationship with Jesus… not to just know of him, but to know him. Faith practice is like a marriage that has many good and holy distractions: children, work, worship, and any number of special events in the course of a year. Yet the heart of the thing is the relationship of the lovers at its center. It all begins with an encounter with another person…

We’ve got a really big year coming up in the Church. Let’s fall in love with the Lover of our soul.

Read all of my column here, and feel free to subscribe here. Oh, and you can subscribe to this blog right over there —> in the sidebar, too.