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For Bob. God Gave Me You. #tbt

For Bob. God Gave Me You. #tbt

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

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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!

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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.

Red. White. and Blue.

Red. White. and Blue.

Last year, our celebration of July 4th took on a new and holy meaning. Why of course we’re still forever grateful to be American citizens and we pray for our nation and celebrate our common ideals in the founding of this nation. Yet, last year we also celebrated a new beginning — not of a country but of a marriage — a new family formed in our daughter, Katie,  and son-in-love, Benjy.

Here’s to their first anniversary! May God bless and increase you both in every grace and blessing for a faithful and fruitful love!

Grateful for the red…

Chinese tea ceremony after Mass.

Chinese tea ceremony after Mass.

white…

Happy, happy!  (double happiness!)

Happy, happy!
(double happiness!)

And blue…

Loved the navy on the bridesmaids! Good friends!

Loved the navy on the bridesmaids! Good friends!

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

 

 

Today’s the day they’ll say “I do”.

Today’s the day they’ll say “I do”.

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   Love is a Name

 

Keep your vows sacred.

Ask each other what you can pray for, daily.

Tithe so you learn generosity, and understand God’s Providence.

Hear with your heart when the words fail.

Remember to have fun together; life is serious enough.

Young love is great; but strive for a life-long love and affection.

Never give in to comparing or jealousy.

                                            &

Be the first to apologize when disagreements come, and they will.

Enjoy family traditions, but start a few of your own too.

Never leave each other without a kiss and a reminder of your love.

Just because… look for sweet, tangible ways to appreciate each other.

Attack problems, not each other; be kind and flexible.

Make a home that welcomes children, and their friends.

Intimacy first comes from talking face-to-face, then heart to heart.

Never lose respect for each other; it is the foundation for love.

 

Say a prayer for the happy couple. (And their parents!) Thanks!

 

note: comments have been disabled because I’m not at my desk to moderate them.

“Would that Wood Could Talk”, another in the series “Tales from the Empty Nest” at CatholicMom.com

“Would that Wood Could Talk”, another in the series “Tales from the Empty Nest” at CatholicMom.com

Today I’m over at Catholic Mom, with another installment in what I loosely call, “Tales from the Empty Nest” … a little ruminating about my passing on furniture to my daughter who is getting married very soon.

I’m busy repainting two pieces of furniture that have already served three generations of my family — a 3-drawer bureau and a tall dresser. Over thirty years ago I was getting married and in need of more storage space for my new home. My husband and I became the happy recipients of the bureau from my parents’ home, and the dresser, once part of a pair from my grandmother’s home. So there’s a little bit of history stored between those dove-tailed wooden drawers. And here I am looking at their empty gapes spread out around the room on a drop cloth. This is the third time in twenty-five years that the chore of repainting these two old companions has fallen to me.

photoSo I stand in old painting jeans, hair tied back, brush working in one hand, readying these drawer sets for a new purpose. I hum a little bit to the country music playing on the radio nearby, as memories float into view unbidden as I tackle the repetitive task. Back and forth, back and forth, dip, wipe, back and forth.

It’s a good way to do some thinking, and remembering.

The first time I painted these two relics was in preparation for the birth of my oldest child. Oh, the heavenly anticipation of getting a room ready for a newborn! I recall the joy as I painted — repurposing a piece of furniture and making it “new” for a baby — the start of a new kind of family life in a modest two-bedroom home.

My heart was set on the primary colors of childhood, and I made the three drawers of the bureau red, yellow, and blue, on a white chest. I added a changing table cushion on top and in the years that followed I changed the diapers and clothes of my small children on that bureau, and countless visiting babies. Not to mention seeing the drawer contents change over the years, from 0-3 month-sized onesies, to toddler overalls, to soccer jerseys. Meantime, the old tall dresser was still giving good service to my equally tall husband as a place to keep his socks and lanky jeans.

Three children later, we outgrew the little two-bedroom place, and despite the luxury of relocating to a 4-bedroom house, we were still a little strapped for cash for new furniture. So, out came the brush and paint cans again, and a re-shuffling of furniture against the needs of a growing, busy family.

This time, both the bureau and dresser were given to my only daughter for her new bedroom. Her own young fashion sense had outgrown the bureau’s primary colors and the ancient dark-stained dresser from generations of yore. I promised new coats of paint on both to match her new white headboard for her bed. I also remember going to the hardware aisle at the Home Depot to pick out shiny new ceramic knobs for updating this furniture, befitting a girl’s room. And that’s the way it stayed, even through her college years.

Now, it’s my daughter’s turn to marry and the soon-to-be newlyweds have just bought a small apartment-sized two-bedroom condo. It will have a few new things, and a few old things that they will bring from their single lives. My daughter gets to keep the bureau and dresser. And here I am painting again.

Read the rest over at CatholicMom.com.

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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.)