By Kitty Mandis | Marriage Preparation Coordinator, Office of Laity & Family Life
How do you keep the music playing? How do you make it last?
These first two lines from a song made famous by James Ingram and Patti Austin in 1983 are questions that all couples face when adversity begins to drown out the melody that they danced to on their wedding day.
St. Valentine, whose feast is traditionally celebrated on February 14, is the Patron Saint of Happy Marriages. At the heart of the Sacrament of Marriage are the wedding vows. Infertility, infidelity, death of a child, addiction, disease, job loss are only a smattering of afflictions that make it difficult and seemingly impossible to keep those vows “to be true to each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, and to love and honor each other all the days of our lives.”
Last month, I had the opportunity to sit down with a couple who has been married 50 years. I asked “How is it that (as the lyrics state) some couples ‘try with every day to make it better as it goes’ and others cannot ‘see forever’ in the eyes of their beloved? Their answer: “Our Catholic faith. The ‘D-word’ (referring to divorce) was never part of our vocabulary.”
Here is their story:
Fifty years ago, a job as a football coach for both collegiate and NFL teams was not as glamorous as it may sound. The pay definitely was not near the salary coaches make today. Ara Parseghian, head coach at the University of Notre Dame in 1964, only made $20,000, retiring 10 years later at $35,000. And, when a head coach was fired, all the coaches under him usually lost their jobs too, which meant another move. Being the wife was even less glamorous. This lovely lady, with their three children, moved 11 times due to her husband’s career and was diagnosed with cancer not once but twice in 10 years. Each time, she had to undergo treatments alone.
“I was so filled with guilt and anger,” said Coach, “that upon hearing of the return of her cancer, I walked outside, stood in front of the Virgin Mary statue in our yard and screamed, ‘This is not fair! This is not fair!'”
“You do what you have to (to make your marriage work),” she said. “You see, my husband is very devout and I have more of a childlike faith. Yes, I cried, but I knew, Jesus was holding me, (when my husband couldn’t).”
Our Lord heard their cries and He answered them. They lived their union as man and wife with God. They relied on Him in their own ways to guide them through the obstacles that all married couples CAN overcome. The sacrificial gift of self for another must be lived day-in and day-out in marriage, mirroring the marriage of Christ, the Bridegroom, to His Bride, the Church.
Although it is not always easy to do, we are called to live the words given to us by Christ: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). If we can, then “until death do us part” is the greatest reward on earth. It is not “with luck” but with the grace of God that “the music never ends.”
This post originally appeared in the February 2016 Disciples’ Dispatch Newsletter from the Office of Laity and Family Life.