Love is a Family Tradition
Homily for the Nuptial Mass uniting Stacey Jo Pagorek to Patrick Joseph Beattie
Preached on December 27, 2008 at Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary Church, Lexington KY
Readings: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Psalm 105:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9; Colossians 3:12-17; Luke 2:22-40
Patrick and Stacey, all the days of your life, you will look back on this day, the 27th of December, and the two digits of this date will remind you of a couple of things about this wedding. The numbers two and seven will bring back a flood of memories: the number two for the two short weeks that you spent planning this wedding, and the number seven for the seven long years that you spent dating.
All the days of your life, you will look back on this day, the Feast of the Holy Family, and this feast will remind you that at the hour when you vowed your undying love for each other you were surrounded by family. You will remember that you stood here in God’s house, asking the Lord to grant you the blessing to start your own family, to give you the grace to be faithful and loving to each other as husband and wife. You will remember that you stood here in God’s house as adults in your own right, with your parents standing right next to you and holding in their hands the candles that were used at your baptism and at your First Communion. Your parents were the first ones to bring you to God’s house some thirty years ago to be baptized and to be named as children of God. They were the ones who brought you up in the faith of God’s family, the Church, and you honor them now by what you do today here in God’s house. As you pledge your love for each other before the Lord’s altar, you are letting your parents know that the faith that they have taught you, the faith they have shared with you, the faith they have raised you matters, and that the God whom they love, honor, and worship is the same God whom both of you seek to love, honor, and worship. You honor your fathers and you revere your mothers, and in return, as Sirach reminds us, the Lord assures you His blessings of a long life, atonement for your sins, and a house raised in justice to you (cf. Sir. 3:3, 6, 14).
All the days of your life, you will find yourselves looking back to the homes of your childhood and you will realize that the bulk of your preparation for marriage and family life has come not from the Pre-Cana sessions and classes you had with me but from the families you grew up in. To put it in another way, you did not know it but you were homeschooled for marriage. Indeed, it is the example of your parents that you will turn to in building your own family and in dealing with each other as husband and wife. That can be a good thing and that can be a bad thing. After all, you have learned from them some good habits and some bad habits: how to make lists, how to make a mess and live with that mess, and I’ll let you fill in the rest of the blanks. But, you know, Stacey, the fact that Patrick lived with your parents for three years and still wants to marry you and be a member of your family, tells me that he has found much to respect in the family life of the Pagoreks. The fact that your parents approve of him to be your husband also tells me that they too have come to appreciate how he has been raised by the Beatties. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a wealth of wisdom and support and love that comes from your families of origin.
The child Jesus Himself whose birth we celebrated just two days ago was born into a human family. He “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom” (Lk. 2: 40), thanks to the parents who raised Him in that home in Nazareth. Mary His mother and Joseph His foster-father were the ones who guided this Christ-Child who was “destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel” (Lk. 2:34). Jesus experienced the length and breadth and depth of selfless love from His parents. He learned from Joseph how to be a righteous man, how to ignore shame for the sake of love. He learned from Mary how to say yes to the Father in Heaven, how to bear the joys and the sorrows, how to stand by one’s family even to that final ignominious hour beneath the cross. Jesus learned from the sacrifices of His parents how to offer sacrifice, how to give without counting the cost, how to love without ever holding back. And here, beneath the shadow of His cross, beneath the sign of Christ’s love that never held anything back, you, Patrick and Stacey, will promise to love and honor each other today and all the days of your life. This cross is the love that you have to live up to. It is the bond of perfection (Col. 3:14) that St. Paul reminds you to put on, the love he calls you to clothe yourselves with. It is the love that your parents first introduced you to when they presented you to God’s temple to be counted as one of God’s own. It is the love that you are now charged to teach to your own children and to your children’s children. Believing in that love and living by that love is your family tradition; it has been handed over to you by your families of origin—the Hares and the Beatties, the Pagoreks and the Wohadlos—and it has been handed over to them by our family of faith—the Church—going back to the Apostles and the house Churches of the first century, to Jesus and the Holy Family, to God Himself who is Love.
Patrick and Stacey, you’ve had two weeks of wedding planning and seven years of dating. Here we are now in the middle of the hour for the Nuptial Mass. Here, beneath the shadow of Christ’s cross, the altar of God awaits for what both of you have to offer: the promise to love and to be true in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, all the days of your life.