My thoughts are full of the recent wedding of my son. There is a great deal involved leading up to this major event: the prayerful choice of a vocation, the months of courtship, the endless details, the physical and emotional strain. The wedding ceremony and Nuptial Mass last only an hour, the celebration afterwards significantly longer(!), but the journey is only beginning. Supported by the maternal solicitude of Holy Mother Church, the way is hedged and smoothed for the newlyweds.
Before my new daughter-in-law left her father at the foot of the altar, she knelt for his blessing. This man was such an intimate part of her life, and now she was asking for his last benediction before Our Lord. It was incredibly moving.
At the end of the Mass, the couple knelt for the nuptial blessing. This was where I felt so strongly the security of their union as a sacrament, with the graces flowing from the treasury of the Church. The path ahead of them is not likely to be particularly easy, but they also have the support of the faithful — both in time and in eternity.
Part of the traditional nuptial blessing is that the new husband and wife will live to see their children’s children to the third and fourth generations. I now have children with children. It is a precious thought that the blessing my husband and I received almost thirty-two years ago is at work. When I look at the little ones, and consider that some of them will have their own babies, I am humbled that I have had a part in this beautiful procession of humanity. I am also profoundly grateful that Holy Providence did not allow me to choose whether or not to have children. I don’t believe we are supposed to use that power in any way but to offer it in loving submission to God’s will.
I was blessed that all ten of my children were present: three of them with spouses and eight accumulated grandchildren (a delightful bunch, I think); two of them wearing the habit of religion. My own two youngest (ages eleven and nine) served as acolytes and provided the few moments of comic relief that inevitably balance such a solemn occasion. The personal and fatherly pre-Cana counsel of the priest who officiated at the wedding continued in his thoughtful sermon — which was probably more for the benefit of those attending than for the couple themselves. (Does anyone really remember the sermon from her wedding?)
At the reception, a close friend of the bride called for a couples’ dance. This young man, married less than a year himself, first asked any couple who had been married that day to leave the dance floor. Then he began eliminating other couples — any married for a year, five years, etc. The last set of dancers on the floor had been married forty-eight years and received vigorous applause. What a lovely lesson for the bride and groom. The whole spectrum of marriage through the years was exhibited to them, and they were left saluting the seasoned wisdom of the older couple, dear friends who have already shown loving encouragement to the newlyweds.
For me, the major highlight of the reception was the wedding toast, given by the groom’s brother-in-law. There was no doubting the purpose of Holy Matrimony — mentioned during the wedding and again, with glasses held high, at the reception — that the newlyweds would have many children. Then my reserved son-in-law welcomed the new addition to the family. I thought my heart would overflow: first, because he knew he belonged in this larger clan that was growing over the years, and second, because he was willing to be the spokesperson for the family, assuring the bride that she was warmly received. This was one of those glorious moments of consolation that God sometimes grants us. Those twenty-five years of diapers didn’t completely melt away, but the years of service in caring for my children seemed small labor to have earned such a transcendent reward.
My prayer for my son and new daughter is that such rewards will be theirs, in time and in eternity. I hope they will hold the course on the path God lays out before them and, even while burdened with cares, trust that the “great sacrament” is within His providence and sustained with His grace.
But who can say things better than Holy Mother Church? Certainly not I. Below, are the prayers we heard Saturday last, during my son’s traditional nuptial Mass.
The Nuptual Blessing
from the Traditional Roman Rite (“Extraordinary Form”)
After the Pater Noster the priest turns to face the newlyweds and recites the long prayer that follows.
O God, who by Thy might has out of nothing made all things, who, in the beginning, didst create the world, and having made man, to Thy image, didst give him woman to be his constant helpmate, fashioning her body from his very flesh and thereby teaching us that it is never lawful to put asunder what it has pleased Thee to make of one substance; O God, who hast consecrated wedlock by a surpassing mystery, since in holy matrimony is shown forth the Sacrament of Christ and His Church; O God, who dost join woman to man, that theirs may be the blessing given by Thee in the beginning, and which was the only one not taken away as part of the punishment inflicted for the sin of our first parents, the only one left untouched by Thy wrath at the time of the flood; look down in mercy on this Thy handmaid, who is about to enter upon her wedded life, and who seeks to be strengthened by Thy protection.
May the yoke she has to bear be one of love and peace; faithful and chaste, may she marry in Christ; may her whole life be modeled on that of the holy women; may she be pleasing to her husband as was Rachel, may she be wise as was Rebecca; may she be long-lived and true as was Sara; may he who is the author of all evil have no part in her actions; all the days of her life, may she be true to the troth she has plighted, faithful in obedience, innocent and pure, strengthened against weakness by wholesome discipline; may she be respected for her seriousness, venerated for her modesty, schooled in Divine wisdom, rich in children, worthy of all praise and above reproach, and in the end may she enter in a blessed rest and have a place in heaven. And may she and her husband see their children’s children to the third and fourth generation, and come to the good old age to which they look forward.”
Just before the blessing of the Mass the priest again turns and recites the concluding prayer of the Church’s rite:
May the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob be with you, and may he fulfill unto you His blessing; that you may see your children’s children unto the third and fourth generation; thereafter enjoy forever eternal life, with the help of Jesus Christ our Lord, who with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, God through all eternity. Amen.