Secrets of a Great Marriage

5 minute read

It is hard to remember new names. One trick is to repeat a person’s name when you’re introduced and try to connect it with something they said. Then use it again as quickly as possible. The night before my nephew’s wedding in San Diego, I was doing a poor job of that. As I was introduced, it came out that I had 10 kids. From then on, people remembered “the one with 10 kids,” instead of my name. When I met the father of the bride, his name slipped my mind – until his toast at the reception.

Patrick and Bridget exchanged their vows at the Church of the Nativity in Rancho Santa Fe, California. She was beautiful. He was beaming. We then drove to the Santaluz Club for the festive reception. The Cocktail hour was in the courtyard of a Spanish-style hacienda that my 7 year-old-daughter, Vivian, proclaimed would be our next house. I wish. Flowers overflowed every planter. Perhaps Eden was a bit like this.

Next we took the stone steps from the courtyard into a regal tent with a large circular chandelier draped with innumerable white flowers descending from the center spire. Yet above all the beauty, what warmed my heart most was the fire inside that tent.

The father of the bride started with a bit of humor, pulling from his breast pocket a scroll of speech notes which unraveled to 4 feet. We all laughed. He tossed it aside, reached back in, and produced two pages bearing the burning sentiments of his heart, which lit up mine.

He told of first meeting Patrick at the airport along with Patrick’s dad, my brother John. They were both sending off their kids to study overseas. Patrick and Bridget were just friends at the time. John placed his hand on Patrick’s shoulder and said, “Now Patrick… you take care of Bridget!” Next, the two stepped onto the ascending escalator, waving until out of sight. Bridget’s parents felt comforted that Patrick was there for Bridget, and they had no idea how long that comfort would indeed last.

Bridget’s dad then recounted how Patrick asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Patrick blurted out, “I am just gonna say it, I love your daughter and want to marry her.” Her dad replied, “Hold on… not so easy. We’ve got to get some things straight.” It is here that this man unraveled not only the quality of his fatherhood, but the secrets of a great marriage.

Put Her First

“Patrick, you have got to put her first.” Why’d he say this? Was his daughter weak and needing protection? He said it because Patrick would become weak if he didn’t stretch himself for her. True love is self-sacrificial.

Every bride deserves a man who will sacrifice himself for her. When he does, he fulfills his calling to become a “man after God’s own heart.” Marriage made by God is made in the image of Christ as the bridegroom who laid down His life for His bride, the Church. “His ways are faithfulness and love.” -Psalm 25

Of course this doesn’t mean that a wife runs roughshod over her husband to get whatever she wants. Instead, a loving wife is freed by her husband’s sacrifices to fulfill her deeper desire to blossom into a sanctuary of love and life. Under his protection, she can focus her efforts on encouraging him in his battles as well as nurturing her family through her feminine genius.

I Want Grandchildren

“Patrick, I want grandchildren!” You could easily mistake this “secret” as merely a grandparent’s selfish desire for cuddly and cute babies without the duties of diapers, disciplining, and bills.

What Bridget’s dad knew is that openness to children is openness to love. True love doesn’t close upon itself, but opens like a flower to share its beauty and spread its fragrance. It not only seeks someone to love, but seeks to grow love.

Children multiply love and make parents into better lovers. The sacrifices of parenting expand parent’s hearts. And if parent’s succeed in not only loving their kids, but forming their kids into great lovers, they find the deeper joy that Bridget’s dad longs for her and Patrick to know and circulate.

Live Your Catholic Faith

Can’t you do the above without religion? Well, Catholicism isn’t just a religion. When followed, it is the path to the fiery love that created love. Sure, there are rules, but the rules burn out selfishness. The center of Catholicism is the crucified Heart of Jesus who loved even in the face of hatred and rejection. Despite the backlash, He sought the absolute best for us and spoke the truth by pointing to the narrow way that leads to ultimate happiness. Will you love like that?

Pleasure is in the body. Happiness is in the mind and the emotions. But Joy, that deeper happiness that sustains you amidst suffering, is in the soul.

Bridget’s dad wanted more for his daughter and son-in-law. He wanted their joy. He knows that comes from embracing the crosses, loving especially when it hurts, and pointing out the path to Heaven, even when you’re crucified for it.

To wrap up his speech, he enumerated the decades upon decades of marriage faithfully lived by all their grandparents and parents. He then ended, “This is your first day.”

Frank. The name of the bride’s dad is Frank. Now I would remember his name, a man who was frank about what love truly is and how to get there.

Speaking of names, the Church of the Nativity was aptly the birthplace of Patrick and Bridget’s marriage. Rancho Santa Fe – “the ranch of holy faith” in Spanish – was the town in which they expressed their Catholic Faith through the Holy Sacrament of Marriage as their ascending escalator to Heavenly love. And the Santa Luz Club – “holy light” club in Spanish – was the site where Frank shone the holy light of his wisdom on married love and invited them to the “decades of marriage club.”

Patrick, I hope you will be remembered not by your name, but by your love poured out that can be named. Though, if God so allows, “the one with 10 kids” would be my vote. 😉

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