At Mass this past Sunday, I had a moment of reflection thrust upon me while watching the faithful gather. As the worship leader for our service, I stand up front, and thus have a great view of the people filing in.
I saw one couple enter, good friends of ours, who this last week have been dealing with the anxiety of a sudden ectopic pregnancy. They're scared, and torn over the moral dilemma of how to resolve the danger to the mother's life without overtly taking the life of the little one. As they took their seats I could see evidence in their faces of a morning full of tears already, and their reservoir of sorrow was still brimming. He wrapped his arm around her, and she held close to him. They were for each other a pillar of strength, yet themselves broken and leaning on the other and the Lord for support.
My heart breaks as I ponder them even now.
A moment later, another couple, also good friends, entered the church. This last week he had proposed marriage to her, setting up the evening with a repeat of their very first date, followed by some time praying together in the Perpetual Adoration chapel, and topped off with a romantic proposal in the courtyard of the church with the moon and stars gazing at them through the trees. She said yes. Theirs will be a good marriage.
They were positively glowing with the aura that only newly deepened chaste love can emit.
These two couples sat not far from each other, a stark contrast in extreme emotions. Yet both had faithfully come before the Lord to share with him their deepest longings; to open to him their hearts. After Mass as I was putting away my sound equipment I noticed these two couples talking to each other. I wondered who was empathizing with whom in that exchange. It also got me thinking: a mere two years ago, the first couple was engaged; swimming in the delight of new love full of unimagined possibilities. The second couple wasn't even a going concern two years ago, as the man had just gone through an unpleasant breakup and was quite despondent, wondering if he would ever find love.
I saw demonstrated here the power of the vows of marriage in their fullness, covering as wide a spectrum of the human heart as is possible. Through both spine-tingling joy and soul-crushing sorrow, the promise of each other, through the model of Christ and his Church, was the ideal to which both couples clung.
It was humbling to observe, and left me with a stern reminder not to take my wife and children for granted.