I had been stymied in my desire to keep moving forward with my book about our marriage by my inability to find the next journal from my senior year which set the stage for the beginning of our romance. Finally, I was challenged in a webinar by Michael Hyatt to ask myself what single brave decision do I need to make today, and I knew it was to finish going through an entire closet full of the notebooks that held our thirty years of love letters, as well as, presumably, a few of my journals that had been gathered up with them after the flood. I sorted them out by decade, found the notebooks from our original Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekend, and finally found the journal I was looking for. I was thrilled, and flipped through it, which detailed my family's move from New Jersey to Texas, my farewell to the boy who had won my heart, and the new life back in my native state, which I had left at age four. I began college there, and because we had agreed that we were too young to think of marriage, we had made no commitments.
I began dating Tom, a guy who seemed more compatible than my New Jersey boyfriend who was off to Harvard the year of the strikes. He was Catholic and conservative, though he often sneered at my good grades and thought the highlight of a weekend was to hop on his motorcycle, head to his family's home and comb out their Newfoundland dogs, which was a long drawn out process. He also loved to race trains across their tracks, and fortunately described performing power stalls before he asked me to go up in a private plane with him, so I was able to politely decline. He owned two boa constrictors. The six foot snake named Romeo, had a very bad temper and once bit him through his leather boot and left a scar. Three foot Juliet was a beautiful snake, and I once took her around my neck and strolled through the girls' dorm, enjoying the shrieks of those who didn't think a boa constrictor made a lovely necklace. Unfortunately, they met an untimely end when Tom left them in the care of one of the professors over Christmas break, and he turned off the warming devices they needed.
Tom said he wanted to marry me, which threw me into a panic, because I wasn't at all sure that he was the right man for me, and I became less sure as the year went on.
I can remember at one point thinking it wouldn't be too bad, but fortunately I came to my senses and realized that that was a terrible thing to think about getting married. We eventually broke up, but as I reflected on my confusion that year, I thought how easily I could have drifted into a marriage that would eventually have made us both unhappy.
I can remember years later, my husband saying how often he saw Catholic women marrying someone with the attitude of "He'll have to do." It's as if they had determined that their vocation was matrimony, and they looked about for an employee to hire for the job. The first difficulty is that matrimony is a life-long covenant, not a contract that can be broken if it doesn't work out. It is meant to be the most sublime relationship between a man and a woman and requires commitment, work and love, binding them body, heart and soul. If entered into for convenience, or because nobody better has showed up, it can become a morass of misery to the couple, any children they may have, and family and friends as well.
On the other hand, when a couple enters into the Sacrament of Matrimony, sharing the same faith and values, loving each other passionately and determined to make their marriage thrive, they light a beacon of hope for those they encounter. One of our daughters and her husband gave out leather bookmarks at their wedding with a quote from Homer, which sums it up well: "There is nothing nobler or more admirable that when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends."