Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Happy Anniversary To Me

Wedding feast of Cana
photograph by Andreas F. Borchert [1]

How many married folks imagine on their wedding day that they will, someday, celebrate 50 years of marriage? I know I didn't. And yet on January 25 of this year, I will be celebrating my Golden Anniversary. What a long, strange trip it's been! And strangely enough, a Pauline one too, despite my initial inclinations to the contrary.

Bill Stabosz and I got married in January 1969, between fall and spring semesters of our sophomore year of college. Our small ceremony took place in the Episcopalian church where my mother was office manager. This religious ceremony was a compromise with my soon-to-be mother-in-law Helen. She told us she would not come from Chicago to Delaware to see her Catholic son marry his Catholic fiancée at the office of the Justice of the Peace, as we had proposed doing.

 Neither Bill nor I was practicing the Faith at the time. We were both a few months away from our twentieth birthday. We told Father Edward, my mom's boss, that we thought we might be atheists and that it would be hypocritical for us to marry in a Catholic church. We weren't theologically (or even logically) astute enough, however, to realize it was just as hypocritical to be married in an Episcopalian church. But Father Edward promised to marry us anyway, as long as we agreed to receiving pre-wedding instructions. He also cautioned us not to be surprised if, at some later date, we decided to get remarried in the Catholic church. According to Father Edward, this happened surprisingly often to young adults as they grew older. Six years later we wrote to him--retired now in Florida--confirming that his prediction had come true and to thank him for his prescience.  

Bill and I had gotten married at a low point in our three-year relationship. What had started out as two sixteen year olds falling in love on a magical summer night (Romeo and Juliet style) somehow had turned sour along the way. By the time we got married, it seemed miraculous that death had not intervened to leave its tragic sheen on our perfect romance. 

The truth is, we had already bumped up against relationship blocks that most Shakespearean lovers never experienced. Bill no longer adored every move I made. I did not worship every word he spoke either. We fought -- a lot! We yelled, we pouted, and we said cruel things to each other. We began to doubt our "forever love." Somehow, we thought that getting married might make things better.

When I had first called my mom to tell her we wanted to get married, I was sure she would object. Instead she said, "I thought this might happen. I'm not happy about it, but I guess it is about time." She told me later that she thought two young people who were as much in love as we were would either get married or break up badly; but we would not continue on as we were doing.

We quarreled in the car on the way to the church. I, who never wore make-up, decided that my wedding day called for it and had acquired some. Bill said I put it on badly. I wiped it off with a tissue furiously. What can I say? We were nineteen, and we were on edge.

I remember lying in bed late that night watching "Lady Godiva" on a tiny TV in the efficiency apartment of the Hollywood Motel three miles from my childhood home in Delaware.[2] I looked at my sleeping husband and wondered if we could make it to our first anniversary. Even if a young bride doesn't think 50 years ahead, she typically doesn't lie awake on her wedding night wondering if the marriage will last a single year either.

January 25 in the Roman rite is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Everyone in the Pauline Family knows how special this day is, but St. Paul was not on my radar back in 1969, when I married Bill. In fact, he wasn't part of my life when Bill and I came back to the Church in 1974. At that time, I bought into the feminist narrative that St. Paul was a misogynist. 

One of the ironies of my life as a Pauline is the great transformation that has taken place in me. These days, I am committed to reading about and emulating this saint -- the very St. Paul whom I had so disdained in my younger years. While it's true that St. Paul's writings on marriage seem to pose particular problems as we wrestle with women's evolving roles in society, this should never have been an obstacle to experiencing his spirituality. What a cultural loss it is to our wounded world that a small number of Pauline texts on marriage have so disproportionately marred our evaluation of this towering figure of the early Church!

Society today is drowning in polemics and snark while our federal government is deadlocked in partisan bickering. St. Paul's commentary to Christians on social behavior could be helpful to both situations. Surely some understanding of his approach to dysfunction in early church communities would help us in our national struggle to create a functioning, pluralistic society? No matter how stridently the different segments of 21st-century society disagree, nearly all of them agree about the value and primacy of love. St. Paul not only highlights the attributes of real love, but 
he also instructs us in the social behavior that manifests such love. 

Perhaps best known is St. Paul's discussion on the characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians: "Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)." 

In Colossians and elsewhere, he instructs us: "... rid yourselves of such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other ... Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free... clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. ... [Let] peace ... rule in your hearts... [Y]ou were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:8-19)"

A marriage and family is a microcosm of society. What works in the Areopagus and the marketplace also works for the family. Bill and I would never have reached our Golden Anniversary if we had not committed to pragmatic behaviors that smooth over and make straight the crooked paths of personal and social relationship. After all, we live in a fallen world. 

Pauline teaching expands on Jesus' parables and sermons to explore those nitty-gritty behaviors that glue a society together. They work regardless whether that society is a small social unit called a family or a complex series of interlocking units that collectively make up a nation.

Love never fails. But people do -- all the time! We need the bulwark of real LOVE which, if we are straight with ourselves, means we need a Love beyond ourselves to teach us how to love beyond our own strength. That Love is Jesus Christ.

St. Paul knew it, and so did Blessed Alberione. As Paulines, we pledge ourselves to its veracity and to the Power to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things and endure all things. Even 50 years of marriage.

[1] Detail from stained glass window, Church of the Most Holy Rosary, Tullow, County Carlow, Ireland. The photographical reproduction of this work is covered under the article §93 of the Irish copyright law which states that it is permitted for photographers to take pictures of sculptures, buildings, and works of artistic craftsmanship that are permanently located in a public place or premises open to the public, and to publish such pictures in any way.

[2]As poor college students, we couldn't afford anything more than a cheap motel off Route 40 for our honeymoon. About 15 years ago, we nostalgically went back to see if the Hollywood Motel was still around. It was. The motel clerk asked, as we checked in at 5:00 pm or so on a Saturday afternoon, "Will you be wanting the room for the whole night?"


Rae Stabosz made her Promise as a Pauline Cooperator in 2003.  She and Bill Stabosz, her husband of 50 years, have six sons, three daughters, thirteen grandsons and eight granddaughters. She retired in 2007 from the University of Delaware, where she was a technology and media specialist for 27 years. Rae is co-founder and past president of The Society of Catholic Scholars of Delaware, and proprietor (since 2004) of the Pious Ladies Bookmobile.


Webster said...

Happy anniversary to you and Bill. You are a witness that, although we are not perfect, God is good -- all the time! Amen!

Rae Stabosz said...

Thanks, Frank! That's exactly the point I wanted to make. Bill and I consider it a miracle of God's grace that we are still together! Every single friend and family member who married around the same time is now divorced. The 60s were rough. At Christmas, he pulled me over to look with him at the myriad children and grandchildren eating & drinking & running around. "Can you believe they all came from our love? God is merciful ," he said.

Christine Dufresne said...

Beautiful and Inspirational for those of us that dream of that someday for ourselves. God bless always.

Anonymous said...

It was worth it, just for the photo of young Rae and Bill!

Love you both,


Rae Stabosz said...

Thanks, Gerry! You were there also that day!

Love you too.


Maryann Toth said...

Happy Anniversary to Rae and Bill! Thank you for sharing your love story and journey of faith.

Louise H said...

Congratulations on your Golden Anniversary! Jim and I made ours five years ago on January 25th. Now we are in our new home in Marietta, Georgia, looking forward to our 55th Anniversary in a few weeks. Peace and blessings, Louise and Jim Hunt

Anonymous said...

My husband returned home a few weeks ago. We are currently going to counseling, praying and reading devotionals together and assisting at church. He told me he is sorry for the way he hurt me and that he truly loves me. I am still standing for my husband and for those spouses who are waiting for their prodigals to come home! contact Dr. Lawrence and he will restore your marriage and make your husband come back home contact him via what-apps (USA)+1) 914 208 8349

Rae Stabosz said...

Louise, we have the same anniversary , who'd have imagined? Congratulations to you and Jim on your 55th. And on your new home-- we are getting ready to move also!