“Marry us,” they said, slightly out of sync, already beginning a married couple’s journey toward speaking in unison.
No, it was not the offer of an alternative lifestyle. They wanted me to join them in holy matrimony, to pronounce their wedding vows, to link one to the other as husband and wife for “as long as love shall last.”
I’m no priest. I’m not even allowed to be a clergy member in the Roman Catholic Church, which had been my religious grounding since my baptism in an elaborate marble baptismal font while heady incense wafted across the sacristy. (I don’t really remember that part, having been mere weeks old. But 40-some years as a practicing Catholic gave me a pretty good idea of the ritual.)
|Bridget & Derek|
So here I am, sitting in my kitchen with the nuptial petitioners gazing at me with a mixture of trepidation and elation. My handsome younger brother Derek and his beautiful fiancée Bridget were getting married. (Finally! We all said. After eight years together, the happy couple had decided Why not, much to the jubilation of myself, my two sisters and my older brother. My father might have been heard to say, “It’s about time.”)
“Why me?” I was gripped by a sudden, though fleeting, panic of imminent excommunication.
“We think you’d do a wonderful job of it.”
“But why don’t you get a priest to do it?” I think I was channeling my dear, departed mother at that point. Both Derek and Bridget had been raised Roman Catholic as well. They knew the rules.
“We don’t want a priest. We want you. We want it to be special.”
“Well...in that case….”
They were saying that possibly the most important day of their lives would be more special if I participated. My brother’s smart: that’s a great boost to the ego. But they were sincere. And, ultimately, I would come to realize that the choice also indicated perhaps an elevated understanding of what the day meant to them.
|On the steps of the Fleisher after |
pronouncing husband & wife.
They weren’t going to marry within established boundaries just because that’s what was expected. Prepar- ation and planning for a marriage is about more than just the choice of a caterer and a honeymoon destination. Marriage is a ritual of joining not only two people but two lives; in-laws, embarrassing baby photos, and non-denominational beliefs included.
In that simple exchange of being asked, I swept away all the reasons why I shouldn’t marry them. I realized it was the right thing to do. I would attend any monastery, kneel on any hard stony surface, reflect and meditate until the wick wore down. I would do these things and more in order to become credentialed so that I could legally unite this love that confronted me.
Turns out, I was being dramatic. I was granted minister credentials simply by registering my name and address with the Universal Life Church online. It was so simple in fact, that it temporarily dampened my romantic imaginings of devotion flouting doctrine. No big deal. I lit a candle instead. I didn’t happen to have any incense.
It was a beautiful service, held, appropriately, at Philadelphia's Fleisher Art Memorial, a decommissioned church. Congratulations, Derek and Bridget! Mommy would have loved it.
SPELLS, SLOTS & SIRENS Anthology
coming this summer from Sapphire Blue Publishing