Love Never Fails

It’s midday Sunday and I am just sitting down to write this week’s essay. It’s been a busy weekend. Friday night was the wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner for one of my colleagues, a third grade teacher at my school. Months ago, after announcing her engagement, she stopped me as I was coming in to school one morning and asked me to do one of the readings of scripture at her wedding. I am still surprised at how emotional I became when she asked me, immediately choking up and fighting back tears. I hugged her and said yes, of course, and thanked her for making me a part of her special day. Yesterday was the wedding and reception, and much of this morning was spent looking at wedding photos on Facebook posted by some of those in attendance.

I moved to the DC area from my home state of Louisiana in 1988, so by all accounts this should be my home now. But, with no extended family here, and not having grown up here or gone to school here, in a lot of ways I don’t feel “at home”. One of the times when this is most evident to me is when hearing about weddings. If we lived in Louisiana, we would be invited to weddings much more frequently than we are here in Maryland. We are friends with a lot of people, but often not close enough to get invited to weddings. It is understandable, with the high costs associated with even a modest wedding in this day and time, but nonetheless, when we are invited to a wedding, it is indeed a special occasion for us.

Our own wedding, June 10, 1989, was very small, mostly just family, a few of our own friends who mostly were involved in the wedding in some way, and a few friends of our parents. our rehearsal dinnerThe rehearsal dinner was at Tom’s family restaurant, Ardillo’s in Amite, Louisiana, founded by his grandfather Roy S. Ardillo, in 1947. My father-in-law continued to run it after the death of his siblings, until it closed in May of 2012.

at our receptionThe reception was at my parents’ house, with a table set up in the living room for the wedding cake made by a friend of my mom’s, the groom’s cake made by me, and finger foods that were made by my mom, some of her Sodality friends, and relatives. food at our receptionIt was in our minds, the perfect balance. We placed our focus on the wedding Mass, where we received the Sacrament of Matrimony. We had attended pre-Cana preparation at our then parish, St. Ann’s in Washington, DC, where we were both active in parish life while we dated and were engaged, Tom singing in the choir and me teaching religious education on Sunday mornings. planning our MassWe spent time picking out our readings, asking friends and family members to participate, and picking out music for the Mass. My good friend Ann was my maid of honor and Tom’s brother Jay was his best man. Our godparents brought up the gifts. My cousin, Penny, played the organ for the processional and recessional. our musiciansA mutual friend, Steve, who was instrumental in our spending time together early on, played guitar and sang, along with another friend, Kay, who cantored the Mass. Steve even wrote a song just for us and sang it after Communion. In every single way, to us, it was perfect.

This weekend’s wedding festivities were quite different by contrast. The bride has a large extended family, representing several different cultures. Both the bride and groom grew up here so they had many friends and family members to invite. The wedding Mass was held at the church parish of the school where we teach so there we all felt “at home”. children with coupleThe bride had invited her current 3rd grade class to the wedding, and they attended in full force, along with many of their parents, all smiles as they watched every move of their teacher on the altar. There was a certain energy to the wedding Mass that was almost palpable, brightly colored dresses and the sounds of young children filling the large church. The reception was equally lively, with a steel drum band playing during the cocktail hour and a DJ spinning popular hits in dance music after dinner. dancing the night awayFlower girls and junior bridesmaids danced the night away side by side with older relatives and middle-aged couples, ourselves included. The featured libation was chosen by the newly married couple, a rum punch, which was delicious and as colorful as every other detail of the two days of festivities. It was a beautiful celebration of the love of these two young people.

Knowing the bride stemmed from a large family, I was truly honored to take part in the ceremony. I was given the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. I know it well, having heard it many times at other weddings and as part of the readings in weekly Mass. I began practicing it as soon as she gave me a copy. Even though I serve as a Lector in my parish, Shrine of St. Jude’s in Rockville, as well as a Lector at some of our school Masses, I fully appreciated the significance of being asked to read at their wedding and wanted to perform this duty to the best of my ability. taking the reading to papal massOn September 23rd when I was getting ready for the Papal Mass, I folded it up and tucked it into my purse. I told the bride I would be taking her and her fiancé with me to the Papal Mass and then I would bring the Pope to their wedding Mass via the same piece of paper, which I did.

This reading from Corinthians is very powerful, and its power comes from the poetry of the words themselves. Studying and analyzing words is what I do for a living, teaching literature to middle school students, showing them how to break down passages of literature for its deeper meaning. Reading is one of the great joys of my life, and the more I focus on my own writing, the more I appreciate the beauty of words and the power that exists in truly well written prose. This piece of scripture is a fine example.

A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (12:31–13:8a)

Brothers and sisters:
Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.
But I shall show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak in human and angelic tongues
but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy
and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own,
and if I hand my body over so that I may boast
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
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.
The word of the Lord.

Even though St. Paul was not talking to a young couple about to embark on a lifetime together, this popular New Testament reading is still listed as a choice for Catholic wedding Masses. The detailed “laundry list” of what love is, as well as what love is not, can be applied to the Christian community of Corinth, who had fallen away from the teachings of the Gospel, as easily as to a young man and a young woman trying to live a life of faith in today’s fast-paced world. It is difficult to find time for peace and quiet reflection in a world of instant communication via many different types of social media, evidenced by Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram images of this weekend’s wedding being posted while the events were still taking place. I myself fell victim to this increasingly more popular trend, holding handstaking a quick photo when the couple took their seats for the first reading. The way the groom so sweetly was holding the bride’s hand was so reminiscent of my favorite photo of our own wedding, a now-yellowed photo taken by a relative as we exited the church after the wedding, my new husband not only giving me his arm to walk me down the aisle but taking my hand as well.us leaving the wedding

In the end, this young couple needs only the excerpt from St. Paul’s letter to the people of Corinth and the closing words of the priest’s homily at their wedding to help them navigate the joys and strife of their new life together. It isn’t about the beautiful wedding attire or the delicious food and drink at spectacular venues. It isn’t about the Pinterest ideas or the ubiquitous iPhone cameras in the hands of nearly all of the guests. It isn’t about the rain and dark clouds that dampened the two days’ activities. It isn’t about the dress or the cake or the flowers. It is about love. And, love never fails.

“New Testament Readings.” For Your Marriage. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Web. 4 Oct. 2015.

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Clicking My Way through the Bermuda Triangle

First, let me just state for the record: I love the internet. I do, really. I also love beignets hot from the bubbling deep fryer, covered in an avalanche of powdered sugar. And, taking long naps. And, a really dry, really cold, slightly dirty, gin martini, straight up, like Ian Fleming’s superhero, James Bond (more Batman than Superman, no real superpowers, just fancy gadgets and lightening sharp reflexes). Yeah, so, what do these things have in common? Well, for starters, let’s apply the old adage “everything in moderation”.  Beignets aren’t commonly found here and when found they do not taste like the famous beignets of the Café du Monde in the French Quarter of New Orleans, land of my birth. So, using moderation on beignets, easy. Naps are confined to Sunday afternoons, between Sunday lunch after Mass and the start of lesson planning and doing laundry. No problem there. Martinis? Well, the first one is always infinitely better than the second, and the third, well, there really shouldn’t be a third.

That just leaves us with the internet, and in today’s technology-driven world, it’s really hard to apply moderation to the internet, a/k/a the digital Bermuda Triangle. For a girl who begged for a set of encyclopedias as a child, Wikipedia is unbelievable. Yes, I know, it is open content and subject to error, both those made with the best of intentions and those made otherwise, but seriously, you can find out just about anything in a matter of seconds. And, what thirst is not quenched from a few clicks on Wikipedia surely will be sated by a simple Google search. Knowledge is power, right? By the way, that famous quote is by Frances Bacon, 16th century British philosopher. Thank you,  Wikipedia, Google, and www.BrainyQuote.com.

The Bermuda Triangle is a well-known travel myth. Planes fly within the air space of three prominent tropical destinations, and, well, they don’t fly out. People who write for a living (or at least try to) often compare the social media heavy hitters as the Bermuda Triangle for writers. It all started with Mark Zuckerberg, who dropped upon humanity the mother of all time-wasters, Facebook. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Facebook. Facebook has re-connected me with countless people from my hometown, torn apart and scattered across the south by Hurricane Katrina. None of the schools I ever attended were left standing. Kind of hard to have a high school reunion when there is no high school, let alone no town where the high school used to be. My entire family lives in the south, either Louisiana or Texas, as does my husband’s family. Facebook has made it so much easier to share photos, holidays, and celebrations of good news, as well as warm thoughts in time of sad news.

However, there’s a lot more to Facebook these days, BuzzFeed and their interminable quizzes, for starters. What color is your karma? What literary character would you most likely be? What country are you really from? Next up from the “time-sucker” category is the endless stream of kittens and puppies. You know you shouldn’t click on them, you try to scroll past them, but eventually you cave. Sure, they are hilarious, who doesn’t like to watch a cat torment a dog, or listen to the pleading and whining of the husky who does not want to go into his crate. Tick tock, tick tock. Time slips by as you watch one after another. “I’ll just be a minute, I’m just checking Facebook,” said no one ever.

Facebook is not alone in helping procrastinators procrastinate since Twitter flew into our lives with its cute little logo. Not going to be a problem, I thought, how much time can you waste when you can only read or write in snippets of 140 characters or less? WRONG. Twitter is amazing. Late breaking news is only one thing that I love about Twitter. If you follow one or two major news outlets, you can guarantee there is someone tweeting away when something major happens.  Being a foodie and avid home cook, I love following famous chefs on twitter, as well as the cooking magazines and food networks. Connecting to authors, publishers, librarians, and other teachers is another significant draw for me. Come on, admit it, it feels pretty good to have someone famous “favorite” one of your tweets or better yet, retweet it for all of their own followers to see. Six degrees of separation is indeed possible (Kevin Bacon this time, not Francis Bacon).

The third side of the digital Bermuda Triangle is more recent. A digital bulletin board or an electronic three-ring binder, complete with tabbed dividers, Pinterest is the place to go if you are planning a wedding, researching a future vacation, looking for a recipe, or better yet, mining for a craft idea.  At least for me, instead of being the springboard of inspiration, Pinterest is simply the graveyard. I “pin” like crazy. I have “boards” set up for things I actually like to do, such as cooking, knitting and crocheting, reading, and teaching. I also have boards set up for the things that I would love to try, like mosaic art projects, wine cork projects, rock painting (who knew?), necktie sewing projects, trash to treasure furniture projects, and more. But, that’s as far as it goes. I can count on one hand the actual projects or recipes I have made from Pinterest.

All of these things, these social media digital Venus flytraps, lure me into wasting time, world-class procrastinating. I should be grading papers but instead I am on Facebook. I should be working on lesson plans, but instead I am tweeting and reading tweets. I should be cleaning my house but instead I am pinning housekeeping tips on my boards on Pinterest. Once you enter the Bermuda Triangle of the internet, it is very, very difficult to extricate yourself. I understand: everything in moderation. I’m working on it, really.