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“Well a man shall leave his mother
And a woman leave her home
They shall travel on to where the two shall be as one.
As it was in the beginning, is now until the end.
Woman draws her life from man and gives it back again.
(And) There is love”
“The Wedding Song” Paul Stookey, 1971
This song was released in early 1971, written by Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul, and Mary as part of a wedding where Stookey was the best man. The single was a huge pop hit that year, which, looking back, is amazing, given the anger of Vietnam, race relations, and a feeling of hopelessness among large segments of America.
Yet, people, indeed, entered into marriage 51 years ago, as they do now.
This past weekend, I was blessed to be witness to a “perfect circle” of love and commitment. Saturday, I attended the wedding of two Benedictine College graduates. They had been in a number of my classes, separately and together. I was flattered and honored to be invited, as I was in late July, when I attended the wedding of an “older” graduate, someone who had a long journey until she met the man who would become her companion in life.
This past Sunday, our Diocese, Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO, had two Masses honoring couples who mark their 50th wedding anniversary this year. Bishop James Johnston shared a masterful homily about seeing the commitment of his parents over their life together. Our diocese has, by estimate, at least 100 couples marking this most important milestone.
As a journalist, I have depended on the Associated Press Style book as my reporter’s “bible”, and I noted this entry presented for clarification in February 2013:
Regardless of sexual orientation, husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage. Spouse or partner may be used if requested.
“The AP has never had a Stylebook entry on the question of the usage of husband and wife,” said AP Senior Managing Editor for U.S. News Mike Oreskes. “All the previous conversation was in the absence of such a formal entry. This lays down clear and simple usage. After reviewing existing practice, we are formalizing ‘husband, wife’ as an entry.”
This noted, I have noted, as perhaps you have, that the term “partner” has crept into the verbiage in the 21st century. Presumably, this avoids something embarrassing for newsworthy individuals, but for me, it’s a denigration of a most important life designation.
I have written about my observation of the difference between “the wedding” and “the marriage”. I won’t revisit that commentary, but I will state the major and vital difference. One is the ceremony, the other is the commitment in life. Anyone who has been married for any length of time knows full well there can be serious disagreement, misunderstanding, pain, sadness, and yes, personal suffering in a marriage, not to mention health issues that come with advancing age. There are so many moments of light, love, beauty and joy. These moments emanate from being together, having children and grandchildren, friends, family, faith, and community.
To contemplate the words from Genesis that woman and man are hewn from one is almost too much to bear. We are separate individuals when we are making our vows to each other in front of God and our faith community, but we are joined as one.
Starting out, or looking forward after a long life of faith, hope, and love, we are blessed in our marriage with God’s mercy and His promise of eternal life. That is the greatest gift.