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Life, death, & growth through marriage

One of my college friends died unexpectedly last weekend. He was a man that exuded joy and warmth. A fellow around whom you could rest at ease knowing he was present with you, and happy to be in your presence. Above all, I knew him as a faithful Catholic man, and one who loved Christ present in the Eucharist. In fact, that's how I met Steve. In the presence of Jesus, in the adoration chapel at the Kartause Mariathron during our semester abroad in Gaming, Austria.

When I heard of Steve's passing, I was immediately swept back into that swirl of Austrian memories that do I say it... still tangible and formative parts of my everyday life. Anyone who's lived in Gaming knows exactly why I'm saying that. Life spent at the Kartause was the perfect convergence of my intellectual, spiritual, curious, human, creative, Catholic, bodily, totally-alive identity. It shaped me. It changed who I was. It forged friendships. It directed who I became. It influences who I am today. I trust it will impact who I am when I go before God on my last day.

I haven't seen Steve in over a decade, but I am sure he would agree with me on those things. I am confident that he went to God having been made the man he was meant to be. See, Steve and I were both in Austria with the people who we would later marry. I know that Christ uses our vocation to bring us happiness in this life, to draw us closer to Him, and to make us perfect creations (though sacrificial love) so that we can be with Him *more perfectly* in eternal life. "Three to get married," they say. That is the whole truth about it. Steve was married to Vicki. I am married to Joe. And Almighty God works in and through the sacrament to cultivate our souls and turn us in to saints.

Joe and I were 21 when we got married. Now, we're 36. Looking back on our first years together, the awesome chaos of having babies, and rapidly embarking on our fantastic life, I am very aware that we have both grown more and more into who God made us to be. "Be who you were made to be, and you will set the world ablaze," is what St. Catherine said. There's been planting, weeding (so much weeding!), pruning, burning, replanting, trimming, overgrowth, more planting, watering......of the garden of our marriage.

Why does this matter? Why does it matter to do the work of planting, to allow the pruning, to recognize the overgrowth, or to tend any of it? Because the hard work bears fruit. Done in cooperation with God's grace, it can't not yield a bountiful harvest.

Every day, Joe and I become more "ripe." (At least, that's how I am trying to look at this whole approaching-middle-age phenomenon.) I think it's fair to say that each of us - Joe, me, Steve, Vicki - were lovely blossoms on the apple tree when we were at the Kartause. There is no doubt that each of us was receptive to God's grace through our respective marriages.... that we were daily made who we were meant to be, and can go to Him - when our lives are complete - with hearts and hands that are full.

Eternal rest grant unto Steve, O Lord.

And let perpetual light shine upon him.

May he rest in peace.


My husband Joe, having just pruned one of the apple trees in our orchard.

Some of our dear friends from time in Austria. Steve is fifth from the right.

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