One

If I could to sum up our first year of marriage, coupled with essential reminders as we continue going about our vocation (because our marriage is far from perfect), it would be with these profound words, taken from the very homily preached on our wedding day by our dear friend and brother, Fr. Jack. I believe that the Truth of these words are worth sharing, not just between the two of us, but also with the world.

View More: http://cynthiashipp.pass.us/fatimaandjon

“Jesus, as one of His last signs at the end of His earthly life will turn wine into His Precious Blood, and that Blood, of course, is a participation in the Blood that He would pour out from His side on the cross. Jesus poured out His whole self, His whole being. He poured out Himself to the very last drop of His existence on that cross for us. And so we learn from Jesus what true love is. We learn from Jesus that love in its very essence is sacrificial. One who loves with Christ’s love is more concerned about the needs and concerns of the other than they are about their own. A marriage penetrated with the love of Christ will be filled with endurance during unexpected trials. A marriage filled with the love of Christ will know all kinds of forgiveness, of mistakes and sins of one another, and of your children. Marriage penetrated with the love of Christ will be filled with patience and charity, and it will be filled with joy in the midst of life’s ups and downs.

You have chosen to incorporate a Croatian custom into your marriage celebration today. It involves blessing a crucifix and then you will incorporate that crucifix into your vows, and you will bring this crucifix with you into your home and give it a place of honor, and pray regularly before it. And this is because you recognize that with God’s love and grace poured out on the cross, you can make this marriage thrive in this world and be a source of light for others in the world – God’s light and love shining through you into this world. You recognize that it is, in fact, in dying to ourselves that we come to the fullness of life.

Fatima and Jon, may your beautiful faith in God – the wonderful foundation you have received from your parents – and the grace of Jesus spilled out for us on the cross fill you with strength, and wisdom, and joy as you begin your married life and build a house for God in this world.”

—Fr. Jack Peterson, YA

View More: http://cynthiashipp.pass.us/fatimaandjon

Year one in the books! Marriage, as expected, has been both very challenging, but extraordinarily rewarding; countless hardships already, but countless graces poured out constantly. And I’m certain it will remain this way each year so long as we keep the Crucified Christ as our center – the prime example of true sacrificial love as Fr. Jack shared. Please continue to pray for us.

Happy Anniversary, Jonathan! I love you more than words can ever express. I love the life we created as husband and wife and the great joy and new hope that come with being parents together…all in our first year, too! What an adventure thus far and I know it’ll keep getting better with age, just like wine. 🙂

– Fatima

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The Second Wine

Veronese

Let’s build a house with turned out doors
So we can share what love affords
Pour ourselves out like a wine that we’ve been saving
When our well is running dry; when we raise our glasses high
Happy, shining are the faces of the thirsty

–Audrey Assad, “Blessed are the Ones”

Pre-Cana meetings have long concluded, vendors are finalized, the dress and suit are in our possession, response cards are trickling in, and centerpieces and other decorations are next on queue. We even found a place to live after we’re married–thank you, Jesus. Hello, homestretch (translation: I’m so glad you’re here/oh my goodness you’re here)!!!! I can’t believe how fast the time has flown.

Lately as we’ve been sifting through our photos as babies, kids, awkward teenagers, and adults, I find myself again experiencing moments of deep gratitude and awe at the plans God unfolded for us throughout these 15 years of our lives–how much we’ve grown and changed for the better, how much fuller we’ve been able to love each other because of our dependence on God, the source of Love. For those that follow us on social media, Jon and I have coined the phrase “journey to Cana” as our engagement hashtag as we prepare for our forthcoming nuptial…a journey that has been undeniably filled with the most difficult challenges we’ve ever faced and joy beyond compare. So before I do share why we coined that as our engagement phase name in a future post, I will say that Mary mentioning to Jesus, “they have no wine”, has a large part to do with that.

Those that know me know my affinity for wine (thank you, Italy and Slow-Drinking Club haha)–not just for the sociable aspect, but there’s such an intriguing factor about the entire process from harvesting the grapes all the way to bottling them. It’s truly a process of mastery–harvesting the grapes at the right ripened time, picking them, pressing, fermenting, maturing, and that can take place anywhere from a few months to years as you know.

Wine making has been around for thousands of years. For my bachelorette getaway in Virginia’s Wine Country with my bridesmaids, they took me to this awesome vineyard and the tour helped us understand in depth the process of wine making–how it’s been done in the past and how it’s done now with more modern equipment. In its basic form, wine making is a natural process that requires very little human action. God’s creation provides us with everything that is needed to make wine; it is up to humans to take what He has provided to do what’s necessary for the rest of the action to take place. Similarly, God provides us with everything we need in our life and more and it’s up to us to willingly say “yes” and take the appropriate measures to allow His Divine plan to transpire. It’s extraordinary to see how God allows us to be partakers in His plan. This is why I’ve always loved the line in the prayer during the Preparation of the Gifts at Mass: “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink.”

So I mention this, why? I truly believe that our hearts were grapes made into wine. Since we met, God was harvesting them, pressing them (although it might have felt more like crushing at a certain point), fermenting and maturing them until the moment where He was ready for us to pour ourselves out to another. The first time we were in a relationship was the first wine, just like at the Wedding Feast at Cana. It was through the Blessed Mother when she turned to her God, her Son and said, “they have no wine.” This prompted Him to turn water into wine. This was His first miracle.

In time, God began unveiling the second wine He has been preparing for us throughout all these years.

“The headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.'” (Jn 2:10)

Our Blessed Mother’s intercession has been powerful personally for us and Jon and I both consecrating ourselves to Jesus through Mary is what changed our life forever. In 2007, He emptied us of the first wine so that He could harvest, ferment, and mature our hearts into the sweeter, greater tasting, everlasting wine in the coming years. In 2012, God revealed that He wasn’t done with us. And because of the blessing of family, a community of brothers, sisters, and friends, we were able to pour ourselves out in our time frequently spent with others, service to the Church, and our prayers to God with each other. In the same way, Christ fills us back up, and to the brim, through the Sacraments, through the wonderful people in our lives, through their prayers, counsel, encouragement, and love.

The first jar full of the second wine is fast approaching. May 30, 2015. 36 days. And while the second wine may not last as long in the jars (because it’s that good) at the wedding as it took for it to mature in barrels, it is Christ who will continue to fill us when our jars run dry again. He will continue filling us with the second wine so long as we say “we have no wine, Lord.” Always prefer the good wine, the second kind, the kind that satisfies…the kind with the greater taste, aroma, and texture. The kind that lasts forever. It’s the best kind you could ever receive.

It’s so hard to believe how far we’ve gotten in our discernment of this special and sacred vocation. We continue to ask for your prayers for us, that we may remain ever faithful to Christ especially after we wed.

“At that time everyone was convinced that this was the only just model, and that love by itself would guarantee the “for ever”, because love is absolute, it wants everything, and thus it demands permanence: it is “for ever”. Unfortunately, reality was not like that: we see that falling in love is a wonderful thing, but perhaps it does not always last for ever: it is a feeling which does not remain indefinitely. So it is clear that the progression from falling in love to engagement and then to marriage requires a number of decisions, interior experiences. As I said, this loving sentiment is a wonderful thing, but it has to be purified, it has to undergo a process of discernment, that is, reason and will have to come into it. Reason, sentiment and will have to come together. In the Rite of Marriage, the Church does not say: “Are you in love?” but “Do you wish?” “Have you decided?” In other words, falling in love has to become true love by involving the will and the reason in a deeper journey of purification which is the journey of engagement, such that the whole person, with all his or her faculties, with the discernment of reason and strength of will, says: “Yes, this is my life”. I often think of the wedding feast of Cana. The first wine is very fine: this is falling in love. But it does not last until the end: a second wine has to come later, it has to ferment and grow, to mature. The definitive love that can truly become this “second wine” is more wonderful still, it is better than the first wine. And this is what we must seek. Here it is important that the “I” and the “you” are not alone, but that the parish community is also involved, the Church, the circle of friends. All this – the right degree of personal maturity, communion of life with others, with families who support one another – is very important, and only in this way, through this involvement of the community, friends, the Church, the faith, God himself, can a wine emerge that will last for ever. I wish you well!”

–Pope Benedict XVI, World Meeting of Families in Milan, 2 June 2012

 Cheers!

wine tasting on our first anniversary, 2013

wine tasting on our first anniversary, 2013

Meet Me at The Well

Artist: Hyatt Moore

Painting: Woman at The Well • Artist: Hyatt Moore

It’s crazy to look back on your life and remember the times when Jesus so clearly called out to you. Maybe they weren’t encounters like the ones Moses or Abraham had, but in my own life I have come to find that Jesus more often than not does so in small and in silent ways. He still calls us on a daily basis. It can be through a number of things, and of course more tangibly through people—loved ones, strangers, rich, poor, colleagues—you name it. For me in particular, He called and continues to call me to Him through my fiancée. Since I’ve returned from a silent retreat with my community, and spent a significant amount of time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I was able to clearly understand how it is that He calls me through her. God has put into my heart the theme of a well.

If you think about it and do a little bit of biblical research you can find that God has brought spouses together in the Old Testament. In multiple stories, He used a well to bring people and even spouses together: Rebecca and Isaac, Jacob and Rachel, Moses and Zipporah… hey, even Jack and Jill went up a hill to a well to fetch a pail of water. Okay, that last one isn’t biblical but you get the idea.

I met my future spouse at that same well Jesus talked about over 2,000 years ago in the story of the Samaritan Woman. You see, my story and this story are pretty similar. But before moving forward, here’s a refresher on that Gospel passage.

The Samaritan Woman

Jesus had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.

The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

[The woman] said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water?

Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?”

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.”

The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.”

The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.”

Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”

At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” They went out of the town and came to him. Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.”

But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” So the disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.”

When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

John 4

 

 

Jesus never condemned the woman. In the same way, Jesus doesn’t have condemnation toward us (more towards our sins). He wants to heal us and give us “everlasting water.” The first thing Jesus says to the woman is not “Hey, you’ve been bad so go repent!”, or “You’re a terrible person, don’t talk to me.” It’s unfortunate that there are many people that think Jesus is that way toward us, but in reality He says the same thing He said to the Samaritan Woman.

After Christ’s walk to Calvary, after His crucifixion, He says to the soldiers (to us): ”give me a drink.” After Peter denied Him three times, after he ran away and claimed not to know Him: Jesus says, “do you love Me?” He asks us this every day… “Do you love Me?” Whether we’ve sinned for the 500th time or have sinned for the 5000th time, there is a thirstiness that remains in us unless we come to the well and meet Him there. The paradox here is that Jesus thirsts for us in return, not for everlasting life like us, but simply for us to love Him in return. We can be selfish people. We are selfish people. We desire things and certain pleasures in life and we tend to sin just to get or experience what it is we want for a brief moment. Yet, God proposes something that satisfies that thirst that those things don’t. He so desires to give us the water of everlasting life, water that makes us thirst no more.  It is at that well where Jesus is meeting us every single day. It is at that same well inside of us where Jesus answers our cry, “I am thirsty,” by offering us everlasting water…His love and mercy.

I am a huge sinner. And it was at that well where I met and continue to see Fatima, too. It was at that well where Jesus, through Fatima, offered me a life “full of grace.” It was only when I decided to give up a life I lived selfishly; living of the world and not of above. It was only when I decided to leave all my things and follow Him. And you know what? It’s still a life that’s difficult and with much hardships. But the difference here is this. By following Christ, He gave me and continues to give me strength for the journey—water of everlasting life.

So going back to my time spent on retreat as I had mentioned in the beginning, I heard His voice in the silence of my heart and saw myself at a well with Jesus, engaging in the same dialogue of the Samaritan Woman. I was talking to Jesus, coming to believe in Him, trusting in Him, and being forgiven by Him. Then I blinked. Jesus wasn’t there in front of me at the well anymore. Fatima was… believing in me, trusting me, forgiving me, loving me for who I am. I pray I can do the same for her as well.

I believe that Jesus used and continues to use my future wife to meet Him at the well and it is at very well where I will again meet Fatima in a couple of months. We’ll approach that well, both thirsty, but fully believing that Christ will give us the water of everlasting life as husband and wife. Jesus will meet us both there when we participate in the Sacrament of Marriage and will pour on us an abundance of His Love and Mercy.

God bless, my friends. I will be praying for you all, and please continue to pray for Fatima and me as we continue on our journey to marriage… 4 MONTHS!

—Jonathan 

Essential Cell of Society

‘Tis the season for engagements…and babies! What an exciting and beautiful time! For all those recently engaged, you remain in our prayers as you make your own Journey to Cana. I’m also beyond thrilled for married friends of ours who are expecting or who have recently brought life into the world. Praise God, and a sincere thank you for your willingness to participate so freely in God’s plans!

Speaking of engagements, marriages, and babies, there has been great excitement in the air for next year’s World Meeting of Families (WMOF) with Pope Francis in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. This will be the first time this event will take place in the U.S. For those who are not familiar with this global event in the Catholic Church, it was conceived in 1992 by the “Pope of the Family”, Pope Saint John Paul II. Two years later, it took place in Rome during the International Year of the Family.

Since then, a WMOF has taken place every three years in different countries…including Manila, Philippines :). At WMOF, the Holy Father invites families from all over the world to gather together to partake in prayer and dialogue to be reaffirmed on the role of a Christian family in the Church and in the world, especially in the midst of the challenges families face today. It’s no secret that families are under attack with the changes in the tide. It is in these seasons of high, changing tides that families must cling ever more tightly onto Christ, the Anchor and our Hope.

In response to the challenges we face, internationally known speakers (which include clergy, religious brothers and sisters, theologians, professors, husbands, and wives) will lead catechetical keynote and breakout sessions and activities to share with those in attendance the blessings that families pour forth into the world. It’s an event where the sacred bonds of families are reaffirmed and where families can rediscover the beauty of a life lived according to the Gospel, a life of holiness. Pope Francis revisits the words of The Family Pope at WYD 2013: “It is very important to reaffirm the family, which remains the essential cell of society.”

Three months ago, Jon and I completed our Engaged Encounter. I’ll spare you from all the details, but I mention this because a priest was giving a talk about the current challenges of marriage today and two points have stayed with me since then. There were about 60-70 engaged couples present in the parish hall spread throughout the room, seated in round tables. In a starkly manner, he said that half of the marriages in this room will end in divorce. How does he know? That’s what statistics show us today. Up to 50% of marriages end in divorce. That statistic was revealed to me through a different lens when the priest used the very room we were sitting in, and the people who were participating in that same Encounter, as a visible reality of what our world is experiencing as far as marriages go. It was really sad. God forbid that that would actually happen, but man, what a rude awakening.

I’m not here to intentionally be Miss Debbie Downer. I write this because I so desire a change in our generation. Why keep going this direction when there is an opportunity to change?

As someone who is preparing for marriage, and who believes in the power and grace of this beautiful sacrament, I deeply desire change.

As a Church that is in need of great healing and restoration from a past of brokenness, we need more married couples that strive for holiness. We need more families who want nothing more than salvation for our loved ones. We need more families that pray together and we need more parents who make their faith the center of our families’ lives. But not families that just want this, but families that are committed to do so. We need married friends who are great models of faith who can challenge and encourage other married people. We need married friends who can advise and pray for those who are discerning their vocation. We need more married people and families who frequent the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation so that we may be revived, renewed, and cleansed of our frail, human nature. We need God.

The-IconAs we approach this event next year, which serves as the reminder we need, let us pray for hope, healing, and strengthening of families in our country and in our world.  We must not settle for mediocrity or the happiness and comfort that the world offers. As the beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once said, the world promises us comfort, but we were not made for comfort. We were made for greatness.

Dear engaged and married friends: let’s not settle on the world’s ideals, but aim for the highest ideals of the Gospel of Christ every single day. This world is not our home. We are just on a journey passing through. Don’t settle here and don’t let your family settle here, either. You deserve Heaven. They deserve Heaven.

Finally, as we approach the Christchild at the manger soon, let us reflect on the Holy Family and also the roles of Christ’s mother (and our Mother), Mary, and foster-father, St. Joseph.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the Holy Family of Nazareth… pray for us!

—Fatima

As the family goes, so goes the nation, so goes the world in which we live. —JPII
More information on the World Meeting of Families: here.

Time of Preparation

advent-art1

According to TheKnot App countdown on my phone, Jonathan and I are now five months (and 26 days) away from becoming Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Perez. Is this real life?! #DavidAfterDentist

Just earlier today, after wrapping up a pre-Camden Retreat with students, I was taken aback at the fact that it’s now December. Thanksgiving is done, Black Friday is done, Cyber Monday is sort of done (or is it now Cyber Week)? Days leading up to the start of Advent, I reflected on how much I was looking forward to the Advent season. I’m so glad Advent is here now. It’s timely that this particular season comes right after Thanksgiving and before Christmas because it is within these two holidays where the tension and busyness are more apparent than ever, and the lists of things to do seem to only increase in size.

Advent for most of my young adult life has solidly grown to become my favorite season in the Liturgical Calendar–not Lent, nor Ordinary Time. Christmas and Easter are obviously up there (because well of course…we celebrate God becoming Man and His dying and rising gave us new life), but, there is something about the Advent season that I’ve noticed stays with me in a different way than the other seasons do. And now, in a new and exciting way, I experience my fondness of Advent even during this season of engagement to Jonathan.

There is so much noise in this world. There is also so much movement–fast movement. Sometimes the movement we experience or the busyness we claim that has taken over our lives can in reality be us just running in circles, or even running away from the destination. Perhaps we think we have made progress in a few things only to find us back to where we started, and as a result we remain incomplete and unfulfilled.

Given the whirlwind of preparations that have taken place these last three months of my year in particular, whether it was preparing for retreats during the day and then transitioning into preparing for the wedding (and all that those two items in full force demand), I grew very tired. Not just in the physical sense, but emotionally and spiritually as well. And naturally with any tiredness comes feeling inundated with endless tasks, growing in frustration or impatience, and then arguments. The constant noise and movement left little room for solitude or calmness in my life. I was at the point where I just grew tired of staying in the fast lane and I wasn’t refueling at any time. My brief moments of peace weren’t enough and I knew I needed to evaluate what has been happening.

In wedding planning I’ve come to rediscover my weakness, my distractedness, and my restlessness. But after having rediscovered those hurdles from experiencing solitude, it awakened a fervent desire in my heart for silence and stillness and I knew that unless I allowed God to intervene, I would always have a never-ending amount of hurdles to jump over–and still feel unfulfilled and fatigued. It’s kind of like that one line from a familiar worship song, “I know I’m filled to be emptied again…” For me, despite how good I thought I might have been doing at the beginning of the engagement, it was a reminder that as time passes, God can allow these “empty” moments to happen so that I can see how truly, completely, utterly dependent I must be on Him. He helped me again see how restless I can become when I give in to things or ways of the world, when I’m not thinking of what is above. This also served as a reminder to slow down, or even remain still for some time to refuel.

I longed for the silence and stillness contrary to what modern-day society offers throughout this holiday season. What the world offers and temporarily fulfills us with for a fleeting moment is the antithesis to what God offers, which is true fulfillment and lasting joy. The world’s view of joy seems to ends once the holiday season is over, where as God’s joy can be experienced every single day.

On a final note, as important as our wedding day is, it doesn’t end there. Its joy isn’t limited to a day, but for the rest of our lives as we look forward with joyful hope, journeying towards our heavenly home. We need to make sure that’s always our focus, that that’s what our hearts and minds are being prepared for above all else. So even when our wedding day comes and goes, the fulfillment and joy will endure beyond the day because our Vocation is a lifetime gift given by our Almighty God.

Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of our Lord at Christmas and at His Second Coming. We don’t know when He will come again, but we have seasons like this one to remind us to “rend your heart and not your garment.” So, too, am I to keep rending my heart before entering into the Sacrament of Marriage.  It’s time to slow down and wait in stillness and silence before our God in preparation for something even greater!

No matter how noisy and busy this season of our life may get, God is always ready to meet us in the silence, ready to bless us with the gifts of His peace, solace, and love! What great joy He wants to share with us!

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

–Fatima

God’s Gift & Grace (Being Thankful for a Woman of God!)

6 months in! 6 months left! That is how much longer I have to wait to be finally married to the woman of my dreams. A woman whom I am very, very thankful for. See, everyone thinks that marriage planning is all flowers and sprinkles, but ask anyone who has had to plan a wedding: it is hard, it is frustrating, and it is a humbling experience. (More on this “humbling experience” in another post!) But it is also filled with fun, laughter, tears, heartache, and of course: happiness.

I have many happy moments in my life. I am happy when I watch sports. I am happy when I play sports. I am happy when I play video games, or hangout with friends. I am happy when I watch a good film, etc. You get the point. But none of these things bring me joy than my fiancée and the gift she is to me.

One of my personal joys comes from a woman who I know is God’s gift and grace to me. She is a gift from God because I’ve seen all her hard work through this “humbling experience” of wedding planning paying off. A lot would have not gotten done without her. My woman is a planner! She loves to plan and be organized in a lot of things. Okay, almost everything. But she’s so darn good at it, using the gifts and talents God has given her. Like I said, it is paying off in wedding planning. How much she gets done a week perplexes me. She is a gift from God in that sense, because of her love for me that allows our relationship to grow especially in this wedding planning and engagement phase of our lives.

But more importantly, she is a gift from God to me. I know she is a gift from our Lord, because I can see through her God’s love and hand extending to me. It is through my fiancée that allows me to peek into the infinite love God has for me. She is a gift because God wants not only for me to be happy in this life, he wants me to be with him in the next. God has given me a vocation to Fatima because he wills it. That is how I am going to get to heaven, how I’m going to bring our future family to heaven. Thought he daily graces we receive in our Sacrament of Marriage is the way God wants us to strive for holiness, for Him. No it won’t be easy but through these graces we will be giving to each other, we will strive together. One body, one flesh. There is so much to be thankful for. 6 months from now on the altar, I will be receiving Fatima as my wife. There are many “gifts”that have been given to me in my life. ESPN, Football, my PS4, this computer, etc. But none compare to the gift and grace that God is given/giving to me at the altar 6 months from now. I am thankful for a woman sent by God to help me in this life, so I can get to the next. That is a gift I am very, very thankful for.  Thanks, God, for the hookup! *air fist bump*

–Jonathan

Wedding Planning/Marriage Planning

“Marriage is a feast – a Christian feast, not a worldly feast…some are more preoccupied with the exterior signs, with the banquet, the photographs, the clothes and the flowers…These are very important things in a feast, but only if they are able to show the true motive of your joy: the blessing of the Lord on your love.” – Pope Francis, St. Peter’s Square, 14 February 2014

My fiancé and I are now back in the full swing of wedding preparations. The past two and a half months have been some of the craziest, busiest, and most challenging times in my 25 years of living. Life just has been in a constant flux, more than it usually is, at least. Since Jon proposed, there have been consecutive weekends of out-of-town travel, Jon’s move to Fort Washington, two weddings in two months (and everything it includes in between), my brother’s kidney transplant and recovery thereafter, babysitting coverage, and job applications and interviews for us both. It is definitely a time of transition in many aspects of our lives, and I know it’ll remain that way this coming year as we approach marriage. I welcome this season of transition with an open and ready heart.

Two months ago at our first Pre-Cana meeting (marriage preparation), Fr. Jack made a point at the very beginning that continues to echo in my mind frequently, and probably will remain that way throughout our entire engagement. Nothing about the theology of marriage and the like, but rather, a simple fact on one’s preparation in responding to his or her Vocation in life. A couple seeking the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony in the Catholic Church have a minimum of six months to prepare for receiving it. A seminarian (in the Arlington Diocese, for example; the years may vary from diocese to diocese) seeking to become a diocesan priest takes six years (of formation). Six months. Six years. I don’t know why I find this deeply interesting. This is something I’ve subconsciously known, as friends have received either sacraments recently. I didn’t think anything deeper so now this simple fact prompts me to recognize daily just how heavy this is, and I mean heavy in the “colossal” sense, not “oppressive.” Marriage is a big deal, and I can’t emphasize that enough. But I can’t tell you how blessed I feel that God has called me to this and hope to be as prepared as God plans for us to be within the amount of time before the big day.

In our culture today, brides (and grooms, I think? haha) can become so lost in wedding planning. I find it especially challenging for me personally because with a background in design, I’m so particular about how things should look or be done. I’m vision-oriented and pay very close attention to details. And I can be overly organized. I can confess that. However, I am continually praying, having confessed my habits/way of thinking, that I may have the ability to resist getting knee-deep with the not nearly as important facets of wedding planning such as table settings and floral arrangements. There are tons of bridal magazines out there, a lot of which are probably in my house (in my defense they were gifts and hand-me-downs!!) with all these ideas and advice on how to plan for the wedding of your dreams. Like my ready-made wedding binder from Barnes and Noble, for example. There are tabs of just about every aspect to planning a wedding. Each tabbed section has a summary and advice on just about everything you can think of, and then some. Talk about over-organization. 😉

That’s the wedding planning side of things, sans the sacramental aspect.

Just so it’s clear, I’m not saying there’s a problem for being so organized and caught in the details of wedding planning. These are important things, of course, even reiterated by our Holy Father. What I am trying to say is if there is a lack of balance, or stability, between the two aspects, then that’s when you’ll have to be real with yourself and be mindful of what and who truly matter in the midst of this and the blessings that are bestowed from our Father in Heaven. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if the vision I had in mind isn’t Pinterest-worthy. What matters is the union of the bride and groom, rooted in Christ’s sacrificial, unconditional, and life-giving love. Everything else after that is just a bonus. And it goes without saying that marriage is difficult and challenges will persist even after the wedding day. Of course. And this is why I think marriage preparation is vital, practically and spiritually speaking. Jon and I cannot wait to partake in this feast, and we cannot wait to live our life together, continuing to learn and grow as husband and wife.

I can read and research all I  can on pulling off a classic and affordable wedding reception. In the same way, I hope to be doing the same spiritually as Jon and I inch closer and closer to becoming one flesh. This is what we have been doing/strive to do while engaged, and will hopefully do in the near future:

  • Pray daily the engagement prayer written by Fr. Jack
  • Constantly ask for the intercession of Our Lady and St. Joseph
  • Attend Mass when possible based on our schedules
  • Frequent the Sacrament of Confession as needed (We’ve been told his several times by married and engaged friends. Rightly so!)
  • Weekly Holy Hour
  • Read the books on our engagement reading list (some include: Love and Responsibility, Three to Get Married, Familiaris Consortio, Good News about Sex & Marriage) – open to other suggestions!
  • Spend time with married friends
  • Commit to a monthly service project (apart from our ministry with youth)

Ok, married friends and readers, are we too ambitious? We would love feedback and suggestions from what you might have experienced while betrothed. We hope to continue adding posts to our blog section so we can update and further write about our Journey to Cana–from the victories to difficulties of it. 🙂

Lastly, we are so grateful for such wonderful married role models. This prayer book was given to us from dear friends of ours and we are so appreciative of yet another reminder of the importance praying together. We are also always in need of prayers!

–Fatima

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