The Long Overdo Wedding

The unknown pastor, me and Mike, January 25, 1972
The special Rosary
Our Rome wedding

I was never that little girl who dreamed about a fairytale wedding. Mike and I got married by a pastor we met on the night of our nuptials. I was nineteen and Mike was twenty-one. We did not elope because Mike asked my mother for my hand in marriage. She did not agree because we had only been dating for six months, and she wanted me to have a church wedding. Mike and I did not listen to my mother’s wise counsel. I did feel a sense of guilt for the impulsive decision, but we were young and in love.

 

Mike, Fr. Pat and me Rome wedding

The Special Rosary

This year Mike and I will be celebrating our 50th “golden” wedding anniversary. Mike had always supported all of my missionary trips but rarely accompanied me on the trips. One year, after our missionary work in Israel, we had an extended visit to Italy. For the first time Mike joined us in Turin. Fr. Pat, a priest from Ohio, served as our chaplain. The highlight of the trip was when we arrived in Rome. Joanne, our group leader, had arranged for us to renew our wedding vows at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls. This was a wonderful surprise for both of us. As Father was performing the ceremony, a man interrupted the service. The stranger spoke in Spanish, explaining that he had to give me a gift. Fr. Pat told him, “Sir, we are in the middle of a wedding ceremony, can you please wait.” The man nodded his head, “yes.” Father continued with the service when the stranger again interrupted. “Please, I need to give them a gift (he was looking at me).” Father Pat, being a gracious man, allowed the stranger to present me with a rosary. This was no ordinary rosary. This is what I can recall of the Spaniard’s conversation: He asked me, “Do you know anything about Garabandal?” I had recently read about the apparition of the Blessed Mother in Garabandal, so I answered “Yes.” He went on to explain that he made the rosary with his own hands and that it had a piece of Conchita Gonzalez’ (one of the visionaries) prayer book that was kissed by the Blessed Mother. He added that God told him to give the rosary to me. There were a group of about 20 on this missionary trip, so when the others found out about the gift, they came running to the man to ask him for more rosaries. The man only had that one rosary, and it was meant for me. By this time Mike did not understand what was happening and thought this was staged as part of the marriage surprise. Mike thought that the stranger was in some way part of the ministry. It took some time, but we were all able to convince Mike that we were all just as surprised by this special wedding gift.

The Revelation

As far as I was concerned Mike and I were married by the Catholic Church that day with Fr. Pat officiating our vows in Rome. Well, only years later did I discover the truth. Our friend Fr. Leonard was visiting us when I mentioned  renewing our wedding vows. Fr. Leonard asked me, “Do you have the official certificate from the church?” I asked, “What do you mean? From Rome?” He said, “Yes.” I knew that I had no legal proof, so I asked him what that meant. He said, “Well, that means that you are not married by the Church and you and Mike have not entered into the Sacrament of Marriage through the Catholic Church.” I was disheartened with this announcement and knew this needed to be fixed. Since we were celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary, Fr. Leonard suggested that we get married at St. Norbert, celebrating our wedding and blessing our 50th anniversary.

To get the ball rolling I had to request our Baptism, First Holy Communion, and Confirmation records, but this was March 2020, the genesis of COVID. The only thing that Mike recalled was that his sacraments were performed in either Los Angeles or San Bernardino.  With the church offices closed, all correspondence was via email. After three months the Diocese of San Bernardino provided the records. My information was much easier because all three of my sacraments were recorded at the same church in Brawley, California.

Announcing The Wedding

I shared with our family about our upcoming wedding, but the only member of the family who showed any excitement was our grandson Jacob; he was delighted that he was asked to be the ring bearer. Getting Sonja (our daughter) and Jenny (our daughter-in-law) on board was not an easy task. Asking our son Mikos to walk me down the aisle was also a bit of a challenge. Mikos is not giving me away; he’s just walking me down the aisle because I don’t want to fall! Our best friends, Larry and Helen, are standing in as best man and matron of honor.

The Wedding Dress

I am a first time-bride, so I had no idea where to get an appropriate wedding dress. I made several appointments with bridal shops. This was a horrible experience; first, because I’m an older bride and second, I did not want anything to do with a traditional wedding dress. Basically I was a bridezilla at the first shop. The following day I went to  Merry Me Bridal, the same place where we purchased Sonja’s wedding dress. The first dress the saleslady came out with was a long, beaded strapless dress with a plunging neckline! I wanted to scream, “Oh Hell No!” But I held my tongue. I finally told her what I wanted: “I don’t want to show my arms, my back, my bosom, and I want the dress to be ankle length.” With that said, it eliminated all  the wedding dresses. The only things left were mother-of-the bride dresses. Right when I was about to give up, I found an unusual, pleated forest green dress. I tried it on and I liked it, but the color was not going to work. As it turned out the dress could be made in a dusty blue which I call silver. I said “yes” to the silver dress.

The Planning

Before we could make the appointment with our pastor, Fr. Moneypenny, we had to have all of our paperwork in order. Our wedding anniversary is January 25th, but that falls on a Tuesday this year. We are getting married on 1/22/22! That was a great sign for us.

Soon after that I had to get the church music coordinated with the music director of the parish. I wanted to walk out to the Beatles song “All you need is love” but that is a big “no, no” for our diocese; no secular music. I wanted our granddaughter Maddie to sing our song “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” by Elvis, but that, too, was shot down. Our music will be beautiful because I know that the presence of God will be in the midst.

The flowers, photographer, DJ, church are all paid for, and as the day approaches I’m getting excited to see family and friends and to share this blessed event with them. Fr. Leonard Mary from EWTN will be officiating at our wedding and Fr. Moneypenny will concelebrate.

My Prayer

Dear Lord, I pray that Your Holy Hands will be in every detail of this wedding. Bless our union, bless our families and our guests. Lord, keep all illnesses away from us; protect us from that dreaded COVID.  And may we glorify You as we become one in Your Holy Sacrament of Marriage. Lord, I pray for all marriages, especially those who are contemplating divorce. Please heal their relationships. Amen.

 

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