Sunday, December 28, 2008

WEDDING BELLS


On Jan. 16, my grandson Martin Romero, age 29, will marry Kristin Tusa Walker, and I’ll deliver the wedding homily at a Roman Catholic Church in Baton Rouge. It’s the second largest church wedding to occur in the family, and it seems that the grandchildren in our family have become the first to celebrate getting married in a grand way. For years, Martin has vowed to be cautious about getting married because he said, “I don’t mean to hurt the feelings of anyone in the family, but I don’t want to continue the family tradition of divorce.” No hurt here…we’re just glad he waited long enough to be certain that he had found a compatible mate.

This morning as I was writing the homily for this forthcoming event, I kept thinking about C.S. Lewis, the great Christian apologist, who had to reverse a lot of his thinking when he met Joy Gresham and married her in his late 50’s, then enjoyed only three years of wedded bliss before she died of cancer. Lewis’s literary companions in a group called “The Inklings” were astonished that Lewis would finally marry…and to a divorced woman. C. S. Lewis held some strong views about divorce and, for years, had stood by the Anglican Church’s teachings that a divorced person could not be given a church marriage. However, when Lewis met Joy and married her in a civil ceremony, he soon wanted the Church’s sanction of the marriage. He was disappointed to find that the Church, with its strong laws against divorce (in the 1950’s) wouldn’t fulfill a higher law – the law of love! When the Bishop of Oxford refused to allow a religious celebration of the marriage to take place, C. S. Lewis felt that the Church had slammed the door in his face. Finally, Fr. Peter Bide, a friend of Lewis, who had the gift of healing, agreed to represent the Church and marry Lewis and Joy. Lewis, who had held fast to Church canons, told Bide that Joy’s first marriage had been to an already-divorced man and therefore, in the eyes of the Church, her first marriage wasn’t really legitimate. According to one of Lewis’s biographers, Bide later wrote that Joy desperately wanted to solemnize her marriage before God and to claim the grace of the sacrament before she died, so he married the two in a bedside religious ceremony.

The story doesn’t end happily since Joy Gresham died, but C. S. Lewis declared to the world that he didn’t know why he waited so long to get married as he enjoyed every aspect of the union for three happy years…to the extent that his strong grief following her death led to indifference about keeping up his health. Three years after Joy died, on the exact day Pres. John Kennedy was assassinated, C. S. Lewis died. I’m just romantic enough to think that C. S. Lewis’s marriage was indeed a marriage made in heaven. I agree with Gibran’s words defining a good marriage in “The Prophet,” in which he writes: “You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore. You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days. Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.”

I’m not relating this story about C. S. Lewis to cast a shadow on Martin’s forthcoming wedding, but perhaps to assure Martin that waiting until his match appeared and he had matured was a wonderful idea, and I pray he will avoid the “family tradition,” as he calls the several divorces that have occurred in our family. And to inject a little of the lightheartedness that characterizes Martin’s future bride, Kristin, how could a match between two chauvinistic LSU Tiger fans be anything except a marriage made in heaven?
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