It'll be 15 years next month for the Chief and me. It seems like I've always known him. And that my hand has always been in his.
I must be getting old because my memories are fading like the wallpaper... but I do remember some things pretty well. When Hallie over at Betty Beguiles invited readers to share their engagement stories, I happily discovered that I remembered mine...
I travelled to the Franciscan University of Steubenville to meet up with the Chief before the Easter Vigil Mass at Christ the King Chapel. Driving the car was a good family friend and, unbeknownst to me, the Chief's jeweler. As we rode and talked about life, love and faith, she secretly carried the ring which would be presented to me a few hours later.
The Mass was the first Easter Vigil that I remember attending in my life and I was stunned by its beauty. I was accustomed to the Masses at Fransciscan, where everyone sings and joy is palpable and communal in addition internal and personal; but this was taking celebration to a new level. We waited to enter the church as the Pascal Fire was lighted and it almost seemed appropriate when the table cloth caught fire as the wind whipped the flames. It was quickly contained but that fire reminds me of the Holy Spirit present that night, contained out of love for our littleness but ready to overflow. ("He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion."~ Mr. Beaver of Narnia.) All of the readings were read... yes, all of them... which I haven't experienced at a Vigil Mass since. I watched and wept as a classmate and several others were received into the Church. I sang with them... on and on and on and well after the Mass had concluded. In Thanksgiving and Joy.
The Chief was acting a bit odd. It was extremely warm in the church but he would not take off his suit jacket; he, who after graduating from his Jesuit high school has done his best to avoid such warm and stiff attire in every possible way. The beads of sweat on his forehead became drops and then rivulets. I jokingly began to fan him with the edge of his jacket but he was not amused. He seemed annoyed but it passed quickly in the celebratory moment. I did not notice the extra weight in the pocket that he guarded anxiously.
After the music finally came to an end, we headed over to the adjacent lady chapel where the Eucharist was residing in the tabernacle. People were taking time to pray and adore and we joined them. I dropped down to my knees and the Chief did likewise. Except, he only went down on one knee... and then turned to ask for my hand.
Of course, I said yes. I reached for his arms and embraced the man who would lead me into my new life; a life full of treasure and wealth beyond my dreams. I don't remember if he kissed me but he may have. The funniest part of the event was that we managed to offend a pious young man who thought we were just sharing a random public display of affection. His concerns were laid to rest when the facts of the matter were made known to him. God bless him for his great love of our Lord!
Following the Easter Vigil, the university hosted a Resurrection Party at the student center. A great banner of the resurrected Christ hung in the hall and refreshments and laughter and music and cheering filled the place. There was hardly room to move but we managed to make our way around somehow. It turns out we were not the only engagement of the night and occasionally an announcement would be made and the cheering and toasting would begin again. We left between 3:00am and 4:00am and the party was still going strong.
It is one of my fondest memories. My own happiness was great... and there was an even greater feeling of satisfaction in being overshadowed by Christ's victory. It was a great beginning and foreshadowing of our vocation to the married life where we have been called to live the details under the wing of God's tender mercy. And one day, I hope that the Chief and I will be walking together again with those part-goers in a heavenly celebration; with the untame lion, the fire that spills over, the loving Mother and the Love that calls us to eternal joy.
I was young and immature and not nearly ready for marriage. But I fell into the hands of grace. Now I'm older and only slightly more mature and hardly ready for this afternoon let alone tomorrow. But it's all grace. Every single beautiful bit. When I hear about engagements I almost always cry and think, "They have no idea what they're getting themselves into... God has great plans for their marriage! Blessed be God!"