My son is Protestant to his core, and the child of two Presbyterian ministers. He loves his bride enough to make sure their marriage is recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. The bride, whose Roman Catholic spirituality and identity are equally strong, loves my son enough to want his parents included the marriage service. They, and the Catholic priest who officiated, found ways to honor the doctrines and traditions of the both the Catholic and Protestant Church during the marriage services.
In so doing, they moved fences that often divide one part of the Christian church from another. The priest officiated, and did the majority of both services. My husband read scripture and I gave a blessing in Friday’s nuptial mass. In Saturday’s wedding, which the priest once again led, I read scripture and Mark gave the homily. Love triumphed.
Since the wedding, I’ve remembered a story told by Rhoda Janzen in Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home.
During World War II, two soldiers “become great friends. When one…was killed in combat, the other risked life and limb to bring his friend’s body to a Catholic priest in a French village. But before the friend could be buried in the
little churchyard, the priest had to ask…an important question. Was the deceased a Catholic? The soldier shook his head—‘No, that is, I’m not sure. I don’t think he was a religious man.’ The soldier had to leave but vowed one day he’d return to pay respects to his friend’s grave.
“Years later, the ex-soldier made his way back to the little village and found the old church. He wasn’t a man of faith himself, but he had since understood that his friend would not have qualified for burial inside the churchyard. Burial inside the churchyard was for Catholics only. The churchyard fence had historically symbolized the boundaries of the Kingdom of Heaven. The ex-soldier therefore searched the perimeter of the churchyard, seeking his friend’s grave maker outside the fence. But he couldn’t find it. Finally he tracked down the same priest into whose care he had entrusted his friend’s body so many years ago. The priest remembered him and led him to a gravesite that was surprisingly inside the fence.
“’But my friend wasn’t Catholic! I thought he had to be buried outside the fence!’ exclaimed the ex-soldier.
“’Yes,’ said the priest. ’But I scoured the books of church law. I couldn’t find anything that said we couldn’t move the fence’” (pp.169-170).
With gratitude and humility, I thank my daughter-in-law and her family, my son,
and Father Kerze for the degree to which they honored the faith, beliefs, and
integrity of each one’s church and tradition. The spirit of love can move fence posts.
Learning: More than muscle moves fences, in religion and elsewhere.