by Paul Morisi and Alison Laird
On New Year’s Eve 2013 at 8:30 p.m. under the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia, we got engaged. As if we weren’t excited enough, Ana Puente, the coordinator for Marriage Ministry for the Diocese of Brooklyn, arranged for us to partake in a St. Valentine’s Day event at the Vatican entitled “The Joy of Yes, Forever.” This would be a chance for us to gather with about 15,000 engaged couples and Pope Francis. We would have a unique opportunity to receive advice for our own marriage and catechesis on the sacrament from the pontiff.
At 8 a.m. on Feb. 14, we shuffled into St. Peter’s Square and were lucky enough to find two seats in the third row, right in front of the pope’s chair. Upon arrival, all the couples were given a special pillow to use for their wedding bands on the day of their wedding, a gift from the Holy Father.
Three couples from different parts of Europe were asked to pose one question each to Pope Francis about a Catholic engagement, wedding and marriage. Here are three items the Holy Father spoke about that most impressed us:
1) It is more than saying “Yes.”
Of course when we got engaged, we chose to say yes to one another. But we also chose to say “no.” As we prepare for marriage, we have to understand that we say “no” to ourselves. We say “no” to a life of selfishness and welcome a shared life, one that gives to each other.
2) This is about more than just a wedding.
Planning a wedding can be a lot of the fun and excitement (OK and admittedly some headaches). There’s preparing the liturgy, picking a venue and the food sampling (Paul’s favorite part), but it’s about more than that. It’s about getting ready for a marriage – learning to say I am sorry and learning to accept apologies, learning to compromise, learning to accept each other as we are. This is why the work of marriage ministry is so important. The Pre-Cana Program for the diocese prepares couples, like ourselves, for this sacrament and how to live out our vocation as a married Catholic couple.
3) It is about making each other better.
The Holy Father reminded us that we are called to bring out the best in each other. We want to make ourselves a better man/husband and woman/wife but more so to bring us each closer to Christ. Life isn’t always easy. As Mark Hart humorously put it, “Jesus invited us to the feast, but He never said it would be a picnic.” We need to be there for each other in those times of need.
Being with 30,000 people in St. Peter’s Square with the Holy Father, learning about our new vocation was spectacular. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for which we are both grateful. Please keep us in your prayers as we prepare for our marriage, as we will keep you all in ours.[hr] Paul Morisi is the diocesan coordinator for Adolescent and Young Adult Faith Formation, and Alison Laird is a kindergarten teacher at St. Saviour Catholic Academy, Park Slope.