This past September 14th, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, I was blessed to unite myself to Matteo Cehovin in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. In some ways this wedding day was a long time coming. Matteo and I have known each other for 15 years, dated for 3 and the wedding date itself rested on receiving a visa from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The last piece was a particular cross.
Answering God’s call seemed to be dependent on government bureaucracy, which was frequently confusing to navigate. The many steps along the way resulted in waves of disappointment, then hope, then uncertainty. Along the way we asked hundreds of people to pray for us and as result we were not alone in this journey. Much of our disappointment, hope and uncertainty was felt by hundreds of family and friends, too. This was beyond important for Matteo and I, but was it right to burden them in this way?
I find the answer when I think about our wedding day. It really was the Triumph of the Cross. The shared joy was palpable, and not only between my husband and I, but shared with hundreds of others across the world who journeyed with us. They shared in our cross and they shared in our joy. This is exactly Christ’s invitation to each of us. The Respect Life theme for this year, inspired by Pope Francis, is “Open Your Hearts to Life.” In a Respect Life Sunday statement, Cardinal Seán O’Malley reflected on what this theme means and answers, “It means to search our souls and acknowledge our deepest longing for Christ’s love.” I cannot help but reflect on how Cardinal O’Malley makes this conclusion.
How is it that searching our own souls and acknowledging our longing for Christ results in opening our hearts to life? In all truth, I typically do not want to feel the deep longing I have for Christ. When I allow myself to delve into, explore, acknowledge and feel the longing I have for Christ’s love, I can only describe it as a chasm, an ache, even a pain. Christ, echoed by Pope Francis and Cardinal O’Malley, makes this invitation because to search our souls this way is not our natural inclination. Indeed, we want very much to avoid such pain and longing. We want to find our satisfaction in that which is a little easier to attain.
However, not only do these attempts not truly satisfy as we were made for God and God alone, but we find ourselves rather ungenerous and closed. The joy shared with my family and friends was palpable because we each united our cross to the Cross of Christ, which means that we shared, too, in the Joy of Christ. We opened ourselves to Christ, we opened ourselves to each other. This opens our hearts to life. Though the initial acknowledgement of our longing for Christ can be painful, it leads us to fix our eyes on the source of our fulfillment. “Christ…fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (Gaudium et Spes, 22).
We find our fulfillment in laying down our own lives as he did for us. It is on the foundation of this sacrifice that we will build a Culture of Life. Opening our hearts to life is not convenient, painless or easy. To take care of those in need, to honor every human life which is worthy of our respect, requires sacrifice. It requires that we share in the cross. Thanks be to God, we will also share in the joy. Is this not precisely what we witness in the Sacrament of Matrimony?
It is through husband and wife laying down their lives that they become open to life. And as St. Paul reminds us in Ephesians, this points us to the Great mystery of Christ and his Church. Though I know our family and friends shared in our particular joy, I believe September 14 witnessed a Triumph of the Cross because together we shared in the Joy of Christ. May we all build our lives on the foundation of the Cross and share in his Triumph.