Saint-making marriage

Patricia Ann Neal

Excuse my indulgence.

Because today is our 18th wedding anniversary, I thought I’d yet again re-publish a post I wrote two Januarys ago in honor of the gift of our marriage.

To my beautiful bride: I choose you again today to be my bride, my sacrament, my other self, God’s loveliest grace. How much fun it is to walk this way with you!


St. Thomas More, Tallahassee, FL
Where we were married

I have been preparing a talk on marriage for a couples’ retreat, and found myself ambushed by a memoir.  Here are a few ruminations on that memory.

A dear friend of my wife, who was himself long-married at the time, took me aside just before our wedding and said, ‘Tom, people will tell you that marriage brings you happiness, completes you, makes you whole.  But here’s the real truth — in the end you get married for really only one reason: to become, and to make a saint, and like martyrdom it ain’t pretty.’


I knew he meant well, but I thought at the time that he was just a bit jaded by life somehow and was blinded by some bitterness to what marriage could really be like.  I knew better on that joyous day!

Yet now I see.  He was truly right about the heart of things.

St. Podiatrist

Let me give St. Basil voice here: ‘If you live alone, whose feet will you wash?’

Now, one does not need to be married to be Basil’s Foot Washer, of course.  But marriage is a stunningly exclusive call to sacramentalized foot washing, a lovely ego-slaying martyrdom that crowns its victims in a most intimate way with this unshakable truth: the unseen Christ is only to be had, and known, in loving the other whom we can see, and by loving them unto death.

Our children, who were created to first seek Christ in us, seem to agree — one of them once said, “Mommy and Daddy, when I see you laugh together, I feel safe.”

When I die one day, I am absolutely convinced that my appearance before the ‘dread judgment seat of Christ’ will at heart be about my wife, and how everything else in my life (children, work, etc) served/didn’t serve the covenant-demands of my first love. Christ will muse over the condition of my wedding ring, and gaze on all it reflects of how I loved, or failed to love, my beloved. She is my first love. My sacramental vocation is not to be married to Patti. My sacramental vocation is Patti, and her vocation is me.

Unbreakable Bond

My grandfather wrote me a letter shortly before Patti and I were married in 1995. It was filled with pithy marital wisdom, and at that time he and my Nana had been married for 69 years.

That’s wisdom written not in ink, but in blood; and it was this line struck me hardest:

From now on, it is up to you, Tom, and you, Patti, to love together, to laugh together, to cry together, to respond together, to be joined together.  When one is cut, the other bleeds;  when one wants, the other gives.  There are no rules;  there are no formulas; there are no singular pronouns.  There is no “I”, “me”, “my”, “mine”.  Only “us”, “ours”.  I don’t know where Nana begins and I end, or where I begin and she ends…And for over 69 years of oneness, each year has been an exponential factor, a geometric multiplier, that carries our fidelity way beyond the puny magnitude of E=mc2.  Long ago we have outscored the dimension of such a feeble concept as infinity.

Indeed, love, like God himself, shatters all our puny categories if we consent to its power; and sacramental marriage is one of God’s greatest gifts capable of translating us from a puny to a magnanimous love capax Dei, ‘capable of God.’

Cantare amantis est

My wife and I sang a song together at our Nuptial Mass right after Communion {actually, Patti created sonorous beauty and I embarrassed myself} — I am so glad we sang, and I pray we will sing to each other for a long, long time; even into the day of eternity.

Enjoy this rendition of that song, and if you’re married, I beg you to sing it with your spouse:

5 comments on “Saint-making marriage

  1. Tim Roach says:

    Patti and Tom, Happy Anniversary. God bless you and your family.

  2. Brandon Vogt says:

    One of the best reflections on marriage I’ve ever come across. Ever since you posted it last January, I’ve been challenged by your claim: “My sacramental vocation is not to be married to [my wife]. My sacramental vocation*is* [my wife.].”

  3. […] When I die one day, I am absolutely convinced that my appearance before the ‘dread judgment seat of Christ’ will at core be about my wife, and how everything else in my life (children, work, etc.) served/didn’t serve the covenant-demands of my first love. My sacramental vocation is not to be married to Patti. My sacramental vocation is Patti, and her vocation is me (read full post here.) […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s