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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Love, Gay Marriage and Losing Arguments...

It says, "Equal Justice Under Law"...
It's been a tough several days for Roman Catholics and conservative minded Christians across America.

The Supreme Court decision to strike down parts of the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) and punt on California's Proposition 8, while not legalizing same sex marriage nationally, has at the least given the movement new life and, by most accounts, the pendulum is swinging in their favor.  

Those of us who profess the protection of traditional marriage as the foundation of society, since it is the only institution to legally bind children with their parents and give them the right to grow up with a father and mother, whose roles and contributions are very different and cannot be quantitatively measured in the raising a child, have felt a sense of frustration and doubt in the growing tide against us.

Many have thrown in the towel and accepted gay marriage as an unavoidable consequence in a country, where the least and most marginalized are given full protection of the law (with the exception of the unborn, who are still sacrificed at will).  

Moreover, the aggressive campaign to promote same sex marriage is impressive and, frankly, overwhelming.  

In fact, a good friend pointed out that from a legal standpoint, there may not be much argument in this debate, noting that despite having five judges in the Supreme Court, who are Roman Catholics, DOMA was still struck down because, legally speaking, the case is very clear.

However, others like myself, are circling the wagons, like Aragorn and his army at the Black Gate of Mordor in the last Lord of the Rings.  The odds were stacked against them and it was easy for them to give up and succumb to despair but then the unexpected happened.       

It reminds of that old John Belushi line in Animal House, "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?  No!"

In any event, the emotions boiled over at a recent discussion I had with a group of friends, the day after the historic ruling, where my zealousness and passion to defend the Church got the best of me and I may not have come across as charitable to some of my dearest friends as I should have.

Against all odds...
At times, it got a little sticky, as we tried to reconcile the Church's teachings on marriage and human sexuality, which even among devout Catholics is a touchy subject, with what we see and live in society.  And, while, I don't think we ever crossed the line of disrespect (well, maybe once, or twice, or three times when I interrupted others who were trying to speak), it was possibly one of the most animated discussions that we have had in several years. 

In any event, one friend put it best when he said that in our fidelity to our faith, we are automatically pigeonholed by the culture as intolerant, unloving and judgmental; salt to the wound of any  Christian, who wants to portray the total opposite.  Where that line is crossed; from practicing what we believe to being called "judgmental" or "unloving" and what we can do to change it, are the million dollar questions.  But, the gist of his argument is that we can't fall into thinking about our decisions and actions, as Catholics, from the same perspective as society when approaching these very difficult issues.  

I think the resounding take away from the debate is that it all comes down to love and that we have to treat others with love, despite opposing viewpoints because, a
t the end of the day, each person is going to face God and be judged according to their faith, their heart and what they did for others, regardless of what we may or may not think.

At any rate, the exchange left an uncomfortable feeling within me and I continued to ponder what was said and wasn't said for several days.  Knowledge can be a dangerous thing, as my wife often points out to me.  There is a fine line between lovingly speaking the truth, as the Church teaches, and our own pride and contempt in explaining it.

Still reeling from the discussion on Saturday, I came across an article by National Catholic Register's Matthew Archbold, where he reflects on another blog, that made him pause along the same lines.  

After admitting to having fallen into the trap of arguing and debating, to the point of working himself into a frenzy trying to defend traditional marriages over the social media, the blog made him realize that he was not being a Christian, at a time when the Christian witness is most needed.

He wrote a great anecdote that sums it up well:

But here's the thing - we are not called to deliver the United States of America to heaven.  We are responsible for what we do.  We must love our opponents and assume that their anger comes from a place of real frustration and pain.  It's possible that we may not, despite every effort, be able to define marriage in our society but we can work on our own marriage and be examples of God's love.
Quick story that moved me to no end.  A couple recently told me that they had been debating having another kid.  She wanted another one and he thought they couldn't handle another.  They already had two.  She said she saw me and my five kids at Mass every Sunday and then she said one day the kids and I were on the sidelines of one of my kids' games right in front of them and we were laughing and talking and running around a bit.  She said they watched us and they agreed to have another.  I tend to think they thought that if an idiot like me could handle five children they could certainly handle three.  I'm bowled over at the thought but I can't help but think that every time that child does something bad they're going to secretly blame me.
But anyway, the thing is that it wasn't through me explaining to them about what the Catechism says about being open to children.  It wasn't through scolding them.  It was just living my life as a Catholic openly and letting God do the rest.  In the end I think we have to be careful not to win the argument and lose our souls.  We must be examples of love and strong marriages.  We should explain and preach but it must always be done with love.  We are not called to necessarily win arguments but we are absolutely called to love.
It's true; sometimes, as we look at our children, we get so wrapped in fear about what they will be exposed to in the future that, in trying to change the direction of our culture, we forget the most important part; to do it with love, which was the same conclusion most of my friends were trying to express in different ways, despite my unruliness and self-righteousness.

Anyway, although, I don't think it's time to wave the white flag, since even though there is no Ring of Power to melt in the lava and pulverize the overwhelming opposition, as in the movie (not that I am suggesting this as a Christian!), and, despite DOMA being struck down with five sitting Catholic Supreme Court judges, which, if you think about it, four did not agree with the majority (a silver lining from a legal standpoint!), it all comes down to how we debate these issues in the public square.  

Do we get in their faces and try to back them into submission? (which is a tactic I may have had a tendency to use in the past, and, by all accounts, still do)  Or, do we show them love and respect, despite our differences, and demonstrate the importance of traditional marriage and family by the way we live our lives?...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Words of Wisdom from St. Catherine of Siena...


"If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire!"

--St. Catherine of Siena, 14th Century Dominican nun, philosopher, theologian and Doctor of the Church, who was almost single-handedly responsible for bringing the papacy back to Rome after it's forced displacement to Avignon, France, during a time of upheaval in Italy.

As a result, she was also swept into the internal turmoil within the clergy over politics between France and Italy, which led to schism and more than one claimant to the papacy.  

St. Catherine wrote extensively, worked arduously for reform within the Church and dedicated herself to providing service to the poor, sick and marginalized.  

She died at the age of 33 and was canonized by Pope Pius II in 1461... 


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fathering Through Braces, Pain and One Direction...

One day she'll thank us...
For over a week, my oldest daughter has been miserable (although, it has gotten progressively better over the past few days). She just got braces and her mouth has been, or at least, appears to be in excruciating pain.

I know, kids get braces everyday but my 12-year-old daughter is not exactly Sir William Wallace in the bravery department and when, on the first morning, after having them put in, a wire came loose and started cutting the inside of her mouth, well, as you can imagine, it went downhill from there.

She was moping around and whimpering, which, according to my wife, is reminiscent of whenever I feel a little under the weather. She broke down in tears several times and kept saying she didn't want the braces “anymore” (which, considering she has, at least, 18 months left, is not a good thing!). When she finally started eating (she’s dropped over 10 lbs.), she ate like Ruprecht of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. And, she still often sounds like Mumbles from Dick Tracy whenever she tries to speak by using the front of her lips while keeping her jaw shut. To top it off, she got a bad case of mouth sores.

In other words, she’s been as happy as Paul Sheldon, after having his ankles broken by his "number one fan" Annie Wilkes in the movie Misery. (You’re probably asking yourself, where have I been since the 1980’s!)

In any event, it couldn't have come at a worse time for her because it coincided with the One Direction concert that she has been anxiously waiting for since last year! (Although, as we looked at our summer schedule, between her dance recital, serving as a counselor at her school's Bible camp and our annual family vacation to Sanibel, there wasn’t a better time.)

In fact, on the morning of the concert, it was so bad, that she said she didn't want to go.

Don't ask me who's who...
Now, for those of you that don't have pre-teen or teenage girls, you couldn't imagine how monumental that comment was.  This was Zayn, Niall, Harry, Liam and her personal favorite, Louis Tomlinson for goodness sake! (Don’t feel bad, I didn't know their names either until I looked them up!) They aren’t exactly your garden variety teenage boy band, like  Youngstown, NSYNC or TKA (which I saw several times in Ft. Lauderdale!). They are the bomb!

Let me put it this way, I had to buy the overpriced tickets last July (when my daughter earned First Honors in 5th Grade), for a concert held last week! And, I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous that they would break up or that my daughter would get over them like she did Justin Bieber, which she now makes fun of before the big day.  (Then again, who doesn’t? Although, I won’t bore you with a heated discussion we had about him at work on whether he’s a victim of his environment or a punk!)

But, noooo! It seems they are as popular as they have ever been. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t seem to fail, every time my family is in the car, One Direction is playing on the radio (to the point where even our 5-year-old son is singing along!).

My daughter and her friends spend hours talking about which member they like most, what they like to do, who they are dating, etc.

Moreover, both of our daughters have One Direction photos and articles (why?) stapled all over the walls above their beds, I guess, so they can look at them (and read about them?) before going to sleep and upon waking up in the morning. It’s a little obsessive, if you ask me. Then again, I had Cheryl Tiegs, Farah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith in bathing suits plastered over my walls as a kid (And, maybe a little older since I didn’t move out until my mid 20’s. Hey, it’s a Cuban thing, don’t judge!)

At any rate, after dropping a pretty penny for the tickets, when my daughter said Thursday morning that she didn’t want to go, needless to say, I was a little upset. My initial reaction, in my usual Christian fatherly way, was to threaten to take her sister! (Which got my eight-year-old excited, albeit temporarily until she noticed I didn't really mean it; Sorry!)

However, as I thought about it on the way to drop the kids off at my parents' house later that morning, I told her, "You're pain is going to go away, but the chance to see your favorite band may not happen again. If you don't go, when you feel better next week, you're going to regret it." (I think I saw this line in a movie once)

She nodded in agreement with her pouted lips, looking like a woman who just got Botox, as she tried to keep her lips away from her braces. And, by the time, I picked her up after work, she was ready, and while still distressed, she actually looked excited, although it was short lived.

Great production...
So, there I was at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, in a seat I could hardly fit into because my knees were rubbing up against the front wall, sitting next to a heavier set man than me, who had taken his family and was looking more uncomfortable than me, and with about thirty thousand teen and pre-teen girls standing, jumping and screaming at a warm up band, named 5SOS, and anticipating the headliners hitting the stage, and my daughter was just sitting there quietly next to me, looking a bit downcast and in obvious pain. I was disheartened.

I tried to cheer her up by taking a picture of us, which, usually, elicits a positive response from her. But, of course, at that moment, she wanted nothing to do with a picture and instead got more upset when I showed her how gloomy she looked (Tough love!) and wanted to erase it on the spot. I quickly emailed it to my wife, in case, she got a hold of my phone when I wasn't paying attention.

Finally, after 5SOS was done with their set and there was about a thirty minutes intermission, which turned out to be an intermission of non-stop ear-shattering screaming, especially from the girl that was sitting next to me (after I traded places with my daughter to give the heavier set man more room), and who, as we first sat down, gave us a warning that she might cry all over us, and kept saying, "Oh my God, I can't believe I'm actually here!,” and a video of OD members (as they are known to us concert going fans) talking and doing funny gags was shown, prompting a greater roar from the crowd, the group finally came on, amidst an explosion of lights, smoke, music and flash bulbs. (By the way, I use the term group loosely since they don't actually play any musical instruments, with the exception of one member who plays a little guitar!)

Anyhow, after about the third song, which sounded a lot like the second and first, I started thinking, "These guys are probably the best stage jumpers, walkers and prancers (pretend dancers) that I have ever seen." They also had an uncanny ability to end up in the middle of the stage after almost every song (like President Obama in a room full of reporters and photographers during a campaign), smiling and practically begging for applause.

In fact, it was as if somebody said, "Hey, let's put five good looking guys together, let them sing a little and jump around and make some money!" And, that somebody, of course, was Simon Cowell, as if he needs any more money!

The fact that they're from England and have British accents, only makes them more endearing to their American fans.

Exciting moment...
In all honesty, I started feeling a little resentful. Not only because I didn't discover them but also because these little twerps had an arena full of teenage girls screaming at them and calling their names! I could break into a Dire Strait song right here!  (I need go to Confession this weekend)

Look, maybe they could sing but I took my daughter to see Taylor Swift a couple of years ago and came away totally impressed by her talent, stage presence and elaborate show, which included over 160 dancers. In fact, Swift's entire production was one flawless story, using her songs, from beginning to end; akin to when I saw Kool and the Gang in college one year.

These guys paled in comparison. It was just the five guys singing and trying to be funny, wrapped in a spectacular light show and stage production packaging. The only excitement, outside of the special effects, was when they were taken on a moving platform from the main stage to a smaller stage that was closer to us in the middle of the arena. (Then again, I may be biased by the fact that I think Swift is a lot cuter!)

Now, to be fair, I will say, I did recognize many songs from all those car rides and I found myself stomping my feet at times, as the screaming girl next to me danced and gyrated in an epileptic convulsion sort of way and also standing on various songs (I need to stretch my legs!).

But, this was not about me. It was about my daughter; a reward for reaching academic excellence (which by the way, she also reached this year!) and an opportunity to spend some quality time with her on a “date,” as the Principal of my wife’s high school once suggested to a group of fathers, as a way to show their daughters how they should be treated by a man.

Sure, she wasn't feeling great but at some point (she later told me), she was singing along and having fun; even if it was concealed by her low key demeanor. She even started "texting" with a few of her friends (simultaneously?) and sending them videos of the concert. I ended up with over 35 videos on my iPhone; albeit, half of them were mine!

After the curtain call, dropping another $70 bucks for two t-shirts (the other was for my younger daughter, not me!) and spending an hour in the parking lot trying to get out of the arena, she fell asleep on the drive home, as I listened to the Miami Heat’s Game 4 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals.

The next morning, she came up to me as I was at the computer, wrapped her arms around me, kissed me and said, "Thank you, Daddy for taking me to the concert. I really enjoyed it although I was in a lot of pain."

I’m not sure if my wife put her up to it but, at that moment, despite the expense, my legs falling asleep from sitting in an uncomfortably tight seat, having my ear shattered by the “number one” fan sitting next to me, waiting an hour to get out of the parking lot and missing the Heat game, it was an experience I'll probably cherish for the rest of my days.  Thank you God!...

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Prayer that Stands the Test of Time...

For me, one of the greatest gifts of the Catholic Church, besides its lineage to Christ and the Apostles, the Sacraments, the Communion of Saints and its God-given authority, is its spirituality. 

Nice gift!
For nearly two thousand years, the Apostles, Church Fathers, Doctors and a plethora of saints (not to mention sinners) have reflected, prayed, meditated and written about the mysteries of God and shared that wisdom with the world.  (I love that word; plethora.  It always reminds me of El Guapo's question to Rodrigo in Three Amigos, "Do u no wat a plethora ees?")

It is mind boggling to think of the millions of texts, books, documents, reflections and prayers that have been preserved, since the 1st Century, including some that were considered inspired before the cannon of the Bible was assembled in the late 4th century, that have captured the thoughts and insights of popes, bishops, priests, religious and laity alike, many of which are kept today at the Vatican library and can be accessed through the internet!

One of those prayers, the Anima Christi, or Soul of Christ, which is believed to have been penned in the 14th century by Pope John XXII, is one of my favorite.

The prayer gained widespread recognition a couple of centuries later, when St. Ignatius of Loyola, who was a Spanish knight and nobleman before renouncing his wealth and position to become a priest and follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, and eventually founding the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits, of which, ironically, Pope Francis (who took the name of St. Francis) is the first in the order to be selected pope, used it as part of his "Spiritual Exercises."

The exercises have been used as part of St. Ignatius' silent retreat by the Jesuits, other religious and laity (including me several years ago) ever since.

However, it wasn't until recently that I was reintroduced to the prayer when I noticed it in the back of our church missal.  I have been using it, as St. Ignatius intended, as a prayer I recite before getting up to receive the Lord in Holy Communion.  It goes:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me;
Body of Christ, save me;
Blood of Christ, inebriate me;
Water from Christ's side, wash me;
Passion of Christ, strengthen me;
O good Jesus, hear me;
Within Your wounds conceal me;
Separated from you, never let me be;
From the evil one, protect me;
In the hour of my death, call me;
And close to you, bid me;
That with your saints, I may be, praising your forever and ever.

Lip balm?
Needless to say, although this might be a stretch (and anytime you mix Hollywood with prayer, it might be!), since I already mentioned it, when I ride into my sunset one day, as Lucky, Dusty and Ned did after defeating El Guapo and bringing peace to Santo Poco, I can only hope that the Anima Christi is on my lips, as it has probably been on the lips of many saints and faithful riding into the eternal sunset and sunrise of life over the past seven hundred years...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Limits of Tolerance; a Commentary by Fr. Barron...

Speak, see and hear no evil...
One of the biggest problems facing society today is the confusing of love with tolerance.

In fact, even among Christians, in our earnest desire to avoid being seen or labeled as intolerant, bigoted or closed-minded, we have been willing to accept things that may go against our better moral judgments, just because it is, at least outwardly speaking, accepted by society as the more "loving" response to a particular issue or behavior.  In turn, these behaviors become cultural norms.

However, love is more than just acceptance, tolerance and inclusion.  It is a sincere desire, as St. Thomas Aquinas described, "to will the good of another as other," even if it involves or, as Fr. Robert Barron points out in his latest commentary, it must involve, an intolerance towards adverse behavior and thought.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "Freedom is not the right to do what we want but the right to do what we should."  And, he well could have been speaking of today's culture.

The dangers of this contrast and misguided acceptance between tolerance and love for Christians, Fr. Barron states, was made clear in a recent sermon by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of America, Katherine Jefferts Schori, who, while praising the beauty of diversity, indicated that St. Paul himself was subject to the intolerance of his time when he cast out the spirit that gave a slave girl fortune-telling abilities in the Acts of the Apostles and thus "depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness."  (Which by the way, is a perfect argument as to why the Church teaches that Sacred Scripture must be read through the lens of Apostolic Tradition and not personal interpretation!)

In any event, Barron says that once tolerance replaces love, as the motivating virtue driving society, truth becomes irrelevant and even the devil can be accepted as beautiful and holy...

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Celebrating 50 Years of Marriage and Loving Life...

St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote, “Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious.” And also, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”

Now, as a Dominican monk, I'm not sure this is exactly what St. Thomas meant, but, at the risk of disappointing many of my Facebook friends, who feel closer to me than Wade and LeBron during a Heat playoff win, to me, there is no greater friendship than that of a husband and wife; not only on an intimate physical level, where they become conduits of God’s love by serving as co-creators of life as parents, but also on a spiritual level, where their two souls are sealed by God in the Sacrament of Marriage.

In fact, as the most important human relationship I can have on earth, my wife is, and has to be, my best friend, confidant and partner in life (not to mention my lover and, in my case, psychologist, accountant and memory for all those things I can’t ever remember!).

In any case, the best example of that marital bond and friendship for me has always been my parents, who, last weekend, celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary.

That's a long time, I know.  And, I was calculating that for my wife and I to celebrate our 50th, we would have to make it into our 80's!

As great as that accomplishment is, in their typical unassuming style, and since my brother is tied-up in a theatrical play in Oregon until October, they celebrated with little fanfare.  After a special blessing and renewing their vows at their parish, my wife, the kids and I took them to dinner at night.  That was about it but for them, it was more than enough.

If I were to describe my parents, I would say they love God above all else, which, in turn, has given them a zest for life and are, what I would describe as, the epitome of loving and joyful marriage.

I’m sure they would say it hasn't always been easy. But, then again, what relationship that lasts over half a century, as my grandparents on my mother’s side also lasted, can say it has?

I don’t think it’s meant to be. Doesn't the vow we take say, “In good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, ’til death do us part?” Anyone whose been married will attest that, like life itself, marriage is a journey of ups and downs, twists and turns and joys and sorrows.

As I tell my wife, I think I’m her purgatory! And, that’s the idea. Marriage is a vocation meant to help the partners and their children get to heaven. I guess you can say that, to my wife, I am like that fire that tests her iron, even when she wants to hit me with it!

Unfortunately, many couples today, actually half, including myself, as I tell my wife "in a previous life," where I wasn't exactly what you would call the poster child for living the Church's teachings on marriage, call it quits when the going gets tough. Although there are the exceptions that really try to make it work, for the most part, we’re too used to what's convenient, and, since society makes it so accessible and socially acceptable, far too many couples are not willing to make the sacrifices to endure the trying times.

My parents, on the other hand, are an amazing example of faith, love, commitment and respect for one another, love of family and endurance.

I can’t begin to imagine the disruption, stress and toll that leaving everything and everybody you know to relocate to a new country and culture, without knowing the language, having a source for income and very little family, would take on a marriage, as my parents had to do when they left Cuba to give our family a chance to live in freedom.

Yet, through those difficult and lean early years, where my father had to work two jobs to send me to Catholic school and my mom, who also worked full-time, through college to become a teacher, after having been a principal of a school in Cuba, and the typical first generation immigrant struggles, I believe they grew closer together and helped shape them into the healthy and happy relationship they have today.

It's like the Darius Rucker song which says, "For every stoplight I didn't make, every chance I did or I didn't take, all the nights I went too far, all the girls that broke my heart, all the doors that I had closed, all the things I knew but I didn't know; Thank God for all I missed; cause it led me here to this."

At times, they struggled financially. From time to time, they had trouble communicating. They had different personalities; she an extrovert, he more introverted. They had different ways of handling things; he is more controlled and calculated (not to mention is a clean freak, who would occasionally throw away her homework), and she more reactive, emotional and, at one time in her life, when she was the disciplinarian of our household, a bit temperamental. But, they always complimented each other and had a clear priority in life; God and family.

As Jerry Maguire famously coined in his speech to Dorothy Boyd at the end of the movie, “You complete me.”

And, that is the purpose of marriage; complementing and completing one another, according to God's plan, who's first command was to be fruitful and multiply.

Hence, family was always most important to my parents, which if you think about it, is the truest and most profound expression of marital love, where we are completed in the image and likeness of God, and two bodies become one and then become three like a reflection of the Holy Trinity; the perfection of love and of family.

At any rate, coming from a family, where his parents were divorced at a time when divorce was considered taboo, my dad always made sure his wife and children were first in his life.

In fact, when I was about three or four years old (before my brother entered the picture), my dad was forced to spend several weeks a month working in the sugarcane plantations, as part of the Cuban Revolution’s communal labor mandate.

While he was away, I slept with my mother in their bed but when my dad would get home, I am told I would say to him, “Dad what are you doing here? This is mommy and my bed!”

He would always wait for me to fall asleep before taking me to my bed. (My brother came shortly afterwards, so, I guess it all worked out!)

I guess as they say, “the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree,” because now it's my five-year-old son, who thinks his bed is ours and every night for the past several months, sometime in the early morning hours, he  climbs over my wife and into bed between us.

My parents are now in their 70’s and both retired, but as they tell me, between their volunteer work at their parish and picking up and taking care of my kids after school, they are working harder than when they worked full-time jobs, and even spending 24-hours-a-day 7-days a week together, they look happier than they have ever been.

It’s funny because a co-worker recently told me that if she knew how hard it was to be married, she probably would have waited a little longer before tying the knot with her husband.

As I thought about her comment, I realized that I wish the opposite. Granted, I met and married my wife in my 30’s, but I wish I would have met her a lot sooner so that, as St. Thomas Aquinas wrote about friendship being the source of one’s greatest pleasures, we could have experienced them a little longer and one day we could also celebrate our “Golden Anniversary” (without needing a walking cane, heavy medication or cataract surgery to look into each other's eyes!).  But, then again, this brings me back to the Darius Rucker song; what was meant to be was meant to be.

At the end of the day, I think the obvious "secret" to my parents success is love; love of God, love of family and love for one another.

For me, the best description of love was written by St. Paul, in the 1st Letter to the Corinthians, in which he states, "Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

If more people took these words to heart in their marriages, there would be more couples like my parents and, without a doubt, in my mind at least, the world would be a happier and more loving place for it.  May God always bless them with health, happiness, love and an everlasting friendship...