Andy asked me to marry him when we were still teenagers: we were almost childhood sweethearts. But before our marriage, we wanted to finish our university degrees. During that waiting time we often discussed our wedding. And every time the topic came up, I was adamant I didn’t want to marry in the Catholic Church. Andy tried to tell me that if we had a civil ceremony we wouldn’t be married in the eyes of the Church. I hardly listened. That didn’t mean anything to me. There was absolutely no chance that I would ever be a Catholic.  As far as I was concerned, a civil ceremony was more than adequate.
So we planned our wedding: it was to be a civil ceremony in a registry office.
Once we had decided on the place for our wedding, my thoughts turned to dresses. At first I didn’t consider wearing a traditional, white dress. Instead I thought I’d have a simple, long gown in a pastel colour: perhaps this would be more appropriate for a civil ceremony. But I changed my mind. What little girl hasn’t dreamt of being married in a fairy-tale, long, white wedding dress complete with a mysterious, floating veil? I wanted to be a princess bride regardless of the setting of our wedding.
I found a crinoline gown complete with hooped petticoat that made the wide skirt float out beautifully into a circle. My mother patiently sewed pale pink, satin dresses with Princess Di sleeves for my sister-bridesmaids. Andy hired a dapper, grey top hat and tails. We felt absolutely beautiful as we were joined in marriage in a rather non-descript room, under the eyes of our family and friends.
A few years passed, and then after the birth of our first two children, thoughts of baptism began to occupy my mind. I didn’t want to think about baptism – I didn’t want anything to do with the Church -  but it was as if I had no choice. These inconvenient thoughts nagged at me until I started taking them seriously. I talked with Andy: should we baptise our children and if so, in which church? I didn’t realise it but my heart was beginning to soften. I still thought I would never enter the church myself but our children... perhaps.
I am a very practical person. I couldn’t just go out and get our children baptised. I had to find out exactly what we were getting into. I needed more information. I decided I ought to visit our local parish priest.
Father Bill was a priest of the old school and he looked rather forbidding. I might have been trembling at the knees if I hadn’t given myself a stern talking to before setting out to meet him. I wouldn’t let myself feel intimidated by anyone, especially a Catholic priest. I shook hands with the priest and stated my mission: “We’re thinking of having our children baptised and I think I should find out more about the church so I can make the right decision…this is only an enquiry…we might not get them baptised at all… I just want some information.” It all came rushing out in one long, fast sentence.
Father Bill took me in his stride. I am sure he had met many strange people like me over the course of his long and experienced life. He listened patiently to my prepared speech.  I wanted to get things straight right from the beginning. I wanted him to understand I hadn’t come along intending to join his church. He might not even get our children…
Father Bill reassured me that I was being very sensible. How could I make an informed decision without information? He reached into his cupboard and took out an orange book which I think was called The Catholic Religion.
“Why don’t you read this book and then if you have any questions, give me a call.”
I floated home. I’d done it. I’d visited the priest, been given a book and had emerged without feeling interrogated or pressured, or worse, second rate. Mission accomplished!
I devoured the book Father Bill had given me. As I read, I realised that God alone could give meaning to my sometimes confusing life. I realised I had been searching for this meaning, that something had been missing from my life.  As I turned the pages, I fell in love with the Catholic Faith. I absorbed everything and started to pray, and soon I knew I wanted to belong.  I wanted to belong to the Catholic Church and share one Faith with my family, all of us worshipping God together.
Felicity and Duncan were baptised, and before long I was enrolled in an RCIA program. I was going to do what I’d said I would never do: I was going to become a Catholic… and I was also going to have a second wedding day.
So on a beautiful, sunny autumn morning in April 1991, Andy and I and our small children headed to our parish church for the early Saturday Mass. A few friends and family joined us. I was wearing my second wedding dress. It was rather ordinary, just my favourite green and white, three-quarter sleeved dress. Andy wore his business suit. We stood before the altar and we received the sacrament of marriage. A short time later, I received Our Lord for the first time.
At the end of Mass, Father offered his congratulations and we were given a round of applause by the sparse Saturday morning congregation. I don’t suppose any of the parishioners had expected to witness a wedding and an entry into the Church when they’d set out for Mass that morning.
As I was leaving the church, a woman stopped me. She enfolded me in a tight embrace and smacked a kiss on my cheek. Tears were in her eyes. “Beautiful!” she whispered.
Beautiful? I wasn’t nearly as beautiful as I’d been on our first wedding day. My dress couldn’t compete with that first elaborate creation. I didn’t have an exquisite bouquet of roses in my hand, nor bridesmaids or a veil…
But…
The first time we got married there were two of us: Andy who loved me so much he gave up the idea of a church wedding, and me, that prickly woman who wouldn’t listen when Andy explained the difference between a church wedding and a civil ceremony. All I was concerned about were my own desires.
But at our second wedding, there were three of us: Andy who still loved me dearly, a woman with a softening heart and…  God.
Yes, our wedding was beautiful. It was the most beautiful wedding I could ever have imagined.
I look at this photo and see two very happy people on their beautiful second wedding day.
If you would like to share more of my conversion story please read A Mother-in-Law's Prayers

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  1. Happy 20th anniversary, Sue and Andy! And Felicity and Duncan, too. xx

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  2. Thank you Vicky! We can celebrate two wedding anniversaries each year. This year it is our 20th and our 28th is next month. The more celebrations the better!

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  3. Oh, Sue! What a beautiful, inspiring story! I am so so happy for you and for your husband! I have a friend, a young woman of about 30 who just did the same thing. In the process of seeking baptism for their children, she and her husband fell in love with the Catholic Church. They got married a second time - only this time was in the Church. They received the sacraments at Easter. Beautiful!!

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  4. Sue,
    Randy and I were married twice, too :) First in a civil service in 94 and then a few years later in the Catholic Church after a major conversion or maybe I should say reversion since I was a cradle Catholic who left the Church for a while. We celebrate both anniversaries too. Thanks for sharing your story with us! Happy 20th and 28th!

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  5. Hi Dana, thank you for sharing my story. I am so pleased to hear about your friend! What a wonderful Easter they must have had.

    I guess a lot of people start thinking more about God and the church when they have children. We want to do the right thing for our children. We want the best for them. In our parish a number of non-Catholic parents have entered the Church after bringing their children along to the First Holy Communion preparation classes. It is always a huge celebration. God bless!

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  6. Thank you Mary! We both have a lot to celebrate. One day you will have to tell me your reversion story or maybe it is on your blog? God bless.

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  7. Hi Sue, I had no idea you were a convert to the faith! Did you grow up Protestant? I love how the Holy Spirit works through people to reach us and bring us home to the Catholic Faith! Andy is a treasure and must have loved you dearly and I bet was praying for you too! Happy Anniversary!

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  8. Noreen, I was baptised in the Anglican Church but didn't really start to think about God seriously until after Andy and I were married -though God had been calling for a long time. I just wasn't listening! I must write some more about that some day. So many of my dear friends are converts, brought into the Church by the Holy Spirit through their husbands or wives! Andy IS a treasure. I love him dearly. Thank you for your greetings, Noreen xx

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  9. Sue,
    What a beautiful, beautiful story! and the post you linked to about your mil, well I've been thinking and pondering all night.
    Oh and I can imagine the awe the daily parishioners felt being unexpectedly present, your truly made their year.

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  10. Erin, I am so pleased you visited and shared my stories. Thank you! I'll never forget that lady who gave me the huge hug. She was a stranger but she was filled with such love. I was so happy to share our special day with, not only our few invited guests, but the regular Saturday morning parishioners. I hope all is well with you, Erin. God bless!

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  11. Sue,
    Yes, my reversion story is on my blog in the archives (June 2009) when I first began blogging. It was truly a miracle :) Conversion is always an ongoing thing of course but this was the big AHA! moment for me.

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  12. Mary, thank you so much for returning and letting me know where to find your reversion story. I shall visit and read. Isn't it good to be able to share experiences?

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  13. I just saw this Sue - it made me cry! Your second wedding was perfect - I've always thought that weddings should be part of the parish community - your faith community praying for you as you embark on this journey :-)

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    1. Beate,

      We were so fortunate to have a second perfect wedding day. I will never forget that unknown parishioner who hugged and kissed me in the church. Yes, we need the prayers of our parish community.

      In our parish, our priest likes to give special blessings to those couples celebrating special wedding anniversaries. On our 25th anniversary, Andy and I stood in front of the congregation and Father blessed us and the parishioners prayed for us and then they applauded. I was in tears. I felt bathed in love.

      One more year and we will ask Father for a special 30 year blessing. 30 years? Wow! Haven't we been blessed with so many beautiful years together? Though we are only babies compared to some of the couples in our parish!

      God bless you!

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  14. And I just saw this...I've decided I MUST read Sue Elvis Writes regularly!

    I hope my niece and her husband start hungering for baptism for their two small children...they started out their marriage rather along the same lines as you and Andy.

    Thank you for your beautiful, and hope-filled post!

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    1. Amy,

      I think if God could soften my hard heart, He can bring anyone into the Church. I was adamant I'd never be a Catholic. But here I am. There is always hope. It is so beautiful how children are often the way to their parents' conversion.

      God bless.

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