Today is the Feast of St. Nicholas - patron of all kinds of things. I can't think of a saint that has more causes than good Saint Nick! including - Brides, grooms, maidens, newlyweds and virgins!
I wish I could add a couple of more to St. Nicholas's work load- Mothers and mothers-in-law - or maybe more specifically - mother-in-law wannabees!
As the world celebrates this feast today, my oldest son is preparing to move into a brand new apartment with his longtime girlfriend - not as man and wife or even as an engaged couple, but just as boyfriend and girlfriend (ridiculous terms to use for adults in their mid 20s). To be fair, it's not for lack of trying. He DID propose and they were engaged for 5 minutes last summer. But his intended is just not having it and I can't for the life of me figure out why.
I am not pleased with this turn of events. Three of my six children are co-habitating with young women they are not married to. Granted Gabe is living also with his baby daughter, daughter's mom and grandma too and I think the entire household is a bit shell shocked from the unexpected C-section and the ongoing cranky baby! Nonetheless, three of my kids have more or less launched from a Catholic home with parents in a marriage that is three decades old into live-in relationships. Epic fail.
Of course they're not alone. Most of the couples that I have worked with as a wedding coordinator at church are already sharing the same mailing address. It's pretty clear from the Pre-Cana evaluations we get every year that couples don't consider living together a sin. In fact I just reviewed some of the comments from last year and one gentleman clearly said he was tired of hearing it was a sin because he had been with his lady for 11 years - as if sticking to a sin for a long time somehow makes it better.
When Calvin was sharing his plans with me, I of course tried to plead my case. I went from "You weren't brought up that way", to the Theology of the Body argument of how shacking up is not total self-giving, to a tearful, "Just go down to the courthouse and get a marriage certificate. We won't even have to tell anyone that you're legally married, Do it for me?"
Interestingly, the one argument that did seem to get a visceral response was this one - Living together without marriage is not a conservative family value. In fact it is very liberal and by setting up your household this way you are part of the problem. I saw a bit of the wind get knocked out of him with that one. But the feminine wiles of his "girlfriend" who seems set on doing this overrides any compelling and persuasive argument I might come up with - and I KNOW that last argument was both of those!
I'm praying the Christmas Novena with renewed fervor this season - My special intention is that somehow, someway in 2014 we have a wedding - a celebration of two lives joining - a joining of two families and an official entry on the family tree without equivocation or an asterisks. I want the certainty that comes from a marriage. I want to know that the time, effort and love that we pour into these women is going to be nurtured in the graces of matrimony instead of the fear that for some reason, or no reason at all, the couples will drift apart and the connections completely lost. I want to be a a mother-in-law and not just my son's mom.
And why not? I'm being asked most of the time to put in that level of commitment as far as being supportive and understanding - which in a way is kind of ironic since they won't commit to each other.
Yet Mr. Pete and I are supposed to be the supportive understanding ones while our values are flaunted and feelings trampled.
So St. Nicholas - generous saint who made the impossible marriage prospects of three poor girls possible - my Feast Day Prayer is to somehow make the seemingly impossible, possible yet again. Remove whatever the obstacles they see in their path and let them come to see that God's plan for family life, truly is the best way. And if all of that seems too big a project for 2014, maybe just some peace to accept what we can't change and the strength to double down on our remaining three at home - hard!