To my Daughter on her Wedding Day
Updated: Jul 13, 2022
My oldest daughter, Maggie, married Zach Ness at St. Theresa Catholic Church on June 25, 2022. It was my honor to share these words at their wedding reception. I pray they will also bless you.
Thank you so much for being here on this glorious day, celebrating Maggie and Zach and their sacrament of marriage. My heart is so full as I see your beautiful faces and the many relationships that have been important to Maggie and Zach on their journey to this day. Thank you for being here to bear witness to their bold affirmation of the importance of Christian marriage.
I am also mindful that Maggie and Zach chose to be married during this magnificent week in the liturgical calendar. It began with the Solemnity of Corpus Christi last Sunday, the great celebration of the Body and Blood of Christ, then the feasts of St. Aloysius Gonzaga and St. Thomas More, the Solemnity of John the Baptist, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus yesterday, and finally, the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary today. This was a holy week as we prepared for and prayed for this special day…
Your first child always holds a special place in your heart, not because you love them more, but because they teach you how to be a mother. Maggie, it is a great privilege to be your mother, to share your joys and heart-breaks as you grew into the beautiful woman you are today. I could not be prouder of you.
Zach, you may remember that Ralph and I first met you three years ago when you showed up at our house just before a large family event we were hosting. You didn’t miss a beat and immediately went to work for hours getting ready for the party. In addition to your work ethic, we quickly grew to respect your contemplative nature and your obvious commitment to Maggie. And then you really buttered me up, mailing me a five-page, single-spaced handwritten letter so we could get to know each other and sharing very personally your journey of faith. Well done. We are so grateful to count you and your whole family as part of our family now.
Some of you may know that Ralph started a tradition over the last few years when our 3 older daughters were married. He sang to each of them at their receptions – a daunting precedent! But I have a surprise for you, Maggie: I am NOT going to sing! I don't think you'll be disappointed -- I am confident I have sung to you enough over the years that you don’t need one more song tonight.
I will do something that feels much harder: try to put into words a small measure of what is in my heart for you both on this very special day.
My dearest Maggie, since the day you were born on September 25, 1997 at 4:33 pm, I have tried to give you the very best I could of my heart, my faith, my time, my life, and my love, and yet, you have had a front row seat to my failures, inadequacies, and mistakes. Zach has witnessed a few himself -- like when I dropped some really spicy language on Christmas day after I got fired up! Despite my best efforts, I stand here looking back at the landscape of our life together and I know that it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough.
But I also know I was never meant to be.
You were always made for more than what I could offer you. In fact, you and Zach are made for more than you can offer each other on your own, but then, I think you both already know that. My love for you, your love for each other – all our perfectly imperfect human love – is only meant to point to and reveal our need for the One who IS love.
We both know that life doesn’t always turn out like you think it will. I can’t help but reflect on my journey from a young bride to the woman I am today and what I have learned that could be meaningful to you both, and I have just 3 quick thoughts.
First, seek truth and beauty.
The 3rd letter of John says: I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. For all my failings as a mother, I did one thing really well: give my children Jesus. They might say I gave them too much Jesus, but, oh rats.
When the kids were little and I needed someone to do a hard job or make a sacrifice, I would tell them if they did it, it could be another “jewel in their crown”. The kids like to laugh at me about this, but it was a reminder of the importance of doing something because it is good, right, and true – not because it is easy or even makes sense to other people.
Maggie and Zach, you exemplify those qualities. Your hashtag is #goodnessinthemaking but all of us that know you know you desire not just goodness, but greatness – a greatness that keeps you focused not on yourselves or on each other, but on a shared commitment to the One who embodies all that is good, true, and beautiful.
Maggie & Zach, you are deeply committed to truth and beauty – and not truth as the world would offer, not your own personal truth, but the One who IS truth.
You exemplify great courage in pursuing truth and beauty, Zach as a graduate student in theology/marriage & family studies, and Maggie as a missionary with FOCUS.
A side note -- if you aren’t yet convinced of the transformational power of the gospel, consider that as a high school student, Maggie would STILL not talk to strangers on the phone to order a pizza or make an appointment and now she makes phone calls to friends, family, and strangers to invite them to be mission partners for Jesus. Only God.
Maggie and Zach, you are both artists who not only create beauty (Maggie with her lettering and music and Zach through his woodworking and sketching) but you seek beauty. You seek not just physical beauty, but the one who is Beauty.
You pursue excellence by trusting God with your family and your finances, willing to sacrifice a comfortable lifestyle to live and work for the Kingdom.
You are choosing a radical, glorious path with the guarantee of suffering, but with a greater promise of peace, purpose, and joy.
Maggie and Zach, you chase fearlessly after virtue – knowing excellence is the path to true freedom, and freedom is for love.
Two: It’s all about the repair!
Revelation 21:5 says, “Behold, I make all things new!”
Marriage is difficult. Family is messy. People will fail you. You will fail each other. There are no guarantees except for God’s love for us and the promise that He can and will make all things new. It doesn’t matter how much you fall or how often you fail – it really doesn’t even matter what you have done.
It is all about the repair.
When you fail each other (in big and small ways – and you will), learn to do more than just saying you are sorry. Pray for the grace to get really good at asking for forgiveness and having the grace to forgive and to be forgiven.
Be fierce in your commitment to understanding yourselves better and cling to the promise of restoration and redemption.
Be humble in running to confession as often as you need to.
The Lord can and will make all things new, even our sins and selfishness, and the miracle is you are even more radiant for having been healed by His grace.
And finally, Hold on.
I mentioned earlier that I have been singing to Maggie for her whole life. After performing in many musicals in my teens and early twenties, my last stage role was as Martha in the musical The Secret Garden when I was 4 months pregnant with Maggie. Martha’s big song is called Hold On and I like to think some of Maggie's earliest memories in the womb were my voice singing this song and the sounds of applause. The refrain says --
Hold on to someone standing by
Hold on don’t even ask how long or why
Hold on to what you know is true, hold on till you get through…
You two are embarking on the great adventure of marriage and family life. It is not for the feint hearted.
The journey is long.
The hardships are many.
The answers are few.
Hold on to the mystery and the promise of grace.
Hold on to truth, because He is a person.
Hold on to each other and the foundation of your sacrament.
Hold on to hope – defiant, rebellious hope!
The One who walks with you and before you is faithful.
His comfort is secure & his promises are true.
When Maggie was baptized, the liturgy included Psalm 126:
God has done great things for us, filled us with laughter and music.
Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
That is the promise. It is the only guarantee and my prayer for you both as you begin your life together:
May the Lord do great things for you and through you.
May your home be filled with laughter and music.
When you sow in tears, may you reap rejoicing.
And finally, our family mission statement from 1 Corinthians 10:31:
Whether we eat or whether we drink, let us do all for the glory of God and our salvation.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in you.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
John Paul Raphael, pray for us.
Let yourself be loved.