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To Know by Heart

March 6, 2009

I, Sarah, take you, Daniel, to be my husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

Come to think of it, when the Rite of Marriage says “I, N., take you, N., to be…” it could be that we are supposed to insert full names (first, middle, and last) where it says “N.” I’ll have to look into that. Anyways, I’m practicing.

I’m also doing my homework. Daniel and I met with Father Rick, who will be presiding at our wedding, this past weekend over lunch. We gave him our baptismal certificates, marriage prep completion certificate, and marriage certificate since those things are all taken care of. Among other things, he told us that he wants us to memorize our vows. This is not only to make the vows more authentic/genuine during the wedding itself, but also so that between now and then we can each be seriously thinking about what it is we are promising when we stand up in front of God, our family, and friends and say those words.

It is interesting that people—kids especially, I think—use the words “by heart” when explaining that they have something memorized. For example, I can remember boasting as a little girl about my favorite movie (The Little Mermaid at the time), saying: “I’ve watched it so many times, I know all the words by heart.” Obviously it was not my heart, either literally or figuratively, that knew everything Ariel, Sebastian, or Grimsby was going to say before they said it. That would be my brain (look at that awesome higher education being put to work!). I suppose it was, though, the “love” I felt in my heart for The Little Mermaid that allowed memorization of the lines of the movie to come naturally and easily to me as a result of the countless number of times that VHS tape was played and rewound.

My point is that I think it would be appropriate for Daniel and me to think of what we have to do as “learning our vows by heart” rather than simply “memorizing” the words. “Memorizing” is what I did with that passage from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in AP Lit senior year of high school or the Preamble of the Constitution in eighth grade. No more than a few of those words stayed with me for long, and I’m still young! But I assure you that I can still recite the lines of every character in The Little Mermaid before they’re spoken.

Of course, my “love” for that Disney movie from my childhood can hardly be comparable to my love for Daniel… imagine then the power of these few but meaningful words when they are carved into our hearts and recalled over the course of our lifetime together: “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” These words are something that we can recall with every argument, every baby born, every bend in the road, every uphill climb, every wrinkle slowly created. Add to that the grace of the sacrament of marriage, and I’d say we’ve got something pretty indestructible.

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