I’m currently taking this amazing writing class, and since I’m (finally!) generating new material, I thought I’d post some of these pieces here on my blog. This first piece takes place back when my husband and I were newly engaged.
I stepped into the sanctuary, pausing to dip my finger in the holy water, and breathing in the familiar mix of incense, wood polish, and flowers. Taking a deep breath and exhaling hard through my mouth, I scanned the crowd and then headed toward the pew where my future in-laws were sitting.
I slid easily onto the pew, polished smooth by many years and many backsides, and leaned forward to pull down the kneeler. With the knuckle of my folded hands pressing painfully into my forehead, I only had one prayer in mind: Dear God, please let the bishop say yes.
My prayers were interrupted by the cantor announcing the opening hymn, and as I stood to sing I turned to watch the familiar procession. Altar servers, deacon, priest, and lector all strode slowly and purposefully down the center aisle, stopping to genuflect before they climbed up onto the altar.
I clenched my jaw tight and tried to control my nervous leg-shaking as those on the altar plodded through the opening rituals. Please, let this just be over, I prayed, knowing full well that this prayer would not be answered. Because not only were we there for mass, but we were also there to watch the bishop administer the Rite of Confirmation to my future sister-in-law’s confirmation class.
I really don’t remember any of that service. I just remember my surging adrenaline, racing heart, and continuous waves of anxiety as I waited to see if my fiancÃ© and I would be granted an audience with the bishop.
You see, we were engaged to be married, and deep into wedding plans, but we had run into a pretty large snag in that his family is Catholic, and my family is not. Like, in the sense of, “If you get married in a Catholic church, then we’re not coming,” kind of way. So we had jumped through a million official hoops and petitioned the bishop for permission to be married “in the church”, priest and all, just not in a Catholic church. And this was our moment of truth.
I remember a blur of sensations as Father Bill, the head priest of the parish, came to collect us. I thought I heard him say that the bishop had granted us the permission we sought, but I was afraid I’d just imagined it. We had had to go through so much that I was afraid to believe it was finally over.
Father Bill led us behind the altar into the sacristy, and then suddenly, there we were, in front of the man himself.
As we huddled together in that dark, cramped hallway, the bishop closed his eyes, held his hands over our heads, and gave us a quick blessing.
We bowed our heads and murmured our thanks, quietly soaking in the reverence of the moment. “Congratulations,” the bishop announced, “you are now officially betrothed.”
We smiled gently and turned to leave, but the bishop stopped us, having one last message to impart to me.
“What this means now,” he said, grinning from ear to ear, “is that if he breaks off your engagement, then you can sue him for breach of contract. Just wanted you to know.”
Best. Bishop. EVER.