Posted January 18, 2010 in Word Made Flesh:
Salut! I’ll Drink to That!

by Fr. Pat McNulty.

Ah, weddings! Here’s a reflection in connection with the wedding feast of Cana, the Gospel for January 17th.

The formal toast at a wedding reception is usually made by the father of the bride, but this one was made by the mother. This bride was the youngest of their many children, and the father had motioned to his wife to do it.

She was quiet for a few moments. Then she took his hand and turning to the bride and groom said, "If we could do it all over again, I’d want God to let me momma ten more babies to grow up and be as beautiful as both of you are today."

Their children all stood up, their champagne glasses held high, and gave their traditional family response: "Salut! I’ll drink to that!" And they did.

Now the floor was open to the siblings. Table by table, one after the other, they tapped their glasses calling for silence and made a fine toast to the bride and groom. Around the room it went until everyone’s glass was empty.

Just before the last sip, the groom stood up, went over to the bride’s mother, took her hand and said, "to Momma and ten more babies!"

Before the stunned silence became joyful bedlam, she had just enough time to respond. Turning and kissing her new son-in-law, Thomas, she said, "Salut, sweetheart! I’ll drink to that!"

Little did anyone know the tragedy awaiting Tom and the whole family not too many years hence.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read the gospel account of the wedding feast at Cana, but I’ve often wondered who that couple was to be the focus of such a powerful moment in the life of Christ and his Mother.

And I’ve wondered what happened to them afterwards—what kind of struggles or disasters—for it doesn’t take many years of married life or priestly ministry to realize that, regardless of how holy the sacrament of Matrimony is, family life itself can be very perplexing, bewildering, and indeed, sometimes disastrous.

How many times do we hear parents or grandparents who have spent their lives forming their children, mourn the fact that this one doesn’t go to church anymore, that one hasn’t had his children baptized, and that one is "living with" someone?

How many times do we see someone from a strong faith-filled family unable to sustain a long-term relationship and thus take responsibility for their own children? How often do we hear of children with very little sense of family because one or the other parent got lost in an addiction along the way?

How many families have children who suddenly manifest signs of emotional or mental problems which can hinder their lives or even end in disaster? The list goes on and on. Family life is very, very fragile.

Within a few short years of that lovely day of toasting to bride and groom, Tom went to work one day and didn’t come home. When they found his body, they discovered that he had taken his own life.

There had been no signs or hints that anyone could see that such a tragedy was coming. But no one in that large family has lived a day since without the agony of it tugging constantly at edge of their faith and without a sense of the fragility of family life.

For some families, a disaster eventually becomes salvific, but for others it remains just that, a disaster which continues to distance them further and further from their faith-roots. And the "lovely bride" often finds herself standing all alone in more ways than one even many years later.

I have never been married, but I was born into a family that knew disaster.

Both my parents were widowed young and had children, some of whom died at birth. Then they met and married each other and gave birth to yet another family.

By the time I was born—the first child of the third marriage—my mother was responsible for three children under the age of three and three teenagers. Her new husband was forty-two; she was twenty-five!

Some of my brothers and sisters had to struggle with the disaster of a childhood without a beloved parent, and we all had to struggle to live as a family among estranged siblings.

There was plenty of disaster in the lives of our grandparents and our immediate relatives as well. And yet, if we were all together today discussing family life, I know exactly what I would say to any of them if they asked me, "What was the most important thing we ever did for you besides giving you life?"

I would not hesitate to say that no matter what disasters were in their lives or mine, the most important thing my parents did for me was to have me baptized.

Yes, I know that though the sacrament of Baptism is a rite of entry into a life of faith, this does not happen by just the pouring of water. And Baptism doesn’t fully flower in a familial vacuum without love and care for the children.

But, on the other hand, something happens in Baptism which I think is almost more important than all the rest of it.

Probably Tom had to face some very profound things after he took his own life and left a bewildered and sorrowing family, and perhaps even more so because he was baptized. But we also know that because we are baptized into Christ, we do not fall into the hands of Death all alone.

Christ is in that darkness with us. Our Guardian Angels and patron saints are there as well to urge us into the Light.

And even more comforting and strengthening, as happened at Cana, the Mother of Jesus is there!

And if Mary was so concerned about one bride and groom who had run out of wine at a wedding reception, how can I not believe that she will be there when I run out of life and am probably in need of a miracle greater in scope than 130 gallons of water becoming wine?

In our Christian Faith, disaster never has the last word: the Risen Lord Jesus, who is the Word, has the last word. And, in the light of what happened at Cana, I believe Christ’s "momma" will be right there beside him with a word or two of her own on my behalf.

Strange thoughts flowing from this gospel event? Perhaps. But in the light of so many possible disasters in life, let’s "go to Cana" together and propose a toast of hope! "To our mothers and fathers who, regardless of their own short-comings, saw to it that we were baptized."

"Salut! We’ll drink to that, Patrick!"

Mom? Dad?


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