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Posts Tagged ‘National Gallery Washington’

IMG_0006_2Advice from Ruth

I seldom get an invitation to preside at a wedding, and so I was particularly glad to have that opportunity this last Saturday.  It was a wonderful occasion to be part of this moment in the lives of two lovely young people, and I wish them well as they go forward in their pilgrimage of life.

That said, I was a little taken aback at their choice of a reading from the book of Ruth, chapter 1.  For those not familiar with that text, the essentials of the story are simple.  Naomi, with her husband and two sons, had moved to Moab, east of the Dead Sea.  Her two sons married local (i.e.: non-Jewish) women, and all seemed to be going just fine.  Then Naomi’s husband died, unexpectedly.  Then her two sons also died.  Then one daughter-in-law took off.  That left Naomi and Ruth, her other daughter-in-law, and between them they confronted almost hopeless prospects.

What an inspiring story to tell at a wedding!  And more to the point, it’s a sobering tale for a prospective mother-in-law and bride to chew on.  So what’s a homilist to do with something like that?  Where’s the consolation, and where’s the optimistic message people expect to hear at weddings?

IMG_0019_2Thankfully, there’s a lot more to the story than that, and the bride and groom had chosen this unconventional reading precisely because of one gorgeous nugget nested square in the middle of chapter 1.  Just when Naomi seems bereft of any sort of future, Ruth turns to her to promise her loyalty.  Who knows if she was recalling the good times that they had all enjoyed before this disastrous turn of events; but she still has hope for the future.  “Entreat me not to leave you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge;  your people shall be my people, and your God my God….”

Have there ever been words more beautiful or better-suited to a wedding?  For that matter, what better commitment can one friend make to another, or a monk to a community?  Such words define a pledge to live a noble life, one in which love and commitment transcend any and every challenge that may come along.

Since the bride and groom had chosen this passage for their very special day, I decided to run with it, largely because there was lots to consider.  And there’s food enough for a lifetime of meditation.

IMG_0024_2For starters, Ruth pledges that where Naomi goes, she will go.  This is a reminder to all of us that life is a pilgrimage, not just in terms of geography but in terms of experience as well.  In marriage people pledge to make their pilgrimage together.  One promises not to leave the other behind — in every sense of the phrase.  In sickness and in health, in joy and sorrow, they will walk together through life.  They will travel in the hope that their life together will be far richer than had they taken separate paths.

Then Ruth promises that Naomi’s people will be her people. That is a pointed reminder that married people live in a community of family and friends.  All their family and friends are part of the marriage, because the two of them bring to each other what family and friends have invested in them over the years.  In marriage they do not shut people out of their lives.  Rather, they embrace all of their family and friends and bring them with them into this new relationship.  That’s why everybody was invited to the wedding in the first place.  It wasn’t because of the gifts, after all.

IMG_0275_2Finally, Ruth pledges that Naomi’s God will be her God.  That defines this relationship in terms of a consecration in the Lord.  The faith that has brought them to this point was not self-derived.  The seeds of faith were first planted by parents, and then watered and nourished by friends.  That’s what has shaped them as people who now give themselves, one to the other.

Anyway, that’s what I drew from this passage from the Book of Ruth, and that’s the message I tried to preach at this wedding.  Ironically, Ruth’s words were never meant to be used at a wedding, but they are as perfect as anything could be as a guide for two young people as they walk through life, together.  Even better, these words are a good foundation for friendship and life in community.  After all, that’s what Ruth meant them to be.

For those who’ve not read the book of Ruth, the story turns out pretty nicely, because Ruth followed through on all her promises.  And Ruth would encourage us to do likewise.  She would encourage us to be true to one another, in sickness and health, and in joy or sorrow.  She’d be the first to say that if we walk together in the ways of the Lord, our lives will be far richer than if we take separate paths.

IMG_0186_2Notes

+This was a great week for me, and I managed to stay away from the airport for the second week in a row.

+On August 12th I said Mass and gave a talk to the members of the Serra Club of Minneapolis, gathered at Our Lady of Grace Church in Edina, MN.

+On August 13th I presided at the marriage of Carl and Lezlie, held at the chapel  of Saint Thomas Aquinas on the campus of the University of Saint Thomas, in St. Paul.  My connection to the couple came through Carl’s side of the family.  I had met his parents many years ago when I gave a talk at the University of Minnesota.  After that we became good friends.  I connected with Carl via another route, after he had spent a year of service at Saint Benedict’s Prep in Newark, NJ, where we’ve sent Benedictine Volunteers from Saint John’s for the last twelve years.  By contrast, Lezlie and her family attended Holy Name Church in Edina, MN.  Our monks served that parish for over a hundred years, and the family fondly recalls our confrere, Fr. Arnold Weber, who was pastor for many years.

IMG_0175_2+On August 14th I joined our monks in the chapter house as we listened to a presentation by Francesc Gomis Domenech, who has been a Benedictine Volunteer at Saint John’s for the last few months.  Francesc attended The Escalonica Montserrat, the choir school at the Benedictine Abbey of Montserrat, outside of Barcelona.  Saint John’s has had a long relationship with Montserrat, that stretches back to the days when our community came to the abbey’s assistance at the end of the Spanish Civil War.  Years later the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at Saint John’s University microfilmed the medieval manuscripts in the abbey library.  For the last few years members of our Benedictine Volunteer Corps have served at Montserrat.  It was wonderful to have a volunteer from Montserrat with us these past few months.

+Since today is the feast of the Assumption of Mary, I have included depictions of Mary’s life.  All are housed at the National Gallery in Washington, DC.

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