Nine years seems like a weird amount of time to be particularly reflective on marriage. Five, seven and ten years seem more appropriate, but I am never one to be conventional, or on time, quite frankly.  When I got married, I was already prepared to plan a tenth anniversary trip back to Ireland, the site of our honeymoon. It would be perfect: we’d have our well behaved 4-5 kids within those ten years, and then top it all off with a triumphant return to the Emerald Isle with everything ship-shaped and squared away.

As you can guess, that won’t be happening. Not because we aren’t still madly in love, not because we don’t want to, but simply because we were blessed in Holy Matrimony in only the way God can bless. We have six children—two in heaven and four crazy ones with us. We are set to build a modest, but spectacular house out of the city and in nature, by extended family. Things are not at all squared away (how exactly does one manage a schedule of piano, baseball, two different gymnastics level classes, school, work AND a one-year-old?) but life is FULL and that is exactly what it should be. Standing at that altar nine years ago, we professed that we would always be faithful and that we would accept children, not that everything would go exactly how we planned. 

We recently returned to the church in which we were married. Although part of me longed for a quiet day trip away to reminisce on what it was like when the two of us stood at the altar, professing our love and our commitment to take whatever came our way, we opted for the exact opposite: we took all four kids for a two hour car ride, made them take some pictures in the cold and then made them sit still through Mass. Part of my motivation for returning here was to take “updated” wedding photos—a “how it started vs. how it’s going” of sorts.  I picked six of my favorite photos from our wedding day and attempted (with the help of my overly patient mother who was our impromptu photographer) to recreate them—complete with four kids and the few extra pounds around our waists that my husband and I have added over nine years. The result was a lot of tears, complaints about being hungry, and complaints about the cold. But there were also Hail Mary’s and Guardian Angel prayers prayed, laughter, chance meetings of old friends, a beautiful homily and celebration of the Eucharist, and pictures I cannot take my eyes off of. The beauty of life, and of marriage, is spelled out right there in front of us for all to see.

This was the point of our entering into Holy Matrimony those nine years ago. We are raising saints (or at least children who aspire to be saints). And with God and Mary on our side and our sole focus, we can get through anything. We can get through loss and through disagreement in the household. We can get through children growing up and bushing boundaries and having attitudes. We can get through a changing world, one fraught with busy schedules, with war, with contradiction and hypocrisy. No matter what path we imagined ourselves on nine years ago, we’re on the right one, because we are following only one thing, and that is Christ. Our marriage works because God comes first, and He calls us to honor our spouses and love our children. That is all that matters.

Life has changed a lot, but the foundation remains the same. God comes first. With our eyes focused on Him and his Blessed Mother, we bring new eyes (mainly our children) to Him and they bring that out into the world and into the next generation.