My sister Fina & husband Bob, celebrating 25 years.

I was in college when my sister got married at the Base Chapel of Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base in Norfolk VA in 1985. Bob came into the family, a USAF Airman from Montana, from a family of two kids – one younger sister. We were loud and shameless and thoroughly insane. But he took to us like a duck to water. I remember once (and I know it has happened more times than anyone will remember) when we gathered at Raul’s house blessing soiree, Bob called for silence so he could address the gathering. He started off with how much he loved being part of a big family. We didn’t give him a chance to finish. You see, we are not comfortable with public displays of emotion (we’re getting better with public displays of affection, though). But that didn’t deter Bob from trying again and again.

Yesterday at their 25th Anniversary bash with family and friends, Bob started his speech again. And this time we let him finish. He talked about how his life changed for the better when he met his wife, my sister, and how their life together is filled with much blessing. I know they make a great team. Bob says it’s because they laugh together a lot. I know they enjoy being together, and together they are better people. They are respectful, patient and considerate. Their faith fuels their lives. And there is a delicate balance they work to maintain: work, prayer, relaxation, rest.

I only know about married life from the witness of married couples I know: my parents who celebrated 50 years in 2007, my sister and her husband who just completed 25, my brother and his wife in San Diego going on 23 years, my younger brother and his wife of 2 years (tied the knot at 42) and countless friends and parishioners who show me that marriage is hard work indeed. I have always said I would make a lousy parent myself (although people keep asking me parenting advice). I don’t know if I would make a good spouse (so don’t go there). But I am set in my ways. And marriage is about compromise. You can’t get your way all the time. And that means a lot of give and take, a lot of forgiveness (asking and granting), a lot of doing because you love them (instead of because you have to … like taking out the garbage), a lot of planning for the future (mortgage, college, retirement), a lot of quality family time (away from drinking buddies and college buddies – sometimes the same people), a lot of kitchen table conversations, walks on the beach at sunset, slow dancing at church functions, white lies (no, those jeans don’t make you look fat) … and a lot more than I will ever know … or want to know.

Twenty-five years though, that’s a quarter of a century! I’ll be celebrating my 20th anniversary of priestly ministry in 2012, and I can’t think of anything else better to do. And contrary to popular opinion, I am not married to the church. It’s a nice platitude, but the analogy only goes so far. Inconsistencies abound. The biggest one is that when I come home after a full day at work, it’s not there to share a glass of wine with and listen to my gripes. And when I travel on vacation, I don’t ask it where it wants to go.

Marriage is indeed a blessing to spouses, to families, to the church, to me. It is a tremendous witness of God’s faithfulness despite our human propensities in the opposite direction. And when I work with young couples beginning the journey on that road of life, I am hopeful that they have learned from their own parents and other faithful witnesses. Statistics indicate that 50% of marriages end in divorce, across the whole spectrum of religious preferences. But among those I know, that percentage is a lot less. Maybe I’m hanging out with different people from the survey. Still, I like to focus on the quiet success stories. They surround me on all sides. They have names and faces. They tell me of their struggles and their joys. They give me much hope.

The Memorial Day Baby, the All Saints Day Baby, the Christmas Day Baby. Everyday is a holiday.

The sibs: moi, Raul & Jing, Rick, Ron, Fina & Bob, Rene. Missing: Rudi & Carol.