As I was walking down the aisle on my wedding day, there were two women who caught my attention. My eyes had flitted across the gathered congregation, quickly taking in many familiar faces and some unfamiliar ones. And then I saw them. Two women dressed in white, both sitting by the aisle. Wearing white. At my wedding. As I walked by them, I made sure to make eye contact. And I smiled.
Who were these two women wearing white at my wedding? And why wasn’t I offended by their choice of color for their attire? They were nuns. In white habit.
As you probably know by now, I spent eight months discerning religious life before taking a job as a Parish Catechetical Leader and several months later, beginning my relationship with Andrew. I learned a lot during those eight months, some of which helped me develop a deeper prayer life and some of which helped to confirm my belief that I was called to the married life. When I left the convent on May 1, 2013, I had no idea that I was just a few months from meeting the love of my life and the man who I would one day marry. And then there was a baseball game on a hot July night in Washington, DC, and the rest is history.
After I left the convent, I kept up a relationship with some of the sisters and with the girls who had been in my formation year. Not long after I left, the aspirants flew to California for their postulant year, and I began working. From time to time, I would stop by Mary Help on my way home from work to sit with some of the sisters for a little while before they went off to Evening Prayer and I went home for dinner. We’d sit and talk about life, about my work and my family. When I began dating Andrew, I told them about our relationship, and they began to pray for us daily. During one of Andrew’s visits north, I took him to meet some of the sisters, and they were able to pray for both of us in person. Throughout the year, I corresponded with the postulants from time to time, but by the time they returned to the East Coast, I had already moved down to DC and Andrew and I were engaged.
Through our ten month engagement and all the wedding planning that came with it, my trips home were jam-packed and there was very little time for social calls. I invited a few of the sisters to the wedding, and I continued to correspond with the postulants/now-novices. From time to time, I would update them about the wedding preparations, and they would tell me a little about life in the novitiate. Soon after sending out the invitations, I found out that most of the sisters would be attending Marian Day in honor of the Feast of Mary Help of Christians, the order’s patron. I could not be offended. I knew that this was the biggest day of their year. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t saddened by the knowledge that no one from my former life would be present on my wedding day (though I know many of them were present in prayer and spirit).
And then three days before our Holy Hour and rehearsal, I received a Facebook message from one of the novices. Though they wouldn’t be able to attend the wedding, they would be joining us for the Holy Hour the night before. I was ecstatic! Fifteen minutes before the Holy Hour was scheduled to begin, they walked into the church. There was a lot of laughter, hugging, and reminiscing. And then it was time to worship the Lord in Eucharistic Adoration, and we took our places, me beside Andrew and they beside the two sisters who had accompanied them.
Though it was unfortunate that they wouldn’t be able to attend our ceremony, I was thrilled to have them pray for me that night. They offered me the prayers and congratulations of the whole community, and they told me that they would be praying for Andrew and me in a very special way on Saturday afternoon during our wedding ceremony. It was the best wedding gift they could have given us.
And then the big day arrived, and before I knew it, I was walking down the aisle. And that’s when I spotted the white. Two little nuns, dressed in white. They smiled as I passed them, and then when the ceremony was over, they took my hand as I walked by them on my way out of the church. Once outside, they each embraced me, and I couldn’t have been happier. These two sisters had not gone to Marian Day after all. Instead they had attended my wedding. These two women, who had foregone marriage to become brides of Christ, through their witness and their presence, attested to the goodness of both vocations, marriage and consecrated life. They were a reminder to everyone gathered that we are all called to be united to Christ as members of His Body, the Church, the Bride of Christ. The two sisters were a testament to the love of Christ, and I was thrilled to have them at my wedding. Even if they were dressed in white.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!