First off, what on earth is a troth? Merriam-Webster defines troth as “one’s pledged faithfulness.” “By my troth, I will not trespass on your precious property,” is the word-use example MW gives. How quaint! Troth is such an old fashioned word. Sadly, in today’s world, so also is its meaning.
We have politicians “pledging their faithfulness,” promising us the moon; and couples “pledging their faithfulness – as long as we both shall love.” Oh, they don’t really use those exact words, but that’s what the marriage vows have come to mean in today’s culture. Isn’t that why we have pre-nups?
It’s with these sad, and I admit, pessimistic thoughts, that I write this blog today. This weekend, Tom and I will celebrate the fifty-first anniversary of the first time we pledged our troth, “as long as we both shall live.”
Our Golden Wedding Anniversary was actually a few months back, on June 18. To read about why we are celebrating NOW, read my blog-post, A Groovy Kind of Love. It explains why we decided to wait until this November to celebrate. It also gives quite a lot of information about the Betrothal Ceremony. I was planning to fill today’s blog with lots more betrothal trivia, but instead…
Indulge me, dear readers, as I take a memory trip, (not the same as the “trips” that were common in the 60’s…) to the day Tom and I were forever bound together spiritually. The day we were betrothed:
We were so young. But we didn’t know it. We were old enough to vote. Old enough to drink. Of course, we were old enough to marry! Tom had the engagement ring in his pocket. He had already presented it to me (that’s a story for another day…), but it wasn’t time yet to put it on my finger officially. That time would take place before the altar of God, in the tiny chapel at my old high school….
Tom and I followed Fr. Pettingill up the stairs from Father’s office/apartment. He was the assistant pastor at my parish, but also taught at Marin Catholic High School, and lived on campus. As we walked past the gymnasium, memories of PE classes (ugh!) and sock hops (fun!) lingered in my mind – much more real to me than what Tom and I were about to do.
Father Pettingill had been giving us pre-marital counseling that spring; and in the course of that counseling, he had suggested that we “seal our engagement” in a Betrothal Ceremony. He (wisely) mentioned that the grace of the betrothal would help us remain celibate until our actual wedding day. We needed that grace!
So, we decided to become betrothed before we officially announced our engagement. (I recently found our engagement announcement that had originally appeared in the San Rafael Tribune on November 23, 1965 – on line! Amazing, and a little weird…)
It’s hard to remember, really, what we were thinking that November day. We were in the throes of young love, and that’s what was mostly on our minds.
Except… I remember a profound “sense of the sacred,” a need to bring this most important decision of our lives to the LORD. That’s part of the reason why it was just Tom and me. No guests taking photos (I am a bit sad about that now) or whispering how cute we looked. We were cute, really, but that had NOTHING to do with this sacred moment.
As for Tom’s thoughts that November day: I think he was a bit shell-shocked. I’ve asked him what he remembers. “I remember doing something at the high school. We went to the chapel. It is all very vague….”
For those readers who know Tom, let me say, this was not a “senior moment,” no memory loss caused by aging brain cells! The important moments in life are often a blur in our memory. BUT – and this is the IMPORTANT thing – those moments, especially those sacred moments, are what shape our lives. They “grace us” to walk in faith, through the obstacle course called LIFE. We don’t need to remember God’s touch for it to be effective.
SO, there we were…in the chapel, standing side-by-side at the altar, thinking we were mature enough to take betrothal vows that were as sacred and as serious as wedding VOWS. We were so young. So clueless. We loved each other and we LOVED God, and that was all that mattered….that, and the sparkly ring Tom placed on my finger, and the engagement party that would be held at my Aunt Mona’s house that night!
And here we are, 51 years later. Battered and bruised by LIFE and all it entails. “…for better for worse…in sickness and in health…” There are days when we feel SO OLD. (Hey, timewise, we ARE old.)
The gorgeous ¾ carat diamond wedding ring Tom placed on my finger that day now rests in a velvet bag in the safe deposit box. It’s too small for me today; but its meaning (eternal love) is embedded in my heart now, not in its sparkle.
Our “date nights” these days consist of dinners out after doctor appointments. We discuss blood test results over soup and salad. Without margarita’s, sad to say, because they would react with my meds. If this sounds sad and pitiful, it’s not! Those blood tests are almost always positive. And yes, we do try to get the “early senior discount.”
Yet…. We are still so young. Our spirits are young. And as clueless to what lies ahead as we were that day, following Fr. Pettingill up the stairs. Eternity is just not something you can get your head around.
On this Saturday, Tom and I will renew the vows we took 51 years ago, then repeated nine months later on June 18, 1966, our wedding day. That was a LONG time ago! Yet, compared to eternity…it was a flash in the pan. Like a streak of lightning…
That reminds me of a joke Tom brought home from work yesterday. A quote from Clint Eastwood: “Marriages are made in heaven…so are thunder and lightning.”
[As I said, I planned to tell you LOTS more about the history of the Betrothal Ceremony in this blog; but instead I took a trip down memory lane. I hope you enjoyed the detour. But, for those who DO love history, just go to Google and search for betrothal and…
St. Thomas Aquinas
Or, St. Augustine
Or, Pope Benedict the First
Or, Pope Gregory the Great
Or — go to http://www.catholicculture.org
Or — get a copy of the actual ceremony from 1965, at http://www.catholicfreeshipping.com
Like I said, I had LOTS of trivia about Betrothals to share…aren’t you glad I didn’t?]
Note: stuff in brackets do not count as part of this blog. Otherwise I would have gone over the 1000 word limit I promised a while back.