My wedding is scheduled for May 9, 2020. We have plans for a large ceremony in our local parish of St. Agnes. A ceremony with choral voices raised to God, and family and friends surrounding us on both sides. We had plans for a reception for two hundred people in a beautiful venue with flowers on the tables, champagne in the glasses, and dancing long into the night. We had plans for a honeymoon to French Polynesia and hopping from island to island on the other side of the world.
What we didn’t have planned is for fear and uncertainty in the face of a global pandemic to grip the country, for gatherings to stop, for travel to cease, and for the country where we planned to honeymoon to close its border. We’ve had to watch as our vision of the future and the plans we had made to slowly dissolve before our eyes like a drop from a rationed bottle of hand sanitizer.
St. Joseph’s Trust in God
I can’t help but think of St. Joseph in the midst of all this. From the very first moment of his betrothal to Mary, nothing went according to any plans he could have made or vision he might have had for his life. His bride-to-be was discovered to be with child, and his plans collapsed. He made a plan B, and God turned those plans around too. God told him to hold on through the storm, to wait it out, and that everything would be OK.
Then in the final month of Mary’s pregnancy, suddenly the government called a mandatory census. Joseph’s plans had to change again and any vision he might have had for the birth of his adopted son had to drastically change. It must have been such a trial. Such a source of anxiety to travel as they did to Bethlehem, to be unable to find the needed shelter or healthcare for the birth. But what did God provide in the midst of that? Magi with gifts that left the new little Holy Family with a needed nest egg for the next turn in the story.
After their return to Nazareth Joseph’s plans and vision for the first years of his life together with his new wife and child had to completely change again, as God called him to get up and go to Egypt. No warning. No plan. Just get up and go. But God provided. They had the gold, frankincense, and myrrh with them to supply provision for the journey. And Joseph, surely not knowing all the reasons, trusted in God’s plan and in doing so preserved the Holy Family from certain death in the massacre of the innocents.
Responding to Change with Humility
Now the stakes for a wedding are not nearly as high as they were for St. Joseph in his protection of the savior of the world, but what I have slowly been coming to terms with over the last few days is the fact that all of our hardships can be responded to in two different ways. We can hold tightly to our own plans, and grasp at ways to change the situation to reconform to our designs. Or we can look at the changes, difficulties, and struggles that the Lord has been putting in our path as an opportunity to hear God’s voice.
For me this has been a call to humility. A call to respond to change as St. Joseph did. Morgan and I still want to be married on our day, and—while we would have loved to celebrate with everyone in our lives and have them witness a big and beautiful ceremony—God is helping me to see that the beauty and majesty of the wedding are not in what we express outwardly—not in the trappings of the day—but in what we express with each other and with God, in our vows and the sacrament that we celebrate through our union with one another.
God is calling us to persevere, as he called Joseph to quietly take Mary into his home and recommit to her. Morgan and I feel that we are called to this as well, and if a small, private ceremony is enough to enter into the sacrament then we are going to be unafraid to take the Lord into our home amidst these trying times.
God Will Provide
Then there is the reception and the honeymoon to think about. While our grand plans for revelry with all of our loved ones would have certainly been an incredible experience, this time is causing us to take another look at this as well. Just as Joseph and Mary’s plans for the birth of Jesus surely were drastically changed by the call of the census, so too will our plans be changed for the reception. But now we have a second look at those plans as well. Wedding celebrations are expensive and while the reception was sure to be one of the most incredible parties of our lives, we are soberly able to look ahead at the economic future of the country and the impact this may have on the beginning of our life together.
Perhaps God is giving us an opportunity to have a nest egg to weather that time, as the gift of the Magi was for Joseph and Mary during their flight into Egypt. Perhaps too, our journey together need not begin on the other side of the world, but close to home waiting and discerning the future joy that God has in store for us in the quiet beauty of daily life.
Right now we don’t know what the future holds, but there is no doubt that it will impact our wedding. My heart goes out to other couples as well, and anyone affected by the coronavirus through changes to their upcoming plans, or more importantly, damages to their health or financial futures as so many lives continue to be turned upside down.
Whether or not you feel that the precautions and reactions to the coronavirus seem like they are too few or far overblown, the reality is that the reactions are having real effects on the world. I am praying for the humility and discernment of St. Joseph, that he can guide me away from the response of trying to control the situation and toward complete surrender to the will of the Father. I pray that he can help me to look only to follow God’s will, and discern the unexpected opportunities that God might be providing for Morgan and I as we begin our new life together in the midst of all of this.
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Matt Pirrall is a filmmaker and photographer based in West Chester, Pennsylvania and has been producing video series for Ascension since 2015. The programs he has produced include The 99, the Rejoice series, The Ascension Lenten Companion, Joy-Filled Marriage, and numerous videos for Ascension Presents. Matt is passionate about sharing the truth through the lens of beauty, and has been blessed to be able to collaborate with many gifted people in that pursuit.