I kept postponing the day I would make my final decision. Friday would arrive, and I would think, “Let’s wait one more week and see how the curve is looking.” Should I postpone it to December? Next May? One month later? One week?
My fiancé, Cristian, was more levelheaded. For him it was simple. We committed to May 1. We get married on May 1. Done.
But I was torn. I kept thinking of every family member that wouldn’t be there, every picture I would miss out on, how a postponed reception wouldn’t feel the same without the wedding vows preceding it. On the other hand, I couldn’t imagine saying goodbye to our 2020 plans, or our May 1 wedding date. We had consecrated our engagement to St. Joseph and had chosen May 1 since it’s the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker.
Many of our family members and friends encouraged us to continue with the wedding despite the COVID-19 travel restrictions and ensured us they would be praying for us from afar. They expressed an eager desire for a celebration once the COVID-19 restrictions for the pandemic lifted. Regardless, I wasn’t reassured. So many thoughts and possibilities were spinning through my head.
Father Jacques Philippe says in his book, Searching for and Maintaining Peace:
“we would love to be infallible, to never be wrong, but there is a lot of pride in this desire and there is also the fear of being judged by others.”Philippe 74
I realized I was holding on to the fear of making the wrong decision, the fear of judgment from those who wouldn’t agree. I kept going back and forth, obsessed with collecting every little detail that would qualify one decision as wrong and the other as right, an obsession I have wrestled with since childhood. My uncertainty created anxiety that expressed itself as impatience toward others and myself until I finally reached my breaking point. One night, after succumbing to insomnia that accompanies my anxiety, I sat up, knelt on my bed and began to pray fervently, not for clear-cut answers, but for a heart of abandonment to God’s will.
The Engagement Period
A few months before, I was blissfully unaware of just how lenty my Lent would be. Pre-Cana was a wonderful time for my Cristian and I to bond, wedding plans were coming together, and the possibility of a global pandemic wasn’t remotely on my mind. When we got engaged, I knew I wanted my wedding to be an opportunity for others to witness something that is widely believed to be impossible. He and I came from different backgrounds. I was pursuing my Catholic faith for several years and thought for sure I would find my future husband at a pew in church during daily Mass. And yet, here I was accepting a date from someone who was actively practicing “spiritual, but not religious” for some time. But it was undeniable from the beginning that God had a purpose in bringing us together. Cristian experienced a deep reconversion to his Catholic faith, and God was using him to heal painful wounds in my heart that I never knew existed. We were helping each other grow in holiness. Through much prayer and guidance from our community, it became so clear that we were being called to marriage with each other that he proposed after six months of dating.
From the beginning of our engagement, we had two things very clear: the reception would in no way overshadow the Mass, and our wedding would be a witness of the love of Christ. Particularly for me, the latter of the two was of great importance. Witnessing holy marriages was an essential piece of my reconversion to the faith five years before. I wanted our wedding day to offer someone the same healing that I had received in my time of need.
On perhaps a more selfish note, I also wanted our wedding to be a huge celebration of the incredible feat we had accomplished by having a chaste relationship while dating and being engaged. I actually made it to my wedding day as a virgin and I cannot tell you how incredibly humbled I am to have done so.
It. Was not. Easy.
We had some moments where we needed to put on the brakes, where we crossed one too many boundaries, and where we walked each other to confession. But, thank the Lord Jesus Christ, we made it! And that is something to celebrate!
This is what I wanted from our wedding day, to show others that chastity is not easy, but it’s possible. Sacrificial love is not easy, but it’s possible. Allowing someone into the depths of your heart is not easy, but my friends it is possible! I wanted as many people as possible to witness our love, our union, our sacramental bond, and see that chastity is possible!
Learning to Trust
There I was, kneeling on my bed, praying fervently, wondering if I even had a right to be so upset about all of this. The following day, I received a photo from Cristian of his classes for the summer 2020 semester. We were planning and discussing this for months. He was going back to school, and classes would start one week after our wedding. By then, we would be living together. His office area would be organized, and he would be settled in and ready to start a new phase of his life as a husband and student.
Unless, of course, I changed everything. For what? For a church full of people? At what point did I value the number of bodies sitting in the pews over the body of Christ that would make Cristian and I one flesh? Sitting there, staring at his class schedule, the reality of the situation hit me. Cristian was moving forward with the next stage of our lives, and I wanted to do the same. I sent him a brief text;
“Let’s get married amor. Let’s do the thing.”
The image above is the perfect visual for how I was behaving. I was clutching tightly to my wedding plans and God was gently asking me to hand them over. It took a pandemic for me to truly hand my wedding over to Christ, but he loves even the most stubborn of us.
When I finally allowed God to be my wedding planner, it felt like a gigantic burden was lifted from my shoulders. Every worry and every anxiety that had plagued my sleepless nights suddenly evaporated. I was surprised by how many pieces began to fall into place. Finding a photographer a week before the wedding, flowers for my bouquet a few days before (with some assistance from a supermarket), the family members and friends that were able to be there despite the restricted number of guests allowed.
Of all these gifts, the most beautiful wedding surprise God had in store was this: our wedding was live-streamed and had about five hundred computers log in from all over the world. Friends and family in Colombia, Mexico, Italy, Hungary, and all over the United States were watching. People that couldn’t have attended our wedding even without a global pandemic, witnessed our wedding day.
They watched my father walk me down the aisle and saw my husband and I shed tears as we received the Eucharist for the first time in over forty days. They heard two beautiful homilies, one in English and one in Spanish, that shared our love story and the beauty of a Catholic marriage. Some even dressed up and shared pictures of their wedding watch parties.
The number of people who witnessed our marriage was a beautiful surprise, and a great example of Christ handing me a larger teddy bear, but the greatest gift has been the marriage itself. No greater timing exists than God’s.
Continuing to Trust
I cannot recommend enough that everyone pray the Litany of Trust during times of discernment. Friends, trust him. He knows. He sees. He hears. He answers. He loves you. My prayer for you is that you, too, abandon your will to God’s will. I promise you he has an unexpected and unimaginable gift waiting for you.
A few last words for all my COVID-19 brides and their friends and family members: my choice is not the right one, it’s simply the right one for me. Postponing a wedding is a trialing situation to face in any circumstance. If you feel you must postpone yours, allow it to sanctify you and your relationships. Be open and receptive to the Holy Spirit moving in your life, and whatever the choice may be, have total peace with it. You have all been, and will continue to be, in my prayers.
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Gabriella Ospina is the owner of The Local Feel Photography in Orlando, Florida. She is passionate about her work and loves to seek God in the people she photographs. She received her B.A. in Sociology at the University of Florida and will be continuing her education at law school. Gabriella also enjoys binge-watching videos on Catholic apologetics and diving into controversial topics. You can follow her photography on instagram @thelocalfeel or visit her website www.thelocalfeel.com