Retired Pope Benedict XVI followed the funeral of his brother, Georg Ratzinger, via livestreaming, reported…
To my little brother on his wedding day
I have the honor of being the oldest sister to my three siblings. Justin, the closest in age to me, is almost 23 and a recent college graduate. Ben finished high school a couple years back and is now 20. Then there’s Bekah, the sister I waited almost 10 years for, who is 15 and enjoying summer break after completing her freshman year of high school. And in a few short days of writing this column, I will be gaining another sister when Justin gets married to his high school sweetheart, Julia.
Part of me can’t believe my brother is getting married. He is my little brother, after all. I have many memories of us playing together as kids — including the many times I kicked him out when I wanted to play alone — to the times in junior high and high school when we would have late night conversations about school, life and faith.
And while those earlier years were foundational, I know Justin has grown most in the years since I went off to college — the years where he found a good community of people who brought out the best in him, including Julia. While he used to be a bit tense and reserved, he’s now relaxed and comfortable in his own skin. He’s stretched his boundaries in many ways: excelling in college academics when he would have preferred to be working; finding a faith community in his college town who have called him higher as a man of God (thanks to some Puruvian religious brothers in the Twin Cities); putting in long hours at different jobs in order to avoid crippling student loans; and, of course, by staying in a long-distance relationship through all of college, maturing through the influence of the woman who can’t wait to live life by his side. In short, I’m proud of the man he’s become — though calling my first partner in crime a man is still a bit disorienting.
There is so much I could say, so much we’ve already said in late night conversations over the years. But sometimes it’s hard to know what is left to add or what is most worth repeating.
So I’ll say this: I’m grateful that during this month of June, the month in which they are getting married, the Church is praying for engaged couples. Because more than anything, a marriage must be rooted in prayer. Both of them know this: Justin with his faith rooted in the Catholic Church and Julia with her strong Lutheran background.
In a video message released June 1, Pope Francis asked the Church to pray for soon-to-be-newlyweds, because young people “do not want to get married, especially in these difficult times.” Yes, this past year has been a testament of that. Not only have Justin and Julia had to finish their undergraduate studies in the middle of a pandemic, but they chose to begin planning for the rest of their lives in the process. And on top of that, we live in a culture that believes less and less in the beautiful (self-)gift that is a committed marriage.
I’m blessed to know these two people. I’m blessed to be able to stand up with them as they vow before friends and family to love each other and love God.
So, little brother, my advice to you on your wedding day is nothing new. It’s the same advice we spent long hours talking about in high school. Keep fostering your relationship with the Lord. Always turn to him in prayer. Learn to love those around you well. Be patient with yourself as God stretches you and leads you down unpredictable paths. As we’ve heard said before, life with God is truly the most wonderful adventure. And this is just the beginning of a new chapter, one with a new companion (officially) by your side.
Julia, I offer the same advice to you. And, more importantly, welcome to the family!
Ava Lalor is assistant editor for Our Sunday Visitor and editor for Radiant magazine.