In 1987 we got married. My wife's name is Mary. We did the deed in her hometown in Western Mass. I have since realized that priests may only get one or two Mary-and-Joseph combinations during a career. The local priest made the most of it. "Joseph and Mary" -- "Mary and Joseph" -- he must have hit the theme at least 10 times. (By then end, I was half expecting the Angel Gabriel to come down and tell me, "Hey champ, you can't touch her tonight.")
To get to the altar as a Catholic you need to take a Pre-Cana course. It is one of the best things The Church does. It stops you for a minute and gets you to think before tying the knot. Like everyone else, they have seen how much fun it is to untie the knot when it doesn't work out. We were both living around Philly at the time so we went to a program run at St Joe's in Aston. Of course, our Pre-Cana was moderated by a Father Joe. We did a one day intensive Pre-Cana where older couples shared their lives openly about Communication, Money, Sexuality, and Spirituality. Mary and I were already pretty good prior to that day, but it was a good experience if for no other reason than to perform a double check.
Six months later, we are on our honeymoon in Italy. We are not big planners, so we reserved a couple of days at each end in Rome to get our bearings and set out. One of the coolest little towns in Italy is Assisi, you may have heard of St. Francis. We get there at the same time as a big festival.
We are checking into all the inns and there is no room anywhere. At one of the hotels, the last one we are trying before we set out for the next town, we run into Father Joe -- Pre-Cana Father Joe from St. Joe's. He's traveling with a bishop from Philly. (I thought he was a monsignor at the time, but a little research showed he was a bishop.)
"Hey Father Joe, How's it going?"
"You guys got married?"
"Yup -- we are just driving around the country for our honeymoon."
The priests give our marriage a blessing in stereo then asked what our plans were.
"Yeah, Mary and Joseph -- no room at the inn here -- we are about to head out."
The priests look at each other and laugh. Father Joe keeps us in conversation for another minute or two as we didn't notice the bishop step away and talk quietly to the manager.
As we are saying our goodbyes and thanking them for the blessing they tell us to wait.
The next thing we know we are setting up in a room overlooking the plains outside of Assisi. The view was magical.
We never saw either priest again. It's been 24 years, the blessing is still working. (We'll take whatever help we can find.)
We didn't realize it at the time, but the bishop from Philly was Pope John Paul II's Head of Communications he later became a Cardinal.
Cardinal Foley got a new gig this weekend So, I figure he can get this thank you note from where he's sitting now. Thanks for the room at the inn and especially the blessing.
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