I have a sort of girly confession.
Earlier this fall I watched the CatholicVote.com video and afterwards forwarded it to Luke, eyes still misty from what I felt was a stirring montage that spoke right to the heart and affirmed what I held most dear in the election.
“Did you really cry when you watched that video?” he asked me, rather incredulously, that night.
I nodded (while popping an ibuprofen pill – I readily admit that some times of the month are more prone to weepiness than others).
“When the image of the baby flashed up…”
“And the music was swelling…”
He was amused.
Earlier this month, we watched It’s a Wonderful Life at a theater downtown that plays classic movies on weekend mornings, with $2 mimosas at the popcorn counter. I had never seen it before, so we went, mimosas in hand, with the priest who will marry us next summer and a couple other friends from church.
The theater was almost empty, the film crackly and the sound a little off at times, so that I barely heard the cheesy opening scene of God, St. Joseph and Charlie the angel talking as twinkling stars in a fake sky. But it was a perfect first viewing, and I think the first tears started welling up when Mr. Gower beat young George in the pharmacy, then embraced him when he discovered the truth of the poisoned pills. By the climax, when George stormed out of the house in a frustrated rage and Mary told the children to “pray very hard” for their father, I was a goner.
Then there are weddings: I went to four this summer and teared up to various degrees at them all. The first was the only one where I felt I knew both the bride and groom rather well and had seen their relationship grow, from its drama-filled beginnings … he was in the pre-theologate program, destined for the priesthood. Besides one rather half-hearted breakup, they’d dated since freshman year and been engaged for a year and a half. So, needless to say, there was a lot of anticipation hanging in the church as Susanna finally walked down the aisle this past June, and such beautiful anticipation coupled with my sheer happiness for two dear friends meant streams of tears throughout the Mass.
Finally, there is one more theme that makes me cry, and it’s one I’ve only discovered this year as I began following more closely the actions of Pope Benedict XVI.
I cry at the sight of people, especially youth, lining up to see, to cheer on, their shepherd. I cry at ardent displays of faith from the most unassuming witnesses – the sick, the children, the pure in heart. I groaned in disbelief at the too-Disneyesque, too-let’s-showcase-our-diverse-talents Nationals Stadium liturgy we planned for the Pope in D.C. last spring, but today at work, when I found a picture of the Holy Father embracing a trio of poor Brazilian children – huge smiles on all faces – I teared up, wondering what on earth I would say if someone walked up behind me.
“Yeah…pictures of the pope with kids make cry.”
Honestly, I think it’s more along the lines of, “Beautiful things make me cry.”
Things that speak to my heart, saying, yes, this is what you long for, what you’ve hoped for others, what you know deep inside (probably in the same chamber of the heart responsible for the flood of emotions in the first place) is what we’re meant to live for. (Not that I’d have the smoothness to tell the bewildered co-worker all that).
The first, joyful kiss of a husband and wife who have stood before God and the Church and bestowed on one another the Sacrament of Marriage. The reminder that the realities of life, as confusing, frustrating and enraging as it is, come with just as real moments of deep, penetrating grace. (The fact that it is Mary and the children who bring about this cinematic moment of grace is even more profound, I think – it is the prayerful hope, in the word’s truest sense, of the family that rescues George and brings him home). The stunning images that testify to the beauty of life. And the visible signs that it is the childlike who will enter the Kingdom of God.
In the receiving line, I told Susanna how much I cried, and at which points during the liturgy. The entrance, the vows, the blessing…
“Liz, are you going to cry that much at your wedding?” she teased.
I don’t know. I stopped crying as much at the rest of the weddings once I realized there were good times to be had later on at the reception. Get ‘em married and bring on the dinner, were my perhaps tactless but good-natured thoughts toward the end of the summer. And, despite my penchant to cry at a beautiful Mass, I am also an easily-distracted spazz.
I hope to achieve a balance at my own wedding in July, not thinking frantically about the table arrangements during the Eucharistic Prayer while not ending up with red-eyed, puffy-faced wedding pictures the rest of my life – but appreciating the profound beauty of what we will vow to each other and the sacramental grace God will provide for our aid.
But even if I fail at holding up, I already know Luke is used to tears. I picked a good man.