"Big Four" Highlights


Marriage Vows

These promises sustain us through the years

By Patrice E. Athanasidy

Nearly 24 years after the ceremony, I remember saying my wedding vows very clearly. The occasion is burned in my mind because I paused, nervous and tongue-tied. I wanted the words to be clear as I said them, so I started over, “…for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health…”

As we said our vows, Bill and I had no idea what was ahead of us. Yet we knew that whatever would come our way, we wanted to face it together. We were lucky enough to have one of my favorite teachers and a true mentor throughout my life officiate at the wedding.

Bill and Patrice Athanasidy at their wedding 24 years ago, with Father Corry serving as witness.

Father Francis Corry took marriage prep meetings very seriously. He reminded us that getting married was not just about us. When we took our vows we were becoming one, but we were also making a commitment to God, who would be with us throughout our marriage. Father Corry did not paint a fairy tale version of marriage. He described a mosaic, with the vows preparing us for the happy and the sad, the easy and the difficult; every situation would have beauty when faced together with God as a source of strength.

Lucky for us, Father Corry was able to be a visible reminder that we needed faith when we faced some of our first struggles. Just a few years after we were married, we found out our first pregnancy was not going to end well because the baby had a number of health issues. Bill and I struggled with the how and the why, but we struggled together.

We also knew we couldn’t do it by ourselves. We leaned on family, friends, and we prayed a great deal, even as we struggled. We also asked Father Corry for guidance. He did even better than that—since the pregnancy was in distress, he administered the Anointing of the Sick with Bill by my side. It gave me so much needed peace, making me realize the situation was not in my hands. When the time came, Father Corry also helped us bury Magdalene Elizabeth, a stillbirth that continues to be alive in our hearts 20 years later.

In the past two decades, we have faced many more challenges—deaths in our family, several health issues for both of us, job loss. We have also experienced the most incredible joys—the birth of three more children who are most certainly constant sources of “for better” and “for richer.” We have taken on adventures with the family, had career successes, and worked together to give back to the community.

Along the way, we also learned that the giving and taking is not always even. When I was recovering from having my thyroid removed, I was exhausted. Family life couldn’t stop while my medicine found a new balance for my energy. Bill had to handle much more of the driving to get kids where they needed to go. I directed from a chair. We found a way to make it work, and I recovered.
Bill then had several health challenges, including a hip, which is causing pain, but not at a replacement point yet. Now it was my turn to take on some extra driving, lifting, and more.

Some of these challenges have made us revisit the questions of “Why us? Haven’t we been through enough already?” Eventually, though, we find our way through. As we started out in marriage, Father Corry reminded us that as Mary, Joseph and Jesus began their family, they had to flee to Egypt. Mary and Joseph were newlyweds with a baby in a foreign land and no clue when they could go back home. If they asked the question, “Why us?” the Gospels don’t tell us. What we do know is that they made the most of being a family and didn’t spend their time worrying about the why. They left that to God.

For better, for worse—when spending a lifetime together, these moments intertwine over and over again. The vows, to me, are as much a prayer as a promise. A prayer that we stay as connected with each other and to each other through all the times of life, whether it is a child marking a milestone or one of us facing a job challenge or health issue. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer—I find myself thinking—Lord, see us through this time.

When Bill and I reflect on some of the tough times, we come to understand even better that a wedding is for a day, but a marriage and the vows we make last a lifetime.

Patrice E. Athanasidy writes from Westchester, New York.