Farming is a dignified calling, and yields some marvelous correlations for marriage and family life. Jennings County Indiana is populated with one family farm after another. During two of my years as Vocation Director for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, I served as pastor for two small parishes in Jennings County, and the vast majority of parish families were farmers. Yesterday I returned to this rural community to preside at a wedding for Dale Gerringer and Brooke Caudill.
Dale is the youngest of three, having two older sisters. Privileged to preside at the weddings of his two sisters, I completed the trifecta yesterday.
Both Dale and Brooke grew up in Jennings County. Dale is the son of a farmer, and the grandson of farmers. He will be at least the third generation to ’till and keep’ this portion of God’s good earth. Dale is a farmer not only by choice, but at a deep level, it is in his DNA. Brooke, though not raised on a farm, has a natural talent working with the farm animals, and because of her love for Dale, is anxious to begin living a life on the farm. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to draw some correlations between farming and marriage.
Farmers know what it is to work hand-in-hand with God. They recognize the wisdom of God at work within all of creation, from the make up of the soil, to the mystery of planting and growing seeds, to the changing of the seasons. They know their life and vocation depend upon cooperating with the laws of nature. Rather than trying to impose their own will, they must humbly bow to nature’s genius, not demanding more than it will offer. They know their livelihood depends upon respecting the ways of God and being good stewards of what is entrusted to them.
They not only harvest the land, but they take care of it, giving a little back in accordance with one of God’s original instructions to the first couple of humanity. God placed Adam and Eve in the garden, entrusting to them all of the earth, and all within it, telling them to take care of it, while at the same time to be fruitful themselves. A farmer also recognizes that despite his best practices and hard work, he is always dependent upon God’s mercy as he faces elements beyond his control such as drought, flood, early frost, storm, or disease. The farmer accepts what is given from the Providential hand of God, and with abiding faith, every Spring, puts seed in the ground again, and continues the mysterious journey of faith and hard work in providing for his family.
Likewise, marriage is a cooperation, a covenant with God. A man and a woman recognize that the life they embark upon is not their own, but a journey with the Creator. Their love is mysteriously rooted in the Divine Life. They recognize the plan of God in creating man and woman for a unique and exclusive relationship of love, and that through their love, they share in God’s love, and by God’s design, their love is blessed and fruitful, bringing forth new life in their children. Marriage requires respect for each other, not demanding more of one than is reasonable, nor doing anything that will cause harm to the other or to the love that is shared.
It is important also in marriage to not only ‘take’ from the relationship, but to always nurture it by giving back. Just as the farmer makes a ‘gift of himself’ in the many ways he tills and keeps the earth, spouses must fully invest in each other, making a gift of self to the other. Marriage is a tremendous act of faith, not only the faith each spouse has in the other, but also in God’s Providence. As the farmer acknowledges he is subject to God’s mercy, husbands and wives realize that neither one of them are perfect, and they will need the mercy of their spouse over and over again, and they place their future in God’s hands, trusting also in his mercy and love.
The pastor of the Cathedral recently referenced a quote of Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI. He asked: “How does one get from the finite to the infinite? It does not require a spaceship. Rather, all that is necessary are love and reconciliation.”
The love of marriage takes a couple on this journey from finite to the infinite. The love of husband and wife which is reserved to marriage not only strengthens them in their love for one another, but transports them beyond their own love into the very love of God. Also, God’s greatest strength is his mercy. In similar fashion, husbands and wives demonstrate their true strength by their willingness to forgive one another, healing hurts, and renewing their love. They recognize they are not perfect, and only love and forgiveness will keep them rooted in permanence and fidelity which are the foundations of marriage.
Congratulations Dale & Brooke! God bless and strengthen your love. May your love be fruitful by bringing children into your home, and charity to those who surround you.