A deacon son gives back to his giving mother

finney    There are times when the English language doesn’t precisely reflect the nuances of Catholic theology.
    When Deacon Daniel Green told friends, with a glint in his eye, that he was getting ready to “marry his mother,” they didn’t know exactly how to respond.
    Let the official sacramental register show that on June 16 before 300 witnesses at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, Daniel did “marry” his mother. As a newly ordained transitional deacon, Daniel, 26, witnessed and accepted on behalf of the church the marriage vows of his mother Consuella, 53, and her fiancé, Donnie Lancelin Sr., 54.
    As an altar server, Deacon Green had seen his share of brides and grooms fainting or looking semi-catatonic as they approached the altar for their big moment. But now, no one would have begrudged Daniel if he were the one looking for a padded chair and some smelling salts.
    “The poor little baby – his hand was shaking like a leaf,” Consuella said, referring to her son. “I told my husband I wanted to grab him and hold him. I was cool and calm. One of my girlfriends said I was the calmest bride she’d ever seen.’”
    Before her eyes, her deacon son was reading from the “Rite of Marriage,” a book of prayers the celebrant uses for the marriage liturgy. It was the book that Daniel’s mother, stepfather and grandmother had given to him on the occasion of his ordination to the diaconate in May.
    Inside the front cover, Consuella penned a note to the youngest of her three children. Consuella had been eight months pregnant with Daniel when her first marriage was breaking up.
    “He was the bright sunlight in the midst of the storm,” she recalled.
    And, now, the little boy to whom she always referred to as “an old soul” because of his gift for connecting with older persons and for having a wisdom “beyond his years” was ushering in a new life for Donnie and herself, each of whom had suffered the death of a spouse.
    Consuella’s note to Daniel read:
    My Darling Son:
    Words seem so inadequate to express the joy I am feeling. From the moment you were conceived, I knew you were my special gift from God. It seems only appropriate that you return to him by devoting your life to the service of his people. You are now my gift back to God.
    I feel honored to be able to present you with the very book you will use to celebrate our sacrament of matrimony. What an awesome experience to be the first couple you will unite using the very book that we are now presenting to you.
    Congratulations on your ordination to the transitional diaconate. May God continue to bless your journey to the priesthood.
    With Our Love,
    Momma, Mr. D and Grandmother
     Daniel’s gift of self was apparent to Consuella at an early age. When he was 7, his nighttime routine was set. Before going to bed, he would disappear into his great-grandmother’s room, where she would confide in him about her life, in this world and beyond.
    When she died two years later, Daniel, at age 9, had her funeral plans committed to memory and told the family exactly what she did and did not want at her funeral Mass.
    “I never knew what their chats consisted of,” Consuella said. “She showed him where her life insurance policy was, and she told him how she wanted to have a horse-and-buggy carrying her coffin. Daniel made sure that everything his great-grandmother wanted was done.”
    It was Daniel who had suggested that his mother and future stepfather delay their marriage for one year until he was ordained and could receive their vows. The initial plan was for the wedding Mass to be celebrated by Father Tony Ricard, pastor of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish, and then to have the gregarious priest preach.
    But Consuella wanted Daniel to preach the homily.
    “I was telling myself, ‘This has got to be perfect,’” Daniel said. “Once I got it all together, I could really tell it was the fruits of knowing them well and praying for them through the years and knowing that this is what the Lord wanted me to say. The unifying theme was that two were to become one. The love they share with each other makes manifest the love of God in this world. That may help someone else come to know the Lord in an intimate way.”
    As he gazed over at his mother, Daniel reflected on her care for him when he was battling chronic asthma as a child.
    “I guess overall it was just a sense of knowing how much she had done to get me where I am by supporting and challenging me,” Daniel said. “So, this was a kind of payback, but I realize that I can never fully repay her for everything she’s done for me. My mother was selfless with all three kids. If we were involved in an activity at school, she didn’t just drop us off. She was involved. We knew we were loved.”
    Then, with Father Ricard standing at his side, Daniel led the couple in the exchange of their vows.
    “I asked Father Tony in the sacristy before the wedding if I had to call my mother by her name, and he told me, ‘You can’t just say, Mom,’” Daniel said. “So when I got to that point, I said, ‘Mother, please forgive me, but I have to use your name – Father told me so!’”
    After Communion, Father Ricard looked at Daniel and smiled. “You know, they say this was your first one. You did pretty good. I didn’t even have to give you any help.’”
    Daniel survived, trembling hands and all.
    “Every wedding I do from here on out will always help me to remember their wedding,” Daniel said.
    And, with steady hands, he will proudly hold the “Rite of Marriage,” the book that bears the handwritten note from mother to son.
    Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at pfinney@clarionherald.org.

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