How Every Young Adult Can Encounter God at a Wedding

An open letter to my friend Briggs Hurley on His Ordination to the Diaconate.

Alex with Deacon Briggs (Photo: Alex Pooler)
Alex with Deacon Briggs (Photo: Alex Pooler)

I think that one of the best parts of being a Catholic young adult is wedding invitations. I love weddings, and there’s this great period of time from your early 20s to your 30s where there’s literally a wedding or an ordination every few months and it’s fun.

There’s lots of celebration, lots of food, lots of dancing. In fact, being in London, I missed five weddings back home last year alone and what a sacrifice that was because being invited to a wedding is a gift. But last week I went to a wedding in Rome that was very different from any other wedding I’ve been to.

This past week, one of my closest brothers in Christ, Briggs Hurley, was ordained a deacon of the Catholic Church in St. Peter’s Basilica. The fact that Briggs was marrying Christ and his Church is not what made this wedding so different though. What made it different was that for the first time in my life, I felt like attending this celebration was a full on pilgrimage.

The celebration was in Rome, but it wasn’t the plethora of ancient churches and reliquaries that made it a pilgrimage. It was a pilgrimage because it was a spiritual journey where I encountered God. Being present to the ordination allowed me to hear God speak something personal to my heart right now in this season of my life. It was an invitation from God, not just to a celebration for my friend, but to go deeper with Him. And as young adults who get invited to all kinds of celebrations (weddings, ordinations, Baptisms), it’s my desire that we see every celebration this way. Deacon Briggs, I hope reading my experience of your ordination and how it allowed me to encounter God in a new way is a gift for you, the same way your encounter with God has been a gift to me.

Meeting God Through His People

Guests at the feast! (Photo: Leo Song of the Pontificate North American College)

At your ordination and at the events surrounding it, I met a lot of people. We all shared our different journeys with each other and how we had all met you, Deacon Briggs, along the way. We also spoke about where we are right now in our lives and how we came to be in Rome for your special day. In each conversation, I was so aware of how great God’s love is that he would give us all the gift of your friendship and the gift of this unique journey to bring us all together in Rome. Spending quality time with people, striking up conversations with strangers, receiving words of encouragement for my journey with Christ, and hearing truth spoken over me – through the love of other guests, I grew closer to God and was able to hear all of the things he wants to say to me.

A wedding or ordination brings together a variety of people with a common acquaintance: the bride, groom, or in this case, seminarian. People of different ages and professions are all united by their love for one friend. Some people may be familiar, some complete strangers. Meeting the guests of a wedding is an awesome opportunity to encounter God in His people and to hear His new words spoken to us. I encourage young adults to keep that in mind the next time you go to a wedding.

Seeking God’s Presence Everywhere

In Saint Peter's Basilica (Photo: Alex Pooler)
In the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls (Photo: Alex Pooler)

In Rome, we spent most of our time going to churches, kneeling before crosses, praying before murals, offering up prayers, and lighting candles. I can honestly say, Deacon, that your ordination was completely surrounded in prayer. That was something I’ve never experienced before out of all the weddings and ordinations I’ve been to. In this way, our celebration of your ordination was an opportunity to give a very powerful gift for you and everyone we love: our prayers.

Finding Jesus in Rome is a pretty easy task. Jesus can be found at every corner of the city. But there was something beautiful about seeking the presence of Christ each day, and it’s something that I think should be done wherever people gather for a wedding or ordination. Weddings and ordinations can be a bit chaotic and fast-paced. When you travel somewhere for a wedding, before and after the festivities, take time to seek out Jesus in the tabernacle wherever he’s at. When you find Him, dwell there.

Experience Celebration as a Gift

Cardinal O'Malley with the deacons at the Vatican
Cardinal O’Malley with the deacons at the Vatican

Your ordination was such a gift, Deacon Briggs! We got to see the altar of the Chair of St. Peter up close. The Mass’s main celebrant was Cardinal O’Malley. I got a front row view of the procession, which is ideal because I’m super short. From that front row view of the procession I could see several priests from our diocese in Florida and even one from the Diocese of Westminster. The reception afterwards was on the terrace of a hotel with a view of St. Peter’s Basilica at night, and your family provided an amazing feast for us. I got to see so many brothers and sisters from the Diocese of St. Augustine. I was provided for by people which was a gift because I’m on a volunteer allowance¬†right now. Throughout the whole week I could hear God saying to me personally “I love to make you happy. I love giving to you.”

To witness someone take a big step in their journey is a gift. To see a bride in her dress, a groom in tears, a man in full surrender of spirit on a marble floor; it is all a gift. The feast and dancing afterwards is a gift; every meal shared with the company of guests, every shared experience and conversation, every new friend. God gives us so many gifts in a wedding. At a wedding or celebration, take time to see the beauty of the present moment as a gift from God specifically for you.

Recognising the Bride in Myself

At Saint John Lateran (Photo: Alex Pooler)
At Saint John Lateran (Photo: Alex Pooler)

As women, we often hear the expression “Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.” But actually, Jesus was saying something much truer to my heart during your ordination, Deacon Briggs. He was saying to me “You are always the bride.

To witness you take this huge step in complete trust was beautiful to me in every way, Deacon. And it’s easy when we’re present for a celebration like this for our attention to become so absorbed in what’s happening in front of us that we think “This is for this person, but this isn’t for me. Maybe some day I’ll have something like this.” But actually, the voice of God deep in our hearts calls us His Bride all the time, men and women alike. And this was so clear to me during your ordination, Deacon Briggs. And every commitment and vow you to took was a gift for everyone present, including me. It was a visible sign of what God wills for all of us because at the end of the day, Jesus doesn’t just invite us to the Wedding feast. He full on proposes to each of us personally.

Planning a wedding? Attending a wedding? I encourage everyone to allow the journey to someone’s wedding to be like my friend’s ordination. Let it be a personal invitation from Christ to go deeper and to experience his love more and more. The graces that our loved ones receive are all graces that are offered to us.