Thursday, February 14, 2019

(218) Stephanie Mary Sebastian + Daniel Joseph Spiotta: United as One in a Beautiful Traditional Yet Unique Marriage in a Latin Mass Roman Catholic Church

AMDG
Introducing Mr. Daniel Joseph Spiotta & His Bride Mrs. Stephanie Mary Sebastian Spiotta at Mater Dei Latin Mass Catholic Church in Dallas, Texas on December 29 of last year.  Notice their middle names…….Joseph and Mary.  What magnificent role models!  Joseph, man of God, husband, and father; Mary, icon of woman, wife, and mother.  May Christ be at the center of their home and the Holy Family their model to follow as witnesses of what a Christian marriage and family should be.  This pose is a tradition from generation to generation of newly weds in the Spiotta extended family.  Photos of Daniel's parents and grandparents on their wedding days are shown in Appendix III.


       Tradition!!!  We had a lot of it.  The marriage was not arranged unless from Heaven.  Many of us believe that Providence had a hand in it.  It was close to a four year period of discernment, prayers for guidance, on and off and back on, ups and downs, moving along, pauses, starts and stops, an eloquent letter, on again for good, back on track, finally decision, proposal, and she said YES!  That's all Spiotta-Sebastian family history now and the great adventures of the Daniel-Stephanie union as one begins in earnest.

     Daniel has a degree in English and Latin from Hillsdale College (Michigan - https://www.hillsdale.edu/), so conservative that it won’t accept government aid to avoid its often stifling regulations.  The school trains its students to pursue the truth, no matter where it leads.    

    Stephanie also has a degree in the Liberal Arts from Thomas Aquinas College (California - see https://thomasaquinas.edu/), whose entire curriculum is built around reading the great books of the ages in the original. She had to take a year of Latin and read parts of the Summa Theologica of Aquinas (see http://www.catholictheology.info/summa-theologica/) in the original Latin.  It clarifies and explains so much of Catholic theology.    

      Naturally, Stephanie taught at one of the great books Great Hearts Elementary Schools in Phoenix and Daniel taught Latin at another Great Hearts upper school nearby.  Daniel now is a brilliant doctoral student in Literature (specializing in Shakespeare) at the University of Dallas (see https://udallas.edu/).  Stephanie continues to teach at the Great Hearts Elementary School, but in Dallas (see http://greatheartsirving.greatheartsacademies.org/).

     As I understand they first met at a party in Phoenix in late 2014 or early 2015.  At a later party Stephanie was washing dishes and Daniel volunteered to help.  After a while Daniel asked Stephanie if he could court her (very traditional).  A few days before Christmas that same year, Daniel, already a doctoral student, drove from Dallas to visit us in southeastern Ohio for the first time.  We were all excited, not to mention Stephanie.  We hit it off well during this four day visit and were impressed by Daniel……most intelligent and articulate on a variety of topics.
 

The optional betrothal ceremony, (more formal and more binding than engagement) in which Stephanie & Daniel solemnized their intent to marry at Mater Dei Latin Mass Catholic Church in Dallas.  In biblical times this agreement of intent to marry was binding.  Fr. Brian McDonnel presides. 

        The Betrothal.  Finally, Daniel called to ask for my blessing of his prospective marriage to our daughter, an age old custom.  The day after they were engaged, the couple solemnized their intent to marry with a beautiful betrothal ceremony and blessing by Fr. Brian McDonnell on June 9 at Mater Dei (Mother of God) Church in Dallas, Texas.  When I met him in Dallas, he commented:  “They didn’t need much marriage preparation.  They had it all together”.  That was followed by a brunch among friends.

      The Bridal Gown Saga.  Mater Dei Church, their parish in Dallas, insists on modest dress which Stephanie always preferred, but modest bridal gowns are not easy to find.  Finally, a friend recommended Miranda’s Bridal Vintage Gowns in Cleveland on the internet.  So we booked a motel for Friday September 7 near the airport to pick up Stephanie and Naomi (little sister) drove up from Cleveland.  The women of the family would agree on the best gown and I was along for the ride.  Everything was set, but guess what?  All planes out of Dallas were grounded due to the weather.  So now what do we do?

I came up with the idea of Naomi being the model for trying on different bridal gowns.  She texted a photo of each one to her sister in Dallas.  Stephanie chose two, which the shop shipped down to her, and after deliberation, sent one of them back for a refund.  

   Though the vintage gown the bride-to-be chose was delicate and did not quite fit, Stephanie and a local seamstress believed that they could alter the dress to make it fit.  Later upon closer examination two seamstresses determined that alterations could not be made due to the fragility of the fabric.  The future bride was faced with the dilemma that her gown would not button shut and even if it did, the fabric might rip open.  That’s all Stephanie needed…….a wardrobe malfunction!

I referred to a Bible passage (Luke 10:41) involving Christ and Martha: “Stephanie, you are anxious about many things” and reassured her that “nothing will happen and even if the worst comes, you are among friends who would understand.  “Trust in the Lord!”  Her mother, a woman of deep faith who trusted in God’s providence, was sure that on the wedding day the gown would miraculously fit.   And, miraculously, it did!........only a few hours before the ceremony!  

     What do you think of her bridal gown?  Isn’t it beautiful?  It all worked out like a charm!  Just to make sure, Stephanie changed into another dress before dancing with her groom, her father, and guests at the reception. 

Stefcia’s new family in addition to us.  From left to right is Raymond, Stephanie, Daniel and his parents, Anne & Ron Spiotta.

     The Bridal Shower in Wheaton, Illinois west of Chicago on October 21 was a great opportunity for Jaga and I to meet Daniel’s family, soon to be Stephanie’s as well.  Upon entering the dining room, I immediately noticed a Bible verse painted along the wall bordering the ceiling a Bible verse: “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).  “This must be a Christ centered home”, I concluded.  

    The supporting star of the bridal shower was Diane Spiotta.  What a beautiful gesture of love for “Aunt Diane” to organize it.  What a big heart!  Daniel and Stephanie already have a great start for equipping their future household.  We thank her for doing that and Anne (Daniel’s Mother) for hosting it.

      It was a mini international festival with English, Polish, and a little Spanish spoken.  Somebody should have spoken Italian.  My brother John, a Hungarian American married an Italian American and now my Hungarian-Polish American daughter married an Italian American.  Our family and Diane have a little in common……..a Spanish teacher (we started to speak in Spanish until distracted) and having the experience with her husband Mark of living in Poland during an engineering project.
     
      Also enjoyable was our little stag outing in Mark’s back yard on a beautiful sunny, but cool Fall afternoon in Chicago to keep the men occupied during the women’s get together.  Those Spiottas know how to grill…….connoisseurs of the grilled steak.  I enjoyed the guys……..Mark & his son Dominic, Daniel, Bill, Ron, and Dave.  I even enjoyed the dog; she’s a friendly monster.  That big huskie dog would scare any robber away by playfully jumping all over him.

          As a bonus, Daniel’s Mother, Anne took us on a tour of her quilt shop, almost a factory.  What an artist with the sewing machine!  Anne has brightened many a home and many a life with her quilts!  Another bonus was the presence of Grandma Maxwell.  She’s another gift to the December bride who hasn’t had a Grandma for 12 years.

   Impressive is the diversity of the Spiotta extended family…….Ron Spiotta, the personal finance manager; Anne Elizabeth Maxwell Spiotta, the quilt artist; Daniel Spiotta, the future literature professor & writer (perhaps using literature as a vehicle for teaching Christian values without calling it that in a secular environment); Raymond Spiotta, the linguist now studying Hebrew in Israel; Dr. Bill Emmingham, the Oregon State forestry scholar; David Maxwell, the mechanical engineer; Mark Maxwell, the environmental engineer; Mark Spiotta, the electrical engineer, and Diane Spiotta, the Spanish teacher.

The wedding party that attended the Rehearsal and Dinner.  From left to right are Natalie Weiss, Miriam McElvain, Christine Friedrich, Felicity Seeley, Madison Cox (Maid of Honor), Naomi Sebastian (sister of the bride), Ali Grzesiak, Stephanie and Daniel, Raymond Spiotta (Best Man & older brother of the groom), Ryan Elefson, John Paul Sebastian & Joseph Sebastian (brothers of the bride), Samuel McClelland, Adam Cooper, and Matt Duffy.  Notice the Bible passage in Latin above them.  It translates to: “The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary; and she was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  And the word was made flesh.”
 
       The Wedding Rehearsal.  Daniel and Stephanie’s bridal party are identified in the above photo.  After the rehearsal we had dinner, hosted by Ron Spiotta, the father of the groom at an elegant restaurant.  He gave a beautiful talk.  The complete text is in Appendix I below.


The valets: little sister Naomi and Mom prepare big sister for her big day.


     The Wedding Itself was in Latin as are all their Masses and sacraments.  I felt like I was in a time capsule going back to my youth in the 1960s when it was all in Latin as it was since the Middle Ages and ancient Rome.  For more than two millenniums Latin was the international language of the West.  Over 1300 people belong to Mater Dei Latin Mass Parish and most of them are young, the largest such parish in the country.

  The atmosphere of respect is exemplary.  Women are encouraged to wear a head covering and they do.  As can be seen in the above photo, it enhances the beauty of the women.  We attended Midnight Mass on Christmas and enjoyed their beautiful choir.  The only problem was that we had to sit in the parish hall and assist on closed circuit television because of the overflow.  Both Stephanie and Daniel are members of the choir.   Their love of singing was evident at the reception in the sing along.  For more detail see the parish website at https://materdeiparish.com/.
    





















      Stephanie and Daniel exchange rings with Fr. Michael Passo presiding.
 
     Fr. Michael Passo, the spiritual director of the bride when she was still in Phoenix, was the main celebrant.  I brought up my daughter Stephanie to Daniel and carefully took the veil off of her radiant face.  I was so focused on doing it correctly and smoothly that I forgot to kiss the bride!  That important detail had to wait until the reception; I’ll never live that down.  I then presented her to the groom and said: “Daniel, I entrust Stephanie to you”.  The exchange of rings is in the photo above.

        At the end of the Nuptial Mass Daniel accompanied Stephanie to place flowers at the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary, another old Catholic custom.

       A picture is worth a thousand words and we have a thousand pictures (not quite).  Obviously the photos can do a better job than what I can put into words.  Click on the following link and type in the password, becket18.
Click on the menu in the top left corner to navigate through the wonderful day in the history of the Sebastian and Spiotta families.  For more photos of the reception click on

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1ill8YSm-m8l5v5erGQJEfS9VVH-99JfW

Let’s not forget Stephanie’s students.  They were invited too.  Immigrant families know the value of education and choose the best for their children.

       The Reception and the events leading up to it are best described in my talk as the proud father of the beautiful bride.  The speech of the best man, Raymond Spiotta is in Appendix II. 



A painting in the Church of Cana in Galilee of Israel, showing Mary's first public act of intercession.  
The Polish priest who accompanied our pilgrimage married Jaga and I again (renewal of our marriage vows) in this church in our 30th year of marriage in September 2017.  May Stephanie and Daniel do the same some day.

      You know?  I feel like I’m at Cana.  Let’s all imagine that we’re at the wedding feast of Cana.  Our Lord is here, indeed He is and Mary is here too.  Daniel, if we run out of wine, go to Mary and do what He tells you.  When in trouble, run to Mother Mary and do what our Lord tells you.  What a great rule for one’s life!

Jaga & Paul, 30 years working as a team with one of the most beautiful fruits behind them.

       You know what makes this wedding feast so special?  You!  Every one of you.  Thank you all for coming from all parts of the United States and the world…...California, Arizona, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and of course Texas.  Raymond, the brother of the groom crossed eight time zones to make it from Jerusalem where he is studying Hebrew.  He’s a real linguist.

It wasn’t easy getting to the church on time.  On Wednesday we had an all-day thunderstorm that went into the night with water everywhere.  Flights were backed up for days.  A number of you were stuck at airports for hours.  My brother John and his family were stuck at the airport in Chicago for six hours.  Naomi, the bride’s sister and her boyfriend, John intended to fly out of Cincinnati. Naomi had looked forward to the bride’s bachelorette party at the spa.  However, their flight was cancelled and their only option was to drive.  On the way, an 18 wheeler kicked up a rock that hit their side window and it was instantly transformed from transparent to translucent.  Hannah & Leo had an auto accident in New Hampshire and had to fly down.  The shuttle of John Faro and John Paul picked up Andrew  Kuenstle at 3 o’clock in the morning.  Thank you all for your sacrifice.  That makes your presence extra special.


A photo of Daniel’s parents, Anne and Ronald Spiotta at their wedding on July 19, 1986 together with Anne’s side of the family, the Maxwells.   Pictured from left to right are Mark Maxwell – Anne’s younger brother (usher in wedding); Joan Maxwell – Anne’s mom; and Paul Maxwell – Anne’s Dad; Anne Elizabeth Maxwell Spiotta – the beautiful bride;  Ron Spiotta – who believes to this day that he married way above his pay grade; John Emmingham (deceased) – Anne’s maternal grandfather (Joan’s dad); Pearl Emmingham (deceased) – John Emmingham’s wife (his first wife, Joan’s mom and Anne's maternal grandmother, Fern Emmingham passed away many years prior); Baby Brian Maxwell with his mother, Eileen Maxwell - Anne’s sister-in-law and bridesmaid; and  finally Eileen’s husband, Dave Maxwell – Anne’s older brother (usher in the wedding).  Some are no longer with us, but here in spirit.

Another photo of the wedding of Daniel’s parents, Anne and Ron, this time with the Spiotta side of the family.  Pictured on the left are: Mark Spiotta – the groom's younger brother and Best Man; Diane Spiotta – Mark’s wife; Mike Spiotta – the groom's older brother and groomsman.  Sandy Spiotta Adams – Ron's younger sister and bridesmaid subsequently married to Don.  In the center are Anne Elizabeth Maxwell Spiotta – the beautiful bride (she never gets old!) and her groom, Ron Spiotta.  On the right side of the groom (back row) are Ray Spiotta (deceased), Daniel's paternal grandfather and grandmother Marie Spiotta (deceased).   Beside her at the end is Loretta Bonkowski , the groom's Aunt, another sister of his mom.  In the front row below the groom is Daniel's great grandmother Olga (deceased), Ray’s mom and next to her is Helen Vaccaro, the groom's aunt, his mom’s sister.

Three people in this August 13, 1988 wedding photo of Stephanie’s parents are no longer with us, but at Stephanie and Daniel’s wedding in spirit.  The rest to our joy attended the wedding of Stephanie (then only a dream) thirty years later.  From left to right are Nicole Sebastian Peeney, Fredericka Kasprowicz Gajda (Jaga’s mother, now deceased), John Sebastian (Paul’s younger brother), Dr. Stephanie Mihalich Sebastian (Stephanie’s grandmother, now deceased), John Victor Sebastian II, Mark Sebastian, Jaga & Paul Sebastian, Michelle Sebastian Gleason, Frederick Sebastian (Paul’s youngest brother who never married, now deceased), and Kathleen Marks Sebastian (John’s wife).  Among the fruits of the marriage of Paul and Jaga is the lovely bride, Stephanie.  We are looking forward to the fruits of the marriage of Stephanie and Daniel.  Look who has the grey hair now.  Time marches on until we’re all together again for that big party in Heaven.  You’re all invited; MAKE SURE YOU GET THERE! 
Many more would have come if they could and they are here in spirit.  And we know that our deceased loved ones in the Spiotta and Sebastian extended families are here very much in spirit such as Grandpa & Grandma Sebastian and Dziadek & Babcia Gajda.  I loved Babcia Gajda; she taught Baby Stephanie how to walk and treated us like royalty in Poland.  Babcia was the ideal mother-in-law.  She spoke no English; I spoke no Polish and we got along great!

 We named Stephanie after Grandma Sebastian and she wore her grandmother’s dress to the rehearsal last night.  In her old age Grandma wanted no part of any nursing home.  So Jaga, the bride’s mother, took care of her.  She was happy living with us and watching her four grandchildren run around from her observation post at the kitchen table by the window.  She died in our living room, practically in Jaga’s arms at the age of 97.  The money she saved with Jaga’s help is financing this wedding reception.  So consider Grandma Sebastian as the co-hostess of this feast along with Jaga.



















All you can eat of Polish cuisine from Mama Jaga’s Catering Service and the elves who came out of the blue to help.  Wonderful people those elves!  Clockwise is kielbasa, gołomki (stuffed cabbage), buckwheat salad, Polish Salad (a traditional Polish vegetable salad), and two pirogis filled with Jaga's homemade cheese.

       This feast is unique.  We wanted to have a touch of Poland.  But Jaga could not confide in any caterer.  So she decided to prepare this meal herself, a huge task.  Providentially, the Lord sent some wonderful people, such as Christine Friedrich to rescue her.  An army of elves with Christine as commander-in-chief worked day and night in the church and at Stephanie’s house until pirogis and gołomkis were coming out of their ears.  They put many ingredients into this home cooked meal, but the major one was love.........lots of love.  May you feel their love as you enjoy this meal.


From to left to right in this 2017 photo are Michał Pozoga & his son Adaś, mother of the bride Jadwiga “Jaga” Gajda Sebastian, her brother Józef "JózekGajda of Chicago, her sister Marija & Janusz Pożoga, the goldsmith who made the wedding rings with so much love added.  Michał, following in his father’s footsteps as a goldsmith, engraved a saying in Latin in each ring.  Absent are the bride’s other cousins in Poland: Eva Pożoga Ziębińska, Dagmara Pożoga Olchawa,  and Łucasz Pożoga.  The Pożogas could not make the trip from Kielce, Poland, but were with us in spirit. However, Józef Gajda, who delivered the rings to the Spiotta couple, really rocked at the wedding with his wife Justina, daughter Kalina, and son Miłosz.



The wedding rings made of white gold by Stephanie’s uncle, Janusz Pożoga in his goldsmith shop in Kielce, Poland.  He inscribed in Daniel’s ring in Latin: “Duc In Altum” (Cast out into the deep” from Luke 5:4) and in Stephanie’s ring: “Sub Tuum Praesidium” (Under Thy Protection, taken from the ancient Marian prayer).

       A lot of love also went into the rings.  You see, the bride’s uncle, Wujek Janusz is a goldsmith in his little shop in Kielce, Poland.  Daniel got the measurements and Janusz Pozoga made the rings by hand.  Stephanie’s uncle, Wujek Józek Gajda (here present) was the courier who personally brought the rings from Poland.  And guess what?  They fit perfectly.  Don’t let anything ever break those bonds which these rings symbolize. 

      The purity of Daniel and Stephanie’s engagement was so beautiful.   Daniel very nobly asked me for my blessing of his desire to marry Stephanie.  Then, after receiving her formal "fiat" or YES, they went through a betrothal in this church, "Mater Dei" in front of our Lord at the altar.  Fr. Brian McDonnell, acting as persona Christi, blessed their engagement.  They had the courage to be counter-cultural........no shacking up, none of that.  They did it all the right way which will only strengthen their marriage.  Even the priest who did their marriage preparation was impressed.........  "They have it all together”, he said.  Continue to pray together as you have been doing.......every day.  What a great circle of friends you have to keep each other out of trouble!


Stephanie has been such a faithful friend to so many people.  She wouldn’t miss a wedding of a dear friend, attending weddings all over the country.  I even kidded her: ”Stephanie, you attend every wedding except your own”.  Now Stephanie and Daniel, your day has come and we are most happy for you both.


      Now that their day has come, I was asked to give my daughter away.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME??  No way!  I wouldn’t give my daughter away to anybody.  Anyhow, she’s not mine to give.  Yes, Daniel, I entrust Stephanie to you........I trust that you will give yourself completely to Stephanie and she will reciprocate.   I trust that you are willing to die for her.  I trust that you will always be faithful, you exclusively for her and she exclusively for you.  I trust that your Stephanie & the family that the Lord gives you will always be number one in your life over career and avocations.  I know......My wife is going to say: “Practice what you preach”.

     May the Holy Family be your model with Jesus Christ at the center of your home with daily family prayer.  May your family culture revolve around our Lord and His Church, always faithful to God and to each other.  May your marriage be a witness in our divorce happy society as to what a Christian marriage should be.  May your family be a witness as to what a holy family should be, even in the face of ridicule.  When the inevitable bumps in the road come along, tap the graces of the beautiful sacrament of Matrimony.  Keep the faith and may the Lord richly bless your marriage and future family.   Amen?  Amen!

       Some of those invited were not practicing Christians.  In fact a couple of them claim to be agnostic.  One of them observed; “Never in my life have I seen so many spiritual people gathered together.”  That’s witness by a cloud of witnesses!  These young men and women give us old guys hope for the future of America and the Church despite their present state.
   
       Sing along.  They love to sing.  Is this a prelude to the 2035 Spiotta Family Singers?  Daniel got his
       beautiful voice from his father to the right of him.  Grandpa can be part of it too. 

       The next day Daniel threw a breakfast for many who attended the wedding for one last get together before the newly weds embarked on their honeymoon.  Anne Spiotta, an artist in making quilts, asked everyone there to write their sentiments on a patch which she would eventually put together into a master quilt.  Using my engineering background, I made mine a quasi mathematical model of the marriage of Daniel and Stephanie.  See Appendix IV.

The Spiotta-Maxwell cousins are having a great time at the Wheaton, Illinois reception on January 5.  From left to right:  Raymond Spiotta, the groom's big brother; Alex Maxwell; Charlie Maxwell; Jenny Maxwell (wife of Alex); the two honeymooners; Julianne Maxwell; Tim Maxwell & his wife Melissa with Baby Aubrey; Brian Maxwell and his wife Melissa.  Alex, Tim, and Brian are the sons of David Maxwell, the older brother of Anne, the groom's mother.  Charlie and Julianne are the children of Mark Maxwell, Anne's younger brother.  


      On January 5, the Spiottas had another reception in Wheaton, Illinois for those who could not make it to Dallas
(https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/15NoIiNuWLUJPL_CQvBZ4UU4TfL3Vbi5G)  Upon their return to Dallas, the honeymooners moved into their apartment made out of books.  I myself must have packed some 25 boxes of Stephanie’s books. When they build their permanent homestead, it will not be constructed with bricks and mortar, but with books and papers.  Daniel is great with his hands, unusual for an intellectual, and immediately charged into the task of building bookcases and lining the walls with bookcases full of books.  May the two scholars live happily ever after united with the Lord to get them through the rough spots. 

Stephanie’s Side of the Family…….From left to right are the bride’s cousins, John Victor Sebastian II and wife Ann, Mark Sebastian and his sister Nicole Sebastian Peeney, brother of the bride John Paul Sebastian, Stephanie and Daniel, the bride’s parents Jaga and Paul, their daughter Naomi flanked by her boy friend John Faro (a medical student), her Aunt Kathleen Marks Sebastian, her cousin Michelle Sebastian Gleason, and cousin Kalina Gajda.  In the back we have John Peeney, Miłosz Gajda (cousin of the bride), and Joseph Sebastian (brother of the bride), in the right rear are the bride’s Aunt Justyna and  her husband Jösef Gajda behind followed by the bride’s uncle John Victor Sebastian.

Daniel’s side of the family.........From left to right are Julia Spiotta Duquette (daughter of Mark S.), Brian Steder and his wife Angie (daughter of Mark S.), her brother Dominic S., his sister Aida Spiotta, her father Mark Spiotta (younger brother of Ron), his daughter Teresa with Baby Sidney, Diane to the right of her husband Mark Spiotta, Raymond (older brother of the groom), Stephanie Sebastian Spiotta with her newly minted husband Daniel, his mother Anne and father Ron Spiotta, his older brother Mike Spiotta with his wife Ingrid (his first wife Bonnie passed away of cancer), their daughter Deana, and Eileen with her husband Dave Maxwell (older brother of Anne).  I wish there were time to meet every one of them, including the baby who honored us with her presence.



Acknowledgments

          My thanks to Ron Spiotta, the father of the groom, for his help with this blog article.  He has an accountant’s eye for details and accuracy.  Daniel and Stephanie were also helpful.  We all worked together well as a team to obtain old photos and insure accuracy in the details.  


APPENDIX I

Daniel & Stephanie Wedding Rehearsal Dinner
Remarks By the Groom's Father, 
Ronald Spiotta

December 28, 2018


Anne & Ronald Spiotta, parents of the Groom at the wedding reception the next day.


Ronald J. Spiotta

Introductions and Thanks


          Introduction – Ron & Anne; Paul & Jaga.


      Thank You – Anne and I want to thank each and every one of you for joining us tonight to celebrate              Dan and Stephanie’s pending nuptials. Each one of you has been especially chosen by Dan and Stephanie to actively participate in their wedding ceremony – because you are cherished by them as dear friends, confidants, and musical buddies! Tonight’s celebration is a small token of Anne and my deep gratitude for the investment you have made in their lives.

         So, welcome all to this Long-Expected Party. Although “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like,” my comments tonight will be no less than half as long as I should like, but likely more than half again as long as you should like … like it or not.

         [Are you still with me?] That said, I’ll confine my comments to three unsurprising topics: Daniel, Stephanie, and Marriage. So … Let’s talk about Daniel…

Daniel

         Dan – you have been a delight to Mom and me over the years, despite a palpably rough start. As much as you enjoyed eating, you threw up every night after dinner until you were one year old. Thereafter, you perfected the ability to throw up at will when presented with an unpalatable meal. Try to keep this one down, if you please!


Here’s Daniel!……..8 months old.

         Then there were the terrible twos, when you didn’t even like me, and recoiled every time I held you! I think you’ve gotten over that!


       Yet, even as a little boy, we perceived that Dan was a much bigger person on the inside than he was on the outside – whether personality, brain power, or enthusiasm … there was a muted depth of character that might not be discernable to the casual observer. These understated, noble qualities define the man Dan has now become, and these will serve him well in marriage:

                                    Honor, integrity, excellence, service, loyalty.


      These traits began to manifest themselves gradually. Sitting at the piano, there was more happening at the keyboard than simply “playing a song” … rather, Dan was emoting music, coaxing it from the keys, with eyes closed, head cocked, and passion kindled. After an especially moving recital performance of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, one weepy-eyed friend dubbed the piece “Moonlight Spiotta.” Much the same emoting occurs today, when Dan recites poetry.


Dan sets high standards of excellence for himself in all things little and large – and he inspires others to excellence as well … whether playing baseball, leading the choir, expanding his instrumental repertoire, teaching HS Latin students, expanding his literary understanding, or just being a good friend.


Finally, Dan has always held women in high esteem. In high school, he spearheaded an initiative focused on Chivalry, which included wearing bow ties and holding doors open for female students. Not surprisingly, then, Dan has historically been enthusiastic about marriage and family life … often commenting that he anticipated getting married and having 9 children.

Buckle up, Stephanie! Speaking of whom … Let’s chat about Stephanie …

Stephanie

On June 12, 2015, Anne sufficiently cajoled Daniel into texting us a photo of he and Stephanie, who were attending a wedding together in LA. It was our first indication that there may be a woman in Dan’s life. My first response when seeing the photo was: “Wow! What a lovely young lady! Who knew?!”

         

Here she is after being engaged to Daniel on June 8, 2018.

         Our next bit of reconnaissance was to ask Raymond: “Tell us about Stephanie.” A glowing review ensued – “she’s a wonderful, pious girl – a great person for Dan to pursue”. Check. Big brother’s approval.
     Then, we needed to hear it from the source: “Dan, tell us about Stephanie.”  Among other superlatives: “She is contemplative, lovely, and sets her mind on good things.”  Connecting the dots of Dan’s praise, Anne dubbed Stephanie “a Philippians 4:8 woman”:

         “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.”

Stephanie seemed promising … we could now pray with more specificity. And today we are rewarded!  It’s been a long and winding road between that 2015 wedding and tomorrow’s wedding! You have been a patient woman, Stephanie, and we’re delighted to welcome you into the Spiotta family!

Marriage

          I am a huge fan of The Princess Bride. For those of you familiar with the fairy tale, I will spare you my rendition of the Impressive Clergyman’s: “Marriage is what brings us together today.”  But it is, and it does.

         Marriage is the beginning of the rest of your life, a paradigm shift for you both. Of sorts …..You both are educators. Dan, you currently are a student; Stephanie, you currently are a teacher. Starting tomorrow, you will become life-long, graduate-level students of each other.For instance, Stephanie..… you may not know that Dan is a Master Eructar. Has he delighted you with demonstrations of this skill?  Rarely matched is Dan’s capacity to produce booming – yet melodious, resonant and vibrato-ornamented – eructations. No doubt you will learn more about this gift as the days march on. Hopefully, in the privacy of your own home!

        Seriously, though.…No education process is more important, intriguing, difficult, exhilarating and satisfying than ascertaining what makes your spouse tick … who you are at the core … and then learning how to serve one another to facilitate growth and contentment in marriage. Embrace this education with enthusiasm and zeal.

        God Himself created the institution of marriage:  As a picture of the relationship of Christ to His church; As a source of great contentment and happiness.
I married my best friend and soulmate. My life is fuller, brighter, and more Christlike because of Anne. We know the joy of marriage, and we delight in the wisdom of God in creating it for His image-bearers.  Therefore, Anne and I have desired this wonderful union for our children.

           Dan – Since before you were born – when you were still being woven together in your

mother’s womb – being fearfully and wonderfully made by your Creator – Mom and I were

faithfully praying for you:

  That God would protect you from spiritual harm.

·         That God would reveal to you your sin, and grant you repentance.

·         That God would redeem you by grace through faith in the salvific work of His Son.

·         That God would develop in you Christlikeness – to live a holy and godly life.

·         That God would provide to you a helpmeet suitable for you (Gen 2:18).

           Stephanie – Long before you were born, Anne and I were also faithfully praying for you –  not by name (until recently), but trusting in God’s gracious omnipotence to present you to Daniel in God’s perfect time. We prayed:

That God would protect you from spiritual harm.

·       That God would develop you into a woman of faith, Christ like in character – a Proverbs 31  woman.

That God would grant to you a singular love for Daniel that imitates the love of Christ.  Tonight, I am delighted to praise God for a most wonderful answer to these 30 years of prayer!  
                Our prayers for you don’t stop tonight, they just change. We now ask:
·       That God will knit your hearts together in love for one another and for Him.

·       That Christ will remain preeminent in your marriage.

·       That your marriage will be a gospel marriage, a sweet aroma of Christ in a wayward world.

·       That God will bless your union with delight, joy, and happiness as your friendship flourishes.

·       That you would have FUN together as best friends and soul mates!

Tonight, is the eve, of the first day, of “Happily Ever After.”

With God’s help …Make it so!! We love you both.




                                                   APPENDIX II



Daniel & Stephanie Spiotta Wedding Reception

 Best Man Speech By Raymond Spiotta

December 29, 2018

 Raymond Spiotta, Daniel's older brother giving his Best Man speech.

As a 1-and-a-half-year-old, I’m told that I showed little interest when Daniel made his debut into the Spiotta home. Over the years, however, I found it politic to accommodate the little parvenu.  I eventually discovered in him a not unsuitable playmate, and we would go on to co-create, conquer and colonize the imaginary cosmos on which we bestowed the awesome, Heraclitan name of Animal War, fighting together under the aegis of Big Ronnie and Queen Anne. The childhood we passed together was one of camping, fishing, hunting, getting read to by Dad, accompanying each other on piano, lavishing occasions of sanctification on our homeschooling mother, and chasing our errant Wheaten Terrier throughout the northwest suburbs.



Accommodation and Toleration – Raymond (4½) and Daniel (3).

        In all these things we were comrades in arms, but that’s not to say we always got along. Not infrequently we took to “wrassling” and otherwise whooping up on each other – at least until Daniel began to consistently manifest marked superiority in this regard. De-escalation and detente followed.  Even so, I remember at one point our rivalry growing so acute that Mom had to interpose between the two of us, and set us the task of memorizing Psalm 133 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+133&version=NIV), the one that starts: Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity. 

Comrades in Arms: Daniel (10) and Raymond (11½) with a new addition to the family, Pippin,              who stuck around for 15 years. 

In the years that followed, I came indeed to behold just how good and pleasant that unity could be. By the time I was in college I could truly say that my mind and my heart had no better friend than in Daniel. When Daniel arrived at Hillsdale, more than ever we came to share another very precious thing in common – a tenacious tangle of lifelong friends. Many of whom are here today.




















                                         Hunting for pheasants, Ray (17½) and Dan (16).

          Now, I noticed a pattern in the reaction of friends of mine who met Daniel. They would tell me: “We love Daniel! And in a lot of ways he is a lot like you, except … he’s … sane.” Other observations made about Daniel have been that he would make an excellent father. Daniel’s balance, wisdom, and paternal instincts can call to witness the many friends of his who have asked that he become their sponsor on entering the Church, or that he become their children’s godfather. 






            Dan (16) and Ray (17½) never neglected the fine arts.  They’re great at the piano.  Stephanie                  also plays.

        Well, even after college Daniel and I followed each other around the country, first to Camp Buffalo Bill in Wyoming, then to Phoenix, finally here to Dallas. When I was living in Phoenix, but before Daniel had caught up to me, I remember being invited for Easter Dinner to the house of a colleague of mine, one Miss Madison Cox. Also at this dinner was a friend of Madison’s from California, still in college. I staged a little re-run of my 1-and-a-half-year-old self and proceeded to take no great pains to engage in conversation with this presumptive fly-by-night from California – distinctly thinking: “I will probably never see her again.” Well, that young lady was Stephanie, and maybe one of these decades she’ll let me live it down.









          Now catching for Wheaton High School, Daniel Spiotta, a Junior.  An athlete too……..keeping              in shape physically, not only intellectually and spiritually.  He was a starter in his last two years.

         Next year Daniel caught up to me in Phoenix. It was good to be roommates again, but it was nevertheless something of a difficult and pathless year for us, and I remember Daniel saying at one point that he felt like he was “racing in 1st gear”. Next year I went off to live in Italy, and that Stephanie girl I thought I’d never see again wound up in the Valley of the Sun. During one of my monthly phone calls from the monastery I heard Daniel tell me about someone else he had found to accompany on the piano, a lovely young lady in whom he had discovered a kindred love of singing hymns. Soon I received an email where Daniel announced of himself and Stephanie that:

“We are courting or dating or whatever nice young Catholic people do to see if marriage might be a good idea for them. She’s as holy as they come; she really is the most devout young woman I’ve known.  Fallax gratia et vana est pulchritudo, sed mulier timens Dominum ipsa laudabitur. (Though I think she is real purdy too …) She has consistently drawn my mind to more noble ideas, to natural beauties, to greater devotion.”

           Stephanie studying at the Dallas Institute for the Humanities in the summer of 2018.

           Bro, if you were ever racing in 1st gear, those days are as behind you now as Animal War. You have found your queen, and now it is time for you to co-create your kingdom. Take to heart what you have so often heard from another king, King Solomon (via Dad), “He would finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.” If that is just true, how much more so when that wife is someone like Stephanie, a woman who aside from being “real purdy” is also someone who can reconcile in herself not only being outrageously pious, but also really fun; someone who so much loves the Scriptures, loves the Church, loves Our Lord … and loves you?


Stephanie also was an athlete at South Gallia High School and its Class of 2010 valedictorian although she took most of her courses in a special state sponsored program at Rio Grande Community College/University of Rio Grande.  Thus she received her college associate degree before her high school diploma.  After away games, she would study while the team stopped at a restaurant for a snack.  Not introverted at all, she attended her share of high school proms and participated in other activities as well.

         Stephanie, I want to congratulate and thank you. I congratulate you, because now is your turn to “behold how good and pleasant it is to dwell in unity” with someone like Daniel – someone so prudent, so provident, so good. I also want to say thank you, because being who you are, I know that you will always bring my brother joy, that your spirit of abandonment and trust will draw him ever deeper into the Divine Mercy, and that your lively heart will never let him forget that life is an adventure, a quest that ends in heaven. 

Daniel & Stephanie, you promised each other this day – you were engaged on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The love of that Heart is the bedrock of the love you bear each other; and because that’s true, I know your love will bring you joy and bear much fruit. Both of you are born teachers, and I rejoice to think that you will give to your children what your parents gave to you: a taste and a love for true & beautiful words, especially the words of God, and a house that fears the LORD, one that manifests His providential power and steadfast love. With His help you and your children will become a city on a hill, the church in the wild. [At this point, Josh starts bally-hoo-ing andRyan drops an alcoholic hand grenade in Daniel’s lap.] I believe that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it, abiding with you from this day forward, all the liturgical years of your life.

Raymond M. Spiotta

APPENDIX III 

The Spiotta Traditional Bride & Groom Pose at Their Weddings


A Newspaper photo of Daniel’s grandparents, Marie and Ray Spiotta, after their wedding in 1949.


A better high resolution photo of Ray and Marie Spiotta
 on their wedding day, Easter Sunday April 17, 1949


Daniel’s parents, Anne and Ron Spiotta, after their wedding on July 19, 1986.


APPENDIX IV
 
The Daniel and Stephanie Quilt



       During the wedding reception, at the breakfast the next morning, and at the Illinois Reception, Anne Spiotta, an expert quilt maker, gave each person a quilt patch to fill in with a message.  I was looking for something different so I made it mathematical, chemical, and biblical with the message below.  Anne will put all the individual patches together to make a unique and special marriage quilt.  I can hardly wait to see the finished product.



The Stephanie + Daniel Equations:  a Quasi Mathematical Model of Marriage

           As Dr. Albert Einstein and his contemporary, Jesuit Priest Dr./Fr. Georges Lemaître along with other physicists brought out, God must be a mathematician and a marvel of simplicity in creating the universe.  Marriage and Family are most important parts of God’s grand plan.  Let us give Him glory. 

Equation  1: The Synergy Effect:

(DJ and SM as one) > (DJ + SM as singles)

Where DJ = Daniel Joseph and SM = Stephanie Mary

Equation 2: (Spiotta)d + (Sebastian)s + Prayer + Effort (Spiotta)ds2 + Sum Xi


Where d = Daniel

            s = Stephanie

            ds = Daniel and Stephanie as one in marriage.

            Xi = the name of each child: X1, X2, X3……..Xn.

            n = the total number of children.

Equation 1 is the Synergy Effect.  Daniel and Stephanie married together as one is greater than the sum of Daniel and Stephanie when singles.  That is the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  After all, he has gifts that she does not have and she has gifts that he does not have.  The God given gifts of each complement and complete each other as they grow together spiritually and intellectually.  The couple are also enriched by their in-laws in a greatly expanded extended family.  The Christian marriage is supposed to be mutual sanctification.  All of that is synergy on the micro level. 


When the people of a community and a nation work together in harmony for the common good of all, there is greatness on the macro level.  That’s how God intended it for the most basic unit of Society, the family and for Society in general.  Too often selfishness produces dysfunction on the micro level and ultimately dysfunction if not chaos on the macro level.     


Equation 2 states that Daniel Joseph Spiotta and Stephanie Mary Sebastian brought together in marriage along with prayer and effort yield as in a chemical equation the union of the two Spiottas squared due to the synergy effect plus the summation of each little Spiotta child created by God according to His image and likeness with their parents as participants in procreation for eternity.  I included prayer because no couple can do it alone and the Holy Family should be their model with Christ as the center of their home.  Effort must be included because a solid marriage and family often take hard work.  It’s not meant to be easy. 


We call this a quasi equation because the variables are not measureable and thus the equation is not verifiable.  Although at best an approximation, the model does illustrate what Christian marriage should be.

  A fairy tale marriage where the couple lives happily ever after only exists in the story books.  Every marriage has its share of joys and sorrows, ups and downs, struggle and victory.  May Daniel and Stephanie be witnesses for what a Christian marriage should be.  May they be witnesses for what a Christian family should be……a light shining from their little domestic church into the darkness.


Appendix



          Fr. Georges Lemaître is the father of the Big Bang Theory.  Albert Einstein was at first skeptical, but later commended him.  Below are some photos of him lecturing and with Einstein.  The photos are part of the summary of one of our Catholic Newman Club meetings at the University of Rio Grande.  Jaga and I are its advisers.



The Mystery of God By Bishop Robert Barron

Episode 2: St. Thomas Aquinas and the Paths to God

In the thirteenth century, St. Thomas Aquinas composed his famous five paths to God. His proofs don't depend on the Bible or divine revelation. They simply start from the world around us—trees, birds, buildings, and even ourselves. Thomas noticed that none of these things have to exist. But if that's the case, there must be some cause behind them, something grounding their existence. For Thomas and all Christians since, we know this source of all being by its ancient name—God.
“The Paths to God” was formulated by St. Thomas Aquinas as five arguments without the use of the Bible or revelation, using the world around us.  He said that nothing in this world contains in itself the reason for its own existence.  Things are, but don’t have to be or exist.  Everything in this world is contingent or dependent upon something else, a cause.  And that cause is contingent upon a set of other causes which in turn is contingent upon even more causes.  Finally one must come to a reality whose nature is “to be”…….Ipsum esse – the sheer act of being itself or to be in itself…….in other words, God.  That’s why in Exodus 3:14, God identified Himself to Moses as “I am who I am” And Christ could say to the Jews: “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).
The Big Bang.  For example, this summary of Bishop Barron’s talk is contingent upon me…….my doing it.  I am contingent upon being a college professor, which is contingent upon my education, which is contingent upon my parents, who are caused by their parents, etc., etc.  They are all contingent or dependent upon matter, which goes back to the “Big Bang” that originated at a point. The theory of the origin of our expanding universe with the “Big Bang”, now commonly accepted, was formulated by a Belgian Catholic priest, Fr. Georges Lemaître in 1927 (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lema%C3%AEtre).  He saw the big bang as a creation like event and saw no conflict between science and theology although he avoided mixing up the two.  The first photo below shows Two great physicists: Fr. Georges Lemaitre and Albert Einstein.





In the top photo Fr. Georges Lemaitre and Albert Einstein at a scientific meeting.  In the second photo the Jesuit priest scientist delivers a lecture.

              Albert Einstein, considered to be a genius and an atheist, was awestruck by the great order in the universe.  Thus he believed in an intelligent designer of the universe, who planned it all.  He said: “A spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble”.  It stated the same in other words that there is a great designer of the universe, “in comparison to whom, I am insignificant.”  However, he did not believe in a personal God. 

            Matter is contingent on being itself, who is God.  Matter could have different forms and can be shaped into innumerable forms that we use in our everyday lives.  When the atheist goes through the chain of contingent causes from object to person to matter, he will eventually have to stop and throw up his hands and say: “That’s the way it is”, thinking that it just popped out into being.  The believer will continue to the “uncaused cause”……..God……a reality not contingent on anything, whose nature is to be.  By reason, any being would eventually have to be contingent upon being itself…….God.   

            The Human Mind.  According to Bernard Lonergan and Karl Rahner, Jesuit theologians, both born in 1904 and died in 1984, postulated that the human mind asks questions, gathers knowledge, and ultimately seeks God, the glorious mystery.  St. Augustine observed: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

      


   St. Augustine  

The ultimate horizon of all that can be known or can be is ipsum esse, being itself, God.  The desire for God is behind every act of knowing.  God’s existence is co-known implicitly.  Nothing greater can be thought, not simply one being among many.