February 29, 2024

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to drive to Eden, SD. I am preparing a couple for marriage, and the groom to be works on a family farm there and at the local grain elevator, so in the springtime, his availability to meet and discuss marital issues is rather limited.

So I thought it would be fun to go and see them in Eden rather than expecting them to drive to see me.

It was a beautiful day as I drove east and then north of Aberdeen and I had forgotten for a moment how lovely the world can be in springtime, when you are off the interstates and highways and smelling the slowly warming soil being prepared to receive the seeds of spring.

I got to Eden a little early and so I had a chance to visit with the groom for a bit, get a tour of the grain elevator and the family farm. I walked into the elevator and the smell of it struck me, and I closed my eyes and just breathed in the agricultural scent.

It took me back to outside of White Lake and my grandparent’s farm and their dusty barn. The smell was the same, and it was wonderful. I realized how long it had been since I enjoyed that smell and how I had been a bit too long confined to classrooms and sanctuaries and my rather sterile office.

I had lost the scent of the farm work around me.

Then we went off the family farm and I ran my hand over the sleeping farm dog in the front yard, and I asked about the ticks in the trees on the edge of the yard, and when I was told they were abundant, I took my hand off the dog.

I wanted to get back to the land, but not that badly.

After a nice visit with the family, we went to the Eden Café for their famous, and very popular Wing Night, and got some wings to go; actually, a huge amount of wings. When the bride showed up, we feasted on sweet, savory and spicy wings before sitting down for the work at hand.

I had a wonderful meeting with a wonderful couple, so full of love and thoughtful towards each other. It was a blessing for me to be with them, as it often is, to just bask for a bit in the love that binds them and brings them life.

As I was driving home after a fantastic afternoon and evening, I watched the sun setting with color and power over the fields of northeast South Dakota, enjoying the view and the classic rock songs pouring out of my radio.

I could not help but see the beauty of the love I had been blessed to witness and celebrate mirrored in the beauty of the creation around me on this journey. As Pope Francis wrote: “Committing oneself exclusively and definitively to another person always involves a risk and a bold gamble…If two persons are truly in love, they naturally show this to others” (The Joy of Love, 132).

It occurred to me as I drove that the love this young and holy couple share and celebrate is born of the powerful beauty of the creation around me; but the love they share and celebrate also sustains that creation.

There is a graced glory in the interconnectedness of our lives which the Sacramental life of the Church proclaims and celebrates; this is not mere idealism, but truth that our prayers and rituals proclaim. This truth does not mean that love is not difficult, or that there are not struggles and problems with which to contend. It does mean there is a beauty and power that underlies and sustains it.

The springtime land around me, bursting with new life, proclaimed it. The beauty of the couple I had worked with proclaimed it. To be honest, even the Journey song I was listening to proclaimed it.

It is ours, it is a gift; it is beautiful.