The Wedding of Caroline Joan Donnelly and Albert Leonard Mandato
The Wedding of Caroline Joan Donnelly and Albert Leonard Mandato
August 3, 2003 at 6:30 PM at The Carlyle at Bethpage State Park, Bethpage, New York
Among the families whose children I've played with, pastored, guided, kidded, confirmed, and wedded, few can match the numbers of the Donnelly/Bertie clan. One Sunday a year or so after my arrival in Valley Stream, Christina Bertie showed up for an afternoon meeting of the Junior High Youth Fellowship. Little brother (now well over 6 feet tall), John, was in tow and she asked it if would be all right for him to stay even though he was still in elementary school. I'm easy and okayed the youngun's presence. The rest is history. Two more Berties and three Donnellys, cousins who lived a few hundred yards away from each other, followed: Doug Donnelly, Joey Bertie, Caroline Donnelly, Kenny Bertie, and Keith Donnelly. Together they spanned ten years, countless Sunday afternoons, and many trips to Quinipet, up Storm King Mt., and down Camp Epworth's wintry slopes. Another cousin, Jennifer Bertie, found her way under my pastoral wing when she wanted to get married. The last priestly duty I performed (the week following our official departure from Valley Stream) was to preside at the funeral service and burial for the Bertie Dad, John, with whom I had spent, in the company of his family and aide, many a home communion, followed by sweets from Everbest Bakery.
We had, you see, a long and close personal history... including events, sorrows and triumphs, I'll keep in my pastoral heart all the way to and, I hope, through the gates of pearl.
Sunday late afternoon, August 3rd, with the heavens groaning at the prospect of an imminent thunder storm, the clan gathered at the chapel on the lawn at The Carlyle at Bethpage State Park within "Fore!" shouting distance of the Black course. The wedding coordinator for the restaurant was very nervous and wanted, but could not persuade, the bride to move the wedding site to a large indoor assembly room. The rains never came though the thunder continued to grumble, the wedding went forward fifteen minutes earlier than scheduled, the procession made its way down the carpeted lawn, the vows were exchanged, the bridal kiss was longer than most, and butterflies flew free.
And, yes, there was a celebratory message from the officiant:
The Road to and from Here
Lucky guy, lucky girl! To have found each other on this island with nine million other people. But, coming from where I do, with a conviction in the overarching love and care of God through Jesus Christ, I would prefer to think about this moment in other terms, as Godís good and merciful providence. Caroline could sing with an authenticity she knows better than anyone the song I learned as a camper on Shelter Island in another century, that, Caroline singing to Albert, ďI really think that God above created you for me to love; he picked you out from all the rest, because he knew I loved you best.Ē God picked you out, Albert, and Caroline confirmed the choice and, from your reports, made the opening overture.
Lucky guy, lucky girl! Blessedly embraced in Godís good and gracious will.
Thatís this moment. Thatís the route taken to The Carlyle. A convergence of destinies by the grace of God.
But the road from here deserves some consideration, that it too will be enfolded in Godís good purposes. Jesus offers us, in the verses Iíve read a minute or two ago from the Sermon on the Plain in Lukeís version of the Gospel, the clue to living happily ever after. In a word, itís giving. Giving of yourself. Spending your time, thought, and energies on someones else, beginning with those closest to you. I have reason, three reasons, to suspect that the two of you are very good at thinking of others and doing something good about that thinking. The ritual prayer which follows this message makes the same point, asking for your growth in grace that you ďmay reach out in concern and service to the world.Ē Thatís the way God made us and thatís what is the secret of a happy marriage, people who reach out in love to each other and to all others.
And luck doesnít have very much to do with that, just a lot of living and loving and being grateful for the gift of these moments with each other in Godís abiding care.
At Dad Doug's specific request, a couple of Irish blessings were added to the ritual benediction:
(1) Albert and Caroline: ďMay you be poor in misfortune, Rich in blessings, Slow to make enemies, Quick to make friends. But rich or poor, quick or slow, May you know nothing but happiness From this day forward.Ē
(2) May there always be work for your hands to do
May your purse always hold a coin or two
May the sun always shine on your windowpane
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain
May the hand of a friend always be near you
May God fill your heart with gladness
and cheer you!
The thought was expressed that the Italian side of the union should get equal time. But I was too busy thinking of prosciutto, parmagiana and provolone cheese, and all of the pasta dishes that would be available during the cocktail hour to formulate a benediction with a Roman flavor.
Caroline, a single mother of three, is a court stenographer. Albert, a collector of cool cars, is a lawyer with the Robert Abrams firm in Lake Success. Caroline's three children participated in the wedding. Daughter Jacqueline (she prefers "Jacque") was the maid of honor. Sons Joseph and Jesse were junior groomsmen.
The reception followed. I ate so many Italian cold cuts and cheese during the cocktail hour, I barely had room for the main course three hours later, filet mignon. Toasts were made with champagne glasses raised. Jacque presented her mother and Albert with a booklet (with a paper butterfly on the cover and inside), artistically designed and poetically expressed, speaking of her love and happiness for the bridal couple.
The dance floor was crowded. No need for the emcee to cajole revelers to join the bridal couple in their celebratory waltz. Caroline's Dad danced like Fred Astaire the better part of the evening. I demured when invited to dance, explaining bad knees wouldn't allow it.
The party adjourned around midnight.
The family and a handful of friends gathered for brunch the following morning at the Huntington Hilton. Caroline and Albert prepared to fly off to Hawaii Tuesday. Dad Doug had to return to work at his body shop in Hempstead. Barbara and I took advantage of the midday lull in traffic to drive across the Throgs Neck Bridge and up Rtes 684 and 84, making it home in time to be greeted by twins with a shrug, tired from their day at summer camp.
The Bertie-Donnelly connection with their pastor of twenty-eight years continues beyond the old cleric's retirement.