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The Wedding of Denise Hanner and Philip Passaro

The Wedding of Denise Hanner and Philip Passaro

Friday, August 19, 2005 at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in New Fairfield, Connecticut

    On a balmy Friday evening in August we found ourselves along the shores of Lake Candlewood, dodging the droppings of geese, in pursuit of a photo of the bride and groom and the power boat in which they would sail away from their wedding reception to a family cottage for their honeymoon's first night.  Memories swelled.  The lake, a manmade diversion of the waters of the Housatonic River, figures frequently in my growing years: Boy Scout encampments and midnight soda requisitions from the yacht club; youth fellowship picnics at adjacent Squantz Pond; visits to the summer homes of a college classmate, Brooklyn parishioners, and a colleague in the Methodist ministry; and, most recently, another wedding reception at the same inn, even to sitting at the same table, for Ian Weir and his bride. 

    The priest officiating, Msgr. Ryan, was most welcoming to my participation.  He also removed from me, albeit unwittingly, a small burden of guilt I had been carrying around with me from years as pastor and master sergeant at wedding rehearsals and services.  I would accuse myself of micromanaging the production.  I would greet the groom as he arrived, get him and his best man situated in the study, and then go to the nave to await the arrival of the bride, the better to get everyone in line and started on time.  Almost everywhere else I've been, the presiding clergy either hand those jobs to some one else or, too often!, sort of let the wedding happen when the limousine people get it going.  Msgr. Ryan was explicit in his directions, even to lining us up in the narthex, telling us where to stand and when.  God love him, a pastor after my own heart.

    My message is a fair repetition of the Monsignor's, in theme if not in illustration, that marriage, by God's design, is not for two alone, but for two and a better world.  After the benediction, but before the recessional, Fr. Ryan, a certain moistness coming to his eyes, remarked to Denise and Phil, that surely they could feel the love of God flowing their way from the gathered family and friends.  I would add only that that love was also amply evident from his pastoral heart.

    Herewith, more or less, mostly less, since I tried to match the priest's extemporaneity with some of my own, is the message I offered for one of my long-ago junior highs and his bride:

Diamonds and Hearts

            Denise, one afternoon in another century I stood on the pitcherís mound at a baseball diamond in Valley Stream State Park throwing as hard as I could.  Iím a bald-headed septuagenarian now, but then I was on the verge of fifty, hadnít lost a bicep, and was capable of getting the toss into the high seventies.  Phil, the batter, was thirteen going on fourteen, fifty pounds lighter than this afternoon, and I just assumed I would blow the ball by him.  But the harder I threw the further he hit it.  I wondered there on the mount where this child of Gladys and Phil came by his prowess.  Obviously I never forgot that Sunday in the park with Phil.  Not that we didnít have many other occasions to meet.  He was a constant in the Junior High Youth Fellowship I squired around the world.  I even became adept at deciphering his speed speech.  Congenial, convivial, effervescent are all big words that accurately describe the boy Phil used to be and, I suspect, still is. 

            Denise, heís a treasure.

            You are too, I have no doubt.  Phil always had good judgment, paled around with the right friends, saw to it, if sometimes only with Momís prodding, that he got his schoolwork done, and got his preparation for a lifeís work.  He brought to his falling in love and choice of a lifeís mate the same passion and care.  As he is your treasure, so you are his.

            Like Jesus said in a completely different context, ďWhere your treasure is, there will your heart be also.Ē

            Your Lord is very interested in how you spend your treasures; that is, your life together.  On each other, to be sure, and those whom you bring into your home.  But, more, how your marriage will enhance the lives of those around you, neighbors next door and around the world.  In a moment or so Iíll offer a prayer for the two of you.  It contains a phrase that sounds this theme of two together to make a better world, asking God to make your love for each other reflect the love of Christ for all of us and enable you to go from strength to strength as you faithfully serve God in the world.  Live outwardly, not to yourselves alone, but, with the overflowing love that has been poured out on you by God through those who have watched over you, held you, helped you, encouraged you, loved you throughout your days, take your turn as givers, helpers, encouragers, lovers in Godís great design for humanity. 

            And you know something, sure you do, thatís the surest way to happiness in this life, giving, caring, teaching, encouraging, loving.  Because one day out of the blue a voice on the other end of the phone, a voice, inspiring echoes of an afternoon in the park playing baseball, will ask you to do something like this, help celebrate with him one of lifeís most important moments.

            Thatís the kind of blessing money could never buy.

            Treasure each other, cherish each other, love each other, and love those, everyone whom you, in the providence of God, meet along the way from here to eternity.  God bless you, Denise.  God bless you, Phil.  We bless you too.

   Phil filled his wedding party with enough men to field a baseball team with a couple on the disabled list.  His Dad, Phil Sr., was the best man, a pattern to be found among the social elite... and in our wedding service fifty years ago.  Denise's sister, Darlene Newman, was the matron of honor. The solo trumpeter was terrific, and made me wish I had maintained my embouchure into my maturity as he played the "Trumpet Voluntary."  There were three readings of Scripture, one of them read by Phil's sister, Dr. Linda Passaro, who should have been able to recite it, I Corinthians 13, from memory, considering it was a confirmation lesson only eighteen years earlier. Another reading, from Tobit, was presented by Phil's cousin, Peter Jackson, up from Virginia with his wife Joyce.  Denise and Phil lit the unity candle while the bride's brother-in-law, Edward Newman, sang Schubert's "Ave Maria."

    Here is the printed order of worship with all of the names:

    The reception rocked... and two-stepped... and waltzed... and sang and danced, of course, to "YMCA" among many tried and true DJ enticements to participate.  Denise danced with Dad.  Phil danced with Mom, and, sentimentalist that he is, a tear could be seen inching down his cheek.  Filet mignon was our choice, medium rare.  The wedding cake and regular coffee (I had to drive home) topped off the evening.  We left, sad to say, before Phil and Denise drove away in their speedboat. 









    Upon their return from their honeymoon, the Passaros will reside in New Fairfield, he to drive daily to work as a 5th grade teacher in Bayside; she to commute daily to Norwalk where she is a consultant with a fund-raising firm.

    Once again my dear Junior Highs have delighted me by making me a part of their celebration of life's significant events.  Kind of makes an old pastor feel he might have done a few things right.   

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