Homily for the Wedding Mass of Luke Zanoni and Anna Dlesk
Holy Trinity Catholic Church – Westmont, Illinois
7 June 2019
Dear family and friends,
dear Luke and Anna,
It is my joy to be present with you to witness what is, for both of you and for all of us,
Remember that the word “apocalypse” comes from the Greek word apokalypsis, which contrary to our modern connotation does not refer to the violent end of the world. That is Armageddon, and today is not that. Probably.
Apokalypsis does not mean the end of the word, but “revelation.” Apokalypsis “refers to…an unveiling. A revelation [that] points ahead to an end, past which there is no further to go. The temporal end instigates the revealing of the logical end, the finished and perfected state…a [final] purpose. A purpose realized is a ‘new world’ that emerges to displace another world.” (Timothy Steckline, “The Rhetoric of American Apocalyptic”)
Today we witness the result of a bunch of little apocalypses, passing away of former worlds to make room for new ones.
There was the world in which Luke was just weeks away from becoming a deacon. There was the world in which Anna and I sat with Rachel Holmes on the floor of the John Paul II house laughing our heads off. There was the world in which Luke got poison oak on his derriere and couldn’t sit or stand for days. There was the world when Anna wondered what would become of her heart, and she asked to whom it might belong forever.
Every time the two of you turned a corner, one world gave way to the birth of a new one. And now the biggest world change to date, the one in which you move from being two parallel worlds to being one body, one flesh, one spirit, one world.
When I was a deacon at Mundelein, all those many years ago, there was a book that had become ubiquitous among the seminarians called In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart – the Journal of a Priest at Prayer. It is the prayer journal of an unnamed Benedictine Monk who records the movements of his heart in prayer.
The book was everywhere: in the chapel, on bookshelves, nightstands, windowsills next to toilets. Being the affectively mature and secure-in-my-identity man of God I had become, naturally I succumbed to the peer pressure and bought the book. I made it pretty far into the book, page 4 to be exact, when I was stopped, dead in my tracks.
On Saturday, October 6, 2007, the feast of St. Bruno, the priest wrote, “Last evening I asked Our Lord at length to ‘Johanninise’ my soul.” (In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart – The Journal of a Priest at Prayer, 4)
Overwhelmed at the prospect of what it might mean for Jesus to make anyone’s heart, let alone mine, one similar to the heart of John, the beloved disciple, I closed the book and never opened it again. After all, asking Jesus to “Johanninise” my heart means to ask Jesus to make my heart so open to love, to be so pure, so free, so utterly, radically, conformed to his own heart, that I might be able to recline in sinu Jesu, on the breast of Jesus, as John did at the last supper; to rest in contemplation and be completely content to simply sit and listen to the slow, rhythmic pumping of the heart of the world.
Maybe I’ll get there before I’m dead. Maybe we all will.
But for now, we must be content to witness the power and love of this heart of the world, the heart of Jesus, as it appears to us in the work and people and events and encounters of our lives. If you’re thinking that I’m about to refer to Anna and Luke as two people who’s hearts have been perfectly Johanninised, and who provide us this witness, dream on, man. The two of them are just as messed up as the rest of us.
Yet, despite this pitiable truth, those of us gathered here are inspired and somewhat taken by their love. Why?
It is because there is something so perfect, so calculated, so measured and yet so wild, so extreme, so grandiose happening between them. These two are, in my opinion, a living witness to us of what it means to listen to Mary in the Gospel this afternoon: “Do whatever he tells you.”
I don’t need to go into the many and varied ways the lives of these two have intersected and moved apart over the last 8 years. Those of us who lived know the details and would rather not live through it again. It suffices to say, however, that each of them has a laundry list of reasons why this relationship almost didn’t work out.
But it was Jesus who spoke to Fr. Steve Borello and got Luke into seminary, and thus into Totus Tuus, and thus into Anna’s life. And it was this Jesus who formed and kneaded and changed Luke in those years, and it was Jesus who gave him permission to step out of formation and into the world, and who had prepared his heart to receive what Luke calls “a gift”, “a joy.”
I still have a very vivid memory of our first meeting in the old Joliet pastoral center on day one of Totus Tuus training in 2011. There was no hint of romance at that encounter, since I was a good seminarian back then, but there was something better, something graced. From that very first meetings, I held a deep instuition that this world is a better place because she exists.
In his prayer of praise recorded in 1 Chronicles, chapter 29, David the King says, “In the simplicity of my heart, Lord God, I have gladly offered you everything.”
It is with this simplicity, so characteristically Johannine, that Anna lived out her own journey. She became something of a Totus Tuus staple, teaching for two years and then being my co-MC at training for a third year. She went on to graduate from Illinois and spend some years teaching in Lombard, and now as a roadrunner at Naz. She lived in the meantime in that Catholic party house on Roslyn Road in Westmont, where she met NET Ministries in a new way and heard Jesus asking her to spend herself on the California coast leading teens and young adults to his own Sacred Heart. This time tested her, and, like the experience of seminary for Luke, tried her in fire and prepared her heart to receive with gratitude what she calls “the greatest gift and the sweetest surprise.”
Why do they have so much trust in doing what Jesus asks of them? Because they believe so firmly what Blessed John Henry Newman and moderately-blessed Chris Tomlin have taught them: that God is a Father, a good good Father, and that he knows what he is about.
We were sitting in the Billing kitchen, chatting, and you shared with me a quote that has continued to shape my life (our lives): He knows what he is about….
When we both served as Totus Tuus teachers 8 years ago… He knew what he was about…
When our friendship started forming over shared love for Jesus and Chicago sports and To Kill a Mockingbird … He knew what he was about…
When you felt like Jesus gave you permission to leave seminary… He knew what he was about…
When I left for NET, both of us unsure what those 9 months would hold… He knew what he was about…
On that beautifully sunny March day, when you asked me to be your life’s companion… He knew what he was about…
Yes, in thousands of big and small ways, He knew what he is about….
In the ways you let me lean on your shoulder, the ways you make me laugh, the ways you encourage me and pray for and with me, the ways you really take the time to know me… He knows what he is about…
In the ways my heart rests with yours, he knows what he is about…
What is he about? What is this apocalypse about? What kind of new world is this?
Our understanding of marriage has its foundations in the Book of Genesis.
From the very beginning, God could see that it was not good for the man to be alone.
He does the natural thing an all-powerful, creative God would:
he creates a friend for the man.
But don’t remain “just friends”;
Rather, God does something shocking:
he creates man and woman to be so intimately united,
as if, they’d been formed from the very same flesh.
No, they do not remain simply acquaintances,
just partners in the garden.
They are one.
They leave everything they’d known behind in favor of their oneness.
Marriage is the sacrament of oneness.
Today, Luke and Anna, you are being welded together
by the grace of this sacrament.
The grace, that burning life of God
that has lived in you like a little pilot light since baptism,
is being reinforced once again today
and your hearts are, in the realest way,
being fused together here and now
in the presence of all those you love
so that the two might be one;
that man and woman would leave father and mother,
and become one flesh.
God is a trinity,
he is Father and Son and Holy Spirit.
God is a community.
God is three persons, intimately bound together into one divine Godhead.
Your union today is a mirror of the very union of God himself
and this is why marriage is holy!
Of course, the complete union of person is only simple and without strain for God.
Human relationships, as we know,
are fraught with complication and sometimes pain.
But difficulty is necessary for knowing the full value of love,
and loving another person in truth, in vulnerability, and in total self-gift
is always worth the risk.
Anna and Luke, as you now know well: love is always worth the risk.
Where will this love take you? Where will your fidelity take you?
What sort of fruitfulness will your marriage bear? We can’t wait to meet Ryan Michael Zanoni, Stephen Durkatron Zanoni, Colleen Sauvignon Blanc Zanoni, and all the rest.
Aside from the literal living fruit of your marriage, the two of you will continue to teach us that love is possible. That doing the work required to live the wholehearted life that Brene and Giussani and Cardinal Newman envision for us is not only possible, but so, so worth it. You are teaching us by this act of trust and fidelity to each other and to Almighty God that two people can be “in it to win it” if, and only if, they are willing to be Johanninised.
Luke’s letter to me contained the sparks of the preacher he is still becoming. He writes,
Our hearts desire to be seen, known, and loved. The greatest experience in this life and the next is to sit withGod cor ad cor loquitur, as heart speaks to heart. The great surprise of my life is that I have been given someone who intimately mirrors this experience….Let me be very clear, our story is not a romantic comedy. To the contrary, it’s a drama of grace. Our relationship has had its insurmountable challenges, daunting moments, and has brought about more ugly tears than I really wish to admit…Anna has taught me to have confidence that Jesus hears the cry of the broken hearted, makes crooked places straight, is about a good work, and truly, truly knows what he about.
Brothers and sisters,
We see before us two hearts;
Two hearts whose fire is burning for the other.
In a few moments, those two hearts will be fused together
By the power of the Holy Spirit,
And they will leave this house of God
as one heart, one mind, one body, one flesh,
in, finally, one beautiful new world.
In conclusion, let’s hear what Luke speaks to us all:
Pray for us and pray with us. Our greatest prayer is that our wedding and life be an image of the wedding feast of heaven. May we all be led to that place prepared for us at the Father’s table. It’s so clear that the preparations have already begun.
Amen, so may it be.
Anna and Luke,
May God bring to fruitful completion
what today is so wondrously begun in you.