But across twenty-five years, I think it's so much more mysterious than all that.

Beyond the sacramental grace involved—and grace and prayer do play a big part, I think—it's a lot of talking, and a lot of listening, and a lot of patience, and a lot of persistence. It's wanting this little partnership to hold together, in spite of all the temptations and opportunities to make it rupture. It's realizing, day after day and year after year, that the strange and beautiful "something" that drew you to this other person still matters. It's making the choice to stay married, every day, because you know in your gut and in your head that your life is infinitely better because this other person is a part of it.

It's companionship and partnership. It's trusting—not just in each other, but in God, to help you over the rough patches. (And let's not fool ourselves: there are always rough patches.)

It's understanding from Day One that marriage is a living, breathing thing that needs attention and nurturing, and you have to give it the time and love that it needs to grow.

It's taking seriously the notion that in marriage you two become "one flesh."

A smart man once put it to me this way:

"There are three parties in a marriage," he said. "The husband, the wife, and the marriage itself. Sometimes, you have to put aside what the husband wants, or what the wife wants, and ask, 'What does the marriage want?'"

He was an atheist, so he didn't think in religious terms, but I think you could substitute "God" for "marriage" and gain an even deeper understanding of what this whole mystery of matrimony involves.

The Catholic Church teaches that this is a sacrament, something touched by grace—something, miraculously, blessed by God. That very idea demands that we take our lives as married people seriously.

When I preach at weddings, I often tell people that married couples become collaborators with God, continuing His creation in the world. And it's true: being married says that God's great story goes on.

But in 1983, standing in that backyard sipping a beer and chomping on chips, I couldn't have imagined any of that. Most of us don't think that way when we're 24 years old. Our minds are on other things. But now, as I mark twenty-five years with the girl I was growing to love on that summer day, and as I marvel at all those years have brought me and all the places they've taken me, I can't help but be in awe.

And I can't help but be grateful. Grateful that my life collided with that devastatingly beautiful brunette with the hazel eyes and the mischievous smile. Grateful that we made that great commitment all those years ago. Grateful that God gave us the time to grow, and not throttle each other, and to let our selves get out of the way, so that He could do His work.

It's work that is still going on, and will continue, I hope, for a long time to come.

Or, as we like to say in the Latin church: Ad multos annos!