Guy Gilbert had a wonderfully beautiful and eloquent sermon at Laurent and Claire's wedding. In the days following the wedding someone from another message board translated the text. I had copied it and put it in a Word document but didn't have time to read it until this afternoon at work. As I live in Canada and couldn't see a live feed of the wedding or read about it in the papers the next day, I was unaware of how truly beautiful the sermon was.
I am posting it here and sharing it with those of you who have not read it. If I knew who went to all the trouble of translating the text, I would credit him or her. (Sorry to whoever you are!) I have italicized the parts I find particularly beautiful.
You know, Laurent and Claire - how I like the church; you know this. I am very happy to be here with you, with Cardinal Daneels, his brothers the priests, witnesses of your love, for you Laurent, for you Claire.
Laurent, you are the last chicken which leaves its nest, after Astrid and Philippe. I bring a salute to Laurent, like a brother, with affection; to your dear mother Paola and your father Albert, and also to Astrid who isn´t here. We are with her - she is expecting a little one. And also Philippe. Claire, you also are leaving your nest. With affection I bring a salute to your dear parents Nicole and Nicolas, and to Johanna, and to Matthew.
Cardinal Daneels has allowed me a little meditation.
I would like to say to you that your family is your court, the courtyard of your life (JvdW: ´cour´ can have several meanings. Also just ´place´, ´square´, ´small circle´, ´court´, ´courtyard´, ´royal household´). The family, is the smallest, the greatest, the most noble, the eldest, the newest cell. You are founding it today, Claire and Laurent. Friendship shared with so many people who have come here - rather than just because of protocol, to tell you how much they love the two of you. Treasure, Claire and Laurent, your friends carefully. It´s the greatest thing one can have besides one´s family. True friends who will stay with you - especially when things don´t go well.
Thanks for your friendship, Laurent. It´s seven years old now. You wished to offer me a prize for my thugs. Unfortunately there are not only French thugs; it´s also the case with other youngsters who behave badly and who are Belgian and whom we receive at our farm overthere. It´s right there that our friendship was born and where you have come to. My image of you is that of a prince who care about boars, caresses the lama. You dearly love all the little animals of creation, from ladybird to elephant. Yes, in you I saw a vivid presence, near. I appreciate the fact that you do not judge my youngsters and the fact that you never asked them the reason why they came, nor what they did. They have loved you very much. ´Royal highness´- no, this thing didn´t mean anything to them, but you have been a prince to us, Laurent, in the sense that you have served them, humbly, fraternally.
With Claire you share this love for the animals.
Claire and Laurent, the most beautiful adventure in the world is the love which you have given in the hands of Cardinal Daneels, and all the men and women present here, know this; you can possess all the titles of the world, all the money of the world: if you haven´t got love, you are nothing. The most beautiful adventure of the world, Laurent and Claire, is this ´yes´ which you will give to eachother shortly. It is a battle. Ask Paola and Albert, ask Nicolas and Nicole, you will see, and then, ask Astrid and Lorenz, Philippe and Mathilde, Johanna and her husband. Ask them, it is a battle, a magnificent battle - always, and you will win this. When we answer for this, I will only be 127 years old! On two conditions, Laurent et Claire, on two conditions.
In the magnificent preparations leading to this marriage, I told you, it is the pair of you only which matters. I often hear couples talk about children, but the two of you come first. I am the third child in a poor family; we were fifteen - fifteen children. The love we had for our father and our mother. On the other hand: the love they had for each other! Rock of life. This will be the love which you will have towards one and another. To me only counts, as a priest, the love which I have received from a man and a woman, my father and my mother - my mother who received the Last Supper in my arms several months ago. The two of you come first. The duties of your rank will take a lot of your time. Your work as a land surveyor also. But first of all the two of you. Love your difference, love the fact that you are different from eachother. Don´t forget this, show infinite respect to one and another. Respect – it is the most beautiful name of love. I already know your universal court. May your gate be open to the four wind directions of friendship, may the smallest be served in the first place.
It´s in this place, Laurent and Claire, where you truly will be a prince and a princess.
Finally, your children. They will be the shepard´s stars of your lives. Give them the values which you received from your parents. Give them values, strictly secular at first - universal. We do not need to be Christian to cherish values. Deeply secular values of respect. Of tolerance. Of loving each other. Give them the religious and moral values which you have received when you were little. Love them. Don´t let you work devour you. You will never get back the love which you haven´t given to them when they were so small in their nest - so fragile. And I can tell you one or two things about this because of my profession as a specialist in education.
Finally, to you, the media, which have come here to exploit this love, to respect love. This image which is transmitted to the courts of so many Belgians at this moment. Exploit love, the love of the court, fidelity. Through your screens and your microphones, tell about the immensity of beauty, of man, firstly of his court, secondly of his body, but first of all of his court. Stress the beauty of the child which is sleeping in the palace of its mother, the children which Astrid and Mathilde are expecting, stress the value of this most fragile chain of life which the child is, sleeping in the belly of its mother. Also stress the value of the elderly person who fades away. So many, so many elderly people die these days - lonely in hospitals.
Laurent and Claire, stress the value of these two chains in the circle of life, from the smallest one, sleeping in the belly of its mother, to the old man fading away. Truly love one and another in one´s private life and you will have one and this is very good and important. May your love be radiating. Be laser beams! You are public persons, may your life be exemplary, Claire and Laurent.
Finally - you chose several very short texts about love. Together we selected them. Don´t forget, just a while ago Cardinal Daneels told you that only the love of God will turn you faithful and real in your love. Only the power of the sacrament you just received will give you the strength. Finally a little advice, an enormous advice: never go to bed, Claire and Laurent, after having said I am sorry. Learn how to say I am sorry, sorry or I beg your pardon. So many couples have left eachother because they didn´t know how to say I am sorry. Day after day, the two of you, be like persons who can forgive.
I would like to dedicate to you, brothers and sisters, dearly loved, who are here, and to those who watch this by means of theirs screen, I would like to dedicate this beautiful, true story to you, the most beautiful story I know; I dedicate this story to you, Paola and Albert, Nicole and Nicolas, Maria, Henri, to all those who love eachother, to those who have succeeded in trying to cope with fidelity and finally to those who, with this advice, have left eachother, have divorced and … remarried. There is so much suffering in today´s world people go through. So to all those women, all those men, I dedicate this story, the story of the white handkerchiefs.
An adult man of twenty years old had blemished the name of his parents, an affair which more or less had ruined the reputation of his parents. The father had told John who had blemished his family´s fame: ´John, leave this place and never again return to this house.´ So, John, with a heavy soul, left his home. A little later he told himself: ´I am really a piece of ****, a scoundrel, so I am going to ask my father to forgive me.´ But he was so afraid of his father that he thought that he would throw him out of the house for ever. Then he wrote him a letter: ´Father, I really have been a disgrace to you, I ask your forgiveness, I would so much like to come home again, I am writing to you now, I don´t even tell you my address, because I am so afraid that you will say ´no´ to me. If you forgive me, put a white handkerchief, I beg you, on an apple-tree in front of the house, on the big alley leading to the house, on the last apple-tree.´ Then a little later he said to his brother and friend Mark: ´I beg you Mark, I beg you, accompany me, we are going to do the following. I will take you to the house. At 500 m distance from the house, you will drive me. Then I will take the passenger´s seat, I will close my eyes. Slowly you will drive along the alley with the apple-trees, you will stop. If there is a white handkerchief we will drive on to the house. If there isn´t any I will never return to the house.´ As said, so done. At 100 m John changed seat with Mark, he sat on the passenger´s seat, he closed his eyes and slowly the car drove along the grand alley with the apple-trees up till the last apple-tree before the house and John, with his eyes closed, said to Mark: ´I beg you, Mark, did my father put a white handkerchief on the apple-tree in front of the house?´ Mark said to him: ´No, John, there is no handkerchief in the apple-tree in front of the house, but there are hundreds of them all along the alley which leads to the house!´
Much loved brothers and sisters, leave this ceremony with white handkerchiefs in your hearts.
Claire and Laurent, be beings who can forgive, all of you, brothers and sisters, be beings who can forgive, of whatever culture you are, to whatever religion you belong. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddists, Atheists, Agnostics, be beings of forgiveness. Thank you for being here in this cathedral to celebrate love.
Finally, lets salute the love of Claire and Laurent and let us stress this by applauding, warmly and fraternally, their love.
Laurent and Claire, I love you very much. ´God bless you!´