Today we want to share the journey to the altar that Michael took in the long, winding path that finally led up to Michael and Cyndi committing to each other and God in the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony.
Because Michael is such a staunch conservative today in loyally upholding the teachings and doctrines of the Church, many can't picture the idea that he was not always thus. Only through the grace of God has he mended his ways and come to accept and live all he expounds. Believe it or not, Michael was much more liberal in his views of Church policy in his earlier years. He struggled greatly with the sudden changes after Vatican II. He had come from a strict "cradle Catholic" background that stressed the orthodox approach, having been brought up in Assumption parish in Richfield, Minnesota. From the age of 7 he had been weaned on the Faith and Latin by loving parents, nuns and the Oblate priests who operated the parish. Adding to this was the fact that he entered the Oblates' minor seminary in Carthage, Missouri at the tender age of 14 and stayed with that course for seven years. He had heard rumblings of change while undergoing his early college years and Novitiate, but by and large changes were not put into effect in the seminary or Novitiate until well after he realized his vocation was to the seminary in preparation for the lay life instead of religious life.
As the axiom goes, "out of sight, out of mind" and once out of the seminary after seven years of a structured, nurturing, protective environment he found himself catching up on the world. He remained a Daily communicant while attending the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul in the fall of 1964 to spring of 1965 and traveled that summer to Rome for the first time where he was able to see Pope Paul VI give his Angelus Address at Castel Gandolfo. That fall he transferred to the University of Minnesota to pursue a major in Journalism and Public Relations. For the first time, at the age of 22, Mike was exposed to a totally secular lifestyle.
In the early summer of 1966, while Cyndi was receiving a High School Diploma from LaSalette Academy in Covington, Kentucky, Michael was enlisting in the United States Air Force as an Information Officer during the Viet Nam conflict. Because of his administrative abilities and education he stayed stateside while many buddies were sent into the jungles. During these assignments he kept active in the Church, teaching CCD at St. George's Church in Baudette where he served as liaison officer between the base commander and city officials in Baudette, Minnesota, then later in Sioux City, Iowa and finally at Mt. Laguna, California. It was at the latter that he decided the military was not his cup of tea and after four years of active duty, and two years inactive duty he became a civilian once again. Back into the world in the early seventies, he took notice in the Diocese of San Diego of the drastic changes being made in his beloved Church. Because he surmised the Church had grown lax, so also he did, too. Slowly but surely, the siren of temptations and temporal things lured him away from the Church. Partying Saturday nights led to sleeping in Sunday mornings. Oops, missed Mass again. Oh, well! Pretty soon it became a habit and, as we know, we become immune to the causes and effects. We find a new comfort zone and the old becomes a distant memory. Things that were sinful before, become not only bearable and enjoyable, but cry out for rationalization; so much so that we take to ridiculing what we once believed with our whole heart. Such is the power of satan.
In 1973 at one of these parties he met and eventually married a Baptist girl.. She had agreed to be married in a Catholic ceremony, but, because she was not Catholic, a Nuptial Mass was out of the question. Adding to that was the irony that the priest who married them left the Church a week after marrying them. While Mike was busy building his own budding Advertising and Public Relations firm in San Diego, his first wife was having an affair with a fellow worker. When things came to the surface, she fessed up and insisted she did not want to have children. She wanted a career and he was a fool to think she would tie herself down with kids. That hurt Mike to the quick and, after consulting with a priest, he filed for divorce and an annulment. Though Mike was in great consternation about what had happened to the Church he so loved, he continued to attend daily Mass every evening at St. Joseph's Cathedral in downtown San Diego. The great Godincidence was that Cyndi was also attending St. Joseph's daily, but it was the morning Mass.
There were so many times that our paths might have crossed from 1965 on. We were both at the Vatican Pavilion at the New York's World Fair in Flushing on the very same day at the same hour in the summer of '65. However it was not God's Will that it should happen until the time He deigned. Few can understand why when looking ahead. It is only when we look back in retrospect do we realize His guiding hand in everything. It is faith that keeps us looking ahead.
The annulment process was painful as any kind of separation can be. Added to this was the seemingly unsympathetic and scrutinous, almost Inquisition-like Marriage Tribunal in the Diocese at that time. This left scars in Mike's psyche. What had happened to the strict, but compassionate Church he had grown up with? The fact of the matter is that the changes wrought by Vatican II in the mid to late seventies confused many, including bishops and chanceries and many "winged-it," making up the rules as they went along, so to speak. Those wings were not those of the Holy Spirit, but the fallen angel who had permeated the See as has been documented in historical annals. After the head of the Marriage Tribunal made a pass at him in a sexual manner, Mike had enough. He clung to his faith at a distance, deeply hurt and confused. He turned to self-hypnosis and new age for answers. They were merely a placebo that could not soothe the soul. It was in this malaise that he found himself as the eighties dawned.
A year later, his annulment approved because of adultery, he set out on a new course: to be very, very careful the next time around. Yet he longed to find someone who shared his beliefs, his philosophy, his cradle Catholic upbringing. On January 18th at 8:45 p.m. those hopes became reality. Life changed for both Mike and Cyndi for, indeed, it was God's time. That was the evening when both reluctantly attended a CYO social function at the Hanalei Hotel in Mission Valley. Neither had wanted to go. Mike had played touch football at the beach all day Sunday and really had no desire to go to a singles mixer for young Catholic adults. He had met and dated several gals in the group and left wanting. Cyndi was much more cautious and rarely indulged in those functions because of the superficiality of so many. Yet a girl friend had asked her if she would go with her to the mixer/dance. Reluctantly she said yes.
There the two young women sat at a table when Mike walked in, fashionably late as usual. Cyndi immediately saw him and knew, in the depths of her heart, that he was the one. What we can only attribute to the Holy Spirit, Mike was drawn to come over. Since more were coming in and the tables had been lined up in a row, there were no seats. But Mike, always the ingenious one, asked the fellow sitting next to Cyndi to help him move another table up next to it so others could sit down. As he moved the table, he cleverly maneuvered the table where he would end up to the left of Cyndi - or then, merely the pretty lady in a modest turquoise dress with a white gardenia in her hair. The move worked for the fellow who had been sitting on the end next to Cyndi was on the other side and Mike right next to her. In a gentlemanlike fashion he asked, "Is anyone sitting here" while pointing to the empty chair next to her. Before the other fellow could respond Cyndi gave a knowing wink and said "no, please sit down." That was the beginning of a life together that has seen all facets, been through peaks and valleys, and not only survived but flourishes today because of these trials.
Four months later, amid tremendous hassles which we will explain later, we both willingly and lovingly said "I do." It marked the beginning of beginning life as one with God through Conjugal Love that has grown stronger and more affectionate through the years.
NEXT WEEK: Lesson Ten: A commitment to love