Like any bride should be, she looked radiant and blushing on her special day. Her groom was waiting anxiously for his first love to arrive. Everyone was excited, some perhaps a little jealous, but nevertheless filled with joy that their friend, auntie, colleague, cousin, and niece is finally walking down the aisle with her first, one and only love. No one was expecting this December wedding of two not so very young citizens but no one was upset when it happened. Everyone was in a festive mood.
As I write this story, I can’t help but close my eyes and recall the events leading to this beautiful morning. On December 8, I opened my messenger and saw a wedding invitation from my friend Elizabeth Briones, a former Columban lay missionary. I was dumbfounded and I suspected that she was trying to pull a prank on me.
However, knowing Beth to dislike practical jokes, I thought, “What if this is true?” So I called her and asked, “Beth, is this a prank?” Gently, she said no. At first, I felt concerned but all these concerns slowly went away when I heard their love story. I was happy for her. I hold sacred their story which I will share in part with you all.
Beth and Claver were high school classmates in Baguio City, Philippines. Nobody knew among their friends that Claver always had a crush on her. He loved her lady-like and demure ways — the way she talked, the way she laughed, and the way she would sit making sure that her skirt doesn’t get creased. He also liked walking behind Beth and her friends because he admired how her skirt swayed as she walked. After high school, she went to Manila to study and later, practice her profession. In 1983, they met again and from then on exchanged letters. In 1984, Claver joined the United States Navy. In 1988, he stopped writing to her.
In 2020, they and their high school friends became active in their messenger chat group. Unknowingly to their friends, Claver and Beth also reconnected outside their high school chat group. Beth learned that Claver married in 1988 and had three children. In 2014, he got divorced, and in 2019, his former wife passed away.
As their friendship was re-kindled, a special relationship bloomed, and Claver expressed once more his love for Beth. Beth realized that now she had a soft spot for him. As the months went by, she was confused at what kind of feeling she had for him. Was it a special friendship? Was it love? Was it pity?
She sought help from another former Columban lay missionary and a trained psychologist who journeyed with her until she realized that life without Claver was no longer an option. Despite this, Claver and Beth both prayed for God’s will to reign. God answered their prayers through affirmations from their family and friends.
But one of the significant conversations she had during this time was that with the Lord. She listened prayerfully to what God said to her, “I allowed you to do, to be and live the life that you wanted — to become a nun, and to be a Columban lay missionary. But now, you need to listen to me. I want you to spend the rest of your life with Claver.” It was a conversation that she will never forget.
On that bright and cool December 15 morning, Beth and Claver made their vows to each other in front of God and their loved ones at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Baguio City. More than just a covenant with Christ in the center, it was also a testament of God’s faithfulness and love for them. It was very meaningful how God was telling us that it is He alone who writes our story, whatever or however many our plans are, it is still His purpose that prevails.
The ceremony was also a funny one especially when the priest declared them man and wife. Everyone was at a standstill in eager and joyful anticipation for their first kiss as husband and wife. His first attempt was not successful since she was shy and tried to shield herself from him using her arms and elbows. The second and third attempts also failed because she averted her face to avoid his kiss. He tried several more times until we stopped hoping it will ever happen. But cupid put his bow and arrow to work that when we least expected it, the wedding was finally sealed with their first kiss.
At the reception, the groom’s brother likened the occasion to kairos, God’s appointed time. God allowed them to experience life away from each other and for Claver, the love of another significant other, but in God’s perfect time He led them to find their way towards each other again. He said, “That perfect time is what we are celebrating now.”
Finally, Claver and Beth are with the love of their lives.
Columban lay missionary Mavic Mercene lives and works in the Philippines.