It had been a long Thursday, and Brooke Paris couldn’t wait to take off her heels, peel off her contacts and wipe off her make-up. She changed into her pajamas, climbed into bed and opened her MacBook to the pope’s new apostolic exhortation. “Amoris Laetitia” was released two weeks after Brooke’s high-school sweetheart, Timothy Foley, had dropped on bended knee in Mary’s Garden, the grounds behind the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC.
As he proposed the sunset lit the flowering crabapple trees with a soft glow, and a fountain trickled behind them. It was the most easy, joyful yes of her life – and it was rooted in a relationship that felt ordained by God. But since that idyllic moment last month, the soon-to-be college graduate had managed to squeeze in just enough wedding-related activity to make her dizzy. She’d bought The Southern Weddings Planner, ordered sample wedding invitations and conducted a midnight Google into pricing of a couple reception venues. She had doubled over from the sticker shock. So she took a deep breath and began scrolling through Pope Francis’ 264-page document. Within five minutes Brooke found herself in chapter six, in a section titled “Preparing engaged couples for marriage,” arrested by these words: “Here let me say a word to fiancés. Have the courage to be different. Don’t let yourselves get swallowed up by a society of consumption and empty appearances. What is important is the love you share, strengthened and sanctified by grace. You are capable of opting for a more modest and simple celebration in which love takes precedence over everything else.”