A gut-wrenching story of faith, love, humor

Matt Weber’s wedding day didn’t turn out quite like he thought it would. Yes, the church ceremony and reception far exceeded his childhood daydream to have a ceremony as splendid as when Miss Piggy married Kermit the Frog, but it was the wedding night that caught him by surprise.

While his bride was sleeping, Weber was throwing up into an ice bucket.

It was the worst so far of the “stomach aches” that he’d been experiencing, and the beginning of much worse that was yet to come. Even the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica, where they spent their honeymoon, was a foreshadowing of rumblings and eruptions, he later wrote in his new book, “Operating on Faith: A Painfully True Love Story.”

In October 2012, less than three months after Weber said, “I do,” his stomach ruptured in an emergency that required life-saving surgery. It dramatically altered his life in ways that affected his relationship with God, his wife, Nell, his body and the world, he said.

“You can pull some goodness out of any negative experience,” Weber told Our Sunday Visitor, adding that no, he can’t say that he’s glad that everything happened the way it did. Rather, from out of that dark cloud and the painful journey of recovery, setbacks and asking, “Why me, God?” he discovered just how strong he was, and that God and the people he loved never left his side.

He almost didn’t see that storyline when he turned in his manuscript of Job-like suffering with humor. Then Joe Durepos, editor at Loyola Press, told him, “You know, Matt, this isn’t just a tragedy. I think you have a very special love story.”

So the book evolved into binding together the love of God, the Sacrament of Marriage and the all-pervasive commitment of vows that was so soon challenged with the part about “in sickness and in health.”

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Matt and Nell Weber  Courtesy photo

Weber, 32, is the director of digital communications strategy at Harvard University (his alma mater) in Boston. He’s a humorist, speaker, host of the CatholicTV show “The Lens,” and author of “Fearing the Stigmata” (Loyola Press, $13.95), a humorous book about wanting to be holy, but not holy enough to receive the wounds of Christ. CBS News called him the “voice of a new generation of Catholics.”

Weber calls “Operating on Faith” a 35,000-word prayer.

“The whole process of writing it was a funny, spiritual memoir,” he said. “The book gave me an opportunity to find deeper meaning in this experience. I was mad at God and mad at the world and really feeling sorry for myself; woe is me. It was a time of misery. It was the first time when I would need to examine my faith and renew my relationship with God, which is now so much stronger.”

The book also is a 35,000-word thank-you note to Nell.

“I wanted to be a good husband. I wanted this first year to be a good honeymoon period,” Weber said. “I wasn’t the easiest person to love, and it’s hard to love someone who is unlovable. The experience showed me how much my wife loves me.”

Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.

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