What I Have Seen and Heard
Published: August 18, 2005
Several couples that I have known for all of my years as a Priest are observing their 50th wedding anniversaries during the coming year. I have been asked to celebrate the Masses at which they will renew their marriage vows. They invited me, not because I am now an Archbishop, but because I have been and remain a family friend for more than three decades. One of these couples now lives here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Others are dear friends from the Archdiocese of Chicago. Thinking of them has caused me to reflect on the fact that good marriages, secure unions, loving promises really do happen in our own times and that all of the media images of broken unions are not the way that every marriage concludes. I can write that because as I have said before I grew up in a single parent home and I know how good, compassionate and loving divorced people can be and are. Nonetheless, we do need to rejoice with folks who “make it over the long haul!”
Reflecting on the golden jubilees of folks that I have known for more than 32 years also reminds me that I am also growing old—what a grace! I met most of those couples when they were parenting teenagers that I knew and served as a young deacon and priest. The teen programs in the parishes where I served were magnets for kids who felt close to the Church and most of whom now themselves remain active in the practice of their Catholic Faith. Those children are now themselves the parents of teenagers—God does have a great sense of humor! Where have the years gone?
When I met those couples they had been married for 17 or 18 years, no longer newlyweds, but clearly not yet having endured the many challenges that they have come to face in life. To have known them then and maintained a friendship with them throughout the years reminded me of the gift of fidelity and endurance. Those couples, like all couples that reach significant anniversaries, would place their good fortune at the feet of Christ, who has blessed their marriages and families.
It’s interesting to listen to the questions that are regularly placed before couples who observe their 50th or 60th wedding anniversaries. Often they are asked what is the secret to their longevity. Each person has his or her own secrets for longevity in their marriage. Faith has to play an important role since almost every spouse admits that they could not have done it alone.
When I celebrate those Masses for my friends during the next year, I will join them and their children and grandchildren in giving thanks for the grace of God, who has sustained them as a couple and as a family. Next year, I would like to celebrate an Archdiocesan Mass for all of the couples who will observe their 50th or 60th anniversaries so that we as a community of Faith can give thanks and praise to God for providing such wonderful examples of fidelity in our midst.
Happy anniversary to all of those people in our Catholic Faith community who are celebrating wedding anniversaries—no matter what the number might be. You provide us with great examples of how God is present in your lives and within our Church.