By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
Couples with long, loving marriages truly serve God, embody Gospel values and fortify sagging cultural expectations, Bishop Kevin J. Farrell told an overflow crowd at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe on Sept. 6.
The message of matrimony as a great gift resounded in his homily as Bishop Farrell celebrated the first annual Diocesan Silver and Gold Mass and blessed the marriages of the more than 215 couples at the Mass that honored their marriages of 25 years, 50 years and 50-plus years.
Bishop Farrell, citing Scripture and Pope Francis, gave heartfelt thanks to the couples as some let fall a joyful tear or two and others demonstrated tenderness when one spouse needed the other’s help with a walker or wheelchair.
“Truly in the world today in which we live, our modern culture needs to see the testimony of so many of you who are here today,” Bishop Farrell said. “These people have been more faithful to God, and have loved God after 50 or 60 or 25 years of marriage, more than I have. You have done much more than I will ever do in my life.”
Applause periodically followed the bishop’s words as he paid tribute to the couples, 94 of whom had marriages of more than 50 years.
The Diocesan Marriage Ministries Office, the Family Life Ministry of the diocese and the Office of Worship sponsored the event.
Bishop Farrell drew laughter when he told of his experience as a newly ordained priest who celebrated a Mass in a small village in Italy for a couple on their 50th wedding anniversary.
“I said to the couple, ‘It must have been like 5 minutes, the 50 years must have gone by like 5 minutes,’ ” Bishop Farrell said. “And that was just a rhetorical statement.”
The bishop said that the hard-working, gruff-voiced husband’s sudden response was: “Yes, Reverend, five minutes—but under water!”
Though happiness filled the cathedral, Bishop Farrell reminded those assembled that marriage faces attacks in contemporary culture.
After the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in June of 2013 that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and refused to rule on the merits of a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reacted in a statement that said, in part: “Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation…
“The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage…
“With renewed purpose, we call upon all of our leaders and the people of this good nation to stand steadfastly together in promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life…”
Bishop Farrell told the couples how much their marriages mattered beyond their specific experiences and families.
“In the culture in which we live today, you are certainly that great gift to the world and to the church today,” he said.
The bishop cited Jesus’ preaching to love one another.
“Our mission on earth is to love God, to serve God,” Bishop Farrell said. “And that, you have done, because the only way that we can truly serve God is by loving and caring for each other…
“You cannot be a good Catholic, you cannot love God and not love your spouse.”
The bishop said that love “…may be like a small seed that’s planted in our hearts. And that small seed one day flourishes into a beautiful flower or into a marriage that is full of joy and happiness and the peace of Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Farrell endorsed Pope Francis’ recent remarks that included the key words for guiding a marriage—“ please, sorry and thank you.”
Those words express love, respect and support, the bishop said.
Younger generations, unfortunately, often opt for “the easy way out” when times get tough, Bishop Farrell said.
He urged the couples to remember the commitment to the sacrament of marriage that they made on their wedding day.
A reception in the Grand Salon followed the Mass and drew hundreds of family members of the couples, who received certificates and crosses.
Many couples pronounced the Mass, the bishop’s homily and the beautifully crafted afternoon as deeply moving and memorable.
Judy Patak fought back her tears as she stood near the cathedral’s altar with her husband, Raymond, after the Mass.
“We got married here, right here in the cathedral,” she said of their wedding 50 years ago. She and her husband are parishioners at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church. “This is such a great tradition.”
Karen and Bryan Collom, parishioners at Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church in Allen, said that the day was particularly special because it celebrated their 25th anniversary and the 56th anniversary of her parents, Rosemary and Bob Madsen, members of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Richardson.
Karen Collom said that it was exciting to have all four of them at the Mass.
“I said, ‘Let’s do this together to celebrate our marriages,’ ” she said. “We were feeling that our 25th anniversary was quite a milestone, but I said to my husband, ‘We’ve got a lot more to go.’ ”
She said that forgiveness and keeping God central remain components of a lasting marriage. Bryan said that communication also is important.
John DeWitt, a parishioner at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, said that the Mass and celebration brought back memories of his first date with Lynn, his wife of 57 years.
“It was a Texas A&M football game against Arkansas in College Station,” said DeWitt, who lettered in basketball, baseball and track at Texas A&M University. “Bishop Farrell’s homily was great. Marriage is to be taken seriously. Everything about this day was extra special.”