PROVIDENCE — Married couples from throughout the diocese gathered at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul on October 22 to participate in an annual Mass honoring those celebrating milestone anniversaries.
There were 184 couples from 66 parishes in attendance. Of those present, 23 were celebrating their 25th anniversary, 43 were celebrating their 40th anniversary, 51 were celebrating 50 years, and 60 were celebrating more than 50 years of marriage.
Bishop Richard G. Henning was the principal celebrant and was assisted by priests from throughout the diocese.
In his homily, Bishop Henning emphasized how the Christian view on marriage is rooted in the Christian view on the human person.
Beginning with the teaching from Jesus from that Sunday’s Gospel, “Give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give unto God what belongs to God,” the bishop summarized the core meaning of this message in the following way: “If Caesar’s image is on it, it belongs to Caesar; all else belongs to God.”
“Coins belong to Caesar, hearts do not,” Bishop Henning continued. “If the image of Caesar is upon the coin, whose image is upon us? … What do we learn right there at the very outset, in the creation story? That God creates us in the very image and likeness of God. … It is the human heart that is stamped with the image of the Creator.”
It is from humanity’s status as creatures made in God’s image that marriage comes forth, he noted.
“When you came together as man and wife,” Bishop Henning said to a packed cathedral, “you did not do so merely as a civil contract. … This [marriage] is a sacrament that goes all the way to the beginning, to creation itself. For we were made in the image and likeness of God. Male and female he created them. And God gave to Adam and Eve each other as a gift, and a gift through which God’s plan to bring life and goodness would continue.”
“The love we feel, I hope, has an element of romance, even now. But, the love of Christian marriage, the sacrament of marriage, is so much more — it is that Christian summons to imitate Christ,” Bishop Henning said as he concluded his homily.
The bishop then led the couples in the renewal of their marriage vows as they stood and held hands, describing the blessings of marriage and the central role of love in the marital relationship, before processing throughout the cathedral blessing the couples with Holy Water.
A light reception followed in the cathedral hall, during which Bishop Henning took pictures with the couples in attendance.
“I think it was spectacular,” said Domenic DeNardo, a parishioner of St. Mark’s Parish in Cranston, who was celebrating 70 years with his wife Marilyn.
“It was very rewarding to attend something like this.”
When asked what he saw as the biggest lesson he learned from his nearly three quarters of a century of marriage, he simply replied, “Perseverance.”
“It’s a very special day. It’s a very special tribute. It’s wonderful that the diocese does this to recognize those who have been married for so many years,” said Tony Madalone.
Madalone, a parishioner of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in East Greenwich, has been married to his wife Lydia for 60 years. He noted how, with high divorce rates and a general sense of disillusionment concerning marriage, it is good that the diocese is celebrating those who have been in committed relationships for long periods of time.
When asked what the most important part of the marriage relationship is, Lydia Madalone pointed out the need for both partners to take part in a certain amount of give and take.
Kevin Fontaine of Christ the King parish in South Kingstown, attended with Lynne, his wife of 25 years.
“I think today’s events were wonderful. It was something that we’ve been looking forward to for a while,” he said. “It was great to celebrate with others, and to see so many people who have been well beyond 25 years in attendance here.”
“The biggest lesson that we’ve learned is that you need to give all of yourself to the other person. You need to be forgiving and kind, and that you have to put yourself second,” said Kevin, reflecting on what he sees as having been most important in his own marriage.