By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY | Published August 19, 2010 | En Español
During the course of each year, the Archdiocese of Atlanta hosts several events to commemorate special anniversary occasions. We begin the year each February with the annual vespers and supper for those in consecrated life, when we recognize our religious men and women who have reached a significant milestone within their religious communities. Later in the year, we then pause to celebrate the special jubilees of our priests in the spring.
Since becoming the Archbishop, I have established the tradition of bringing together the couples in our diocese observing their 50th or 60th wedding jubilees for a celebration of that blessed event during the fall. Remarkable moments deserve a special pause to praise God for His goodness and to celebrate the accomplishments of people’s fidelity to the promises made in their youth and then lived faithfully over a lifetime.
It is increasingly important to hold up those folks who have lived their vocational commitments—certainly not without mistakes, challenges and failures—but with fidelity and steadfastness. We all know many wonderful people whose marriages or religious promises have not endured. And we love them nonetheless. However, in our society we also must hold up examples of people who have succeeded in fulfilling their commitments. The message that society too often promotes is that if something breaks or is difficult or perhaps simply changes, then we can abandon it for something else.
This message is a way of life that our youngsters absorb in countless ways. Today many products are actually manufactured with obsolescence in mind. Computers, telephones, even automobiles are intended to last only a few years. How often have we discovered that it is cheaper to replace a product than to try to fix it—if replacement parts are actually even available? Those messages do not go unheeded by our young people. For too many of our youngsters, human relationships are just as temporary in nature as are the products that they jettison without compunction.
We need to hold up examples of fidelity for today’s youth to consider not as bizarre or strange or odd, but as the way that God’s love for us endures throughout all of our lives. Marriage and religious vows are relationships that are intended to mirror and witness to God’s perfect fidelity and enduring love.
During the past several weeks, I have had occasion to witness the profound impact that the public example of enduring human love has on people. Recently, I celebrated the funeral Mass of a wonderful husband and father whom I have known for almost 39 years. He and his wife had celebrated 55 years of married family love. They endured their ups and downs, and I am certain had more than a few tears and exchanged harsh words and got angry with one another. But the glory of their 55 years of married love stands as a reflection of how God’s love is even more lasting and constant.
At a wedding rehearsal ceremony earlier this month, when the teenage younger brother of the groom heard the words of the wedding vows to be exchanged the next day and that phrase all the days of my life—the youngster gulped at the finality of those promises. I am glad that this youngster heard and understood—perhaps for the first time—what marriage really means for a man and woman entering into a loving married relationship that is intended to last all the days of their lives. While he had no doubt heard those same words before or even studied them in his religion classes or listened to them at other wedding ceremonies—when his older brother spoke them—they took on a profound new meaning for him. May all who live their vocational promises find the grace to be faithful and courageous as they provide a splendid counter-statement to the values that our society promotes and offers to our world.