By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY | Published October 10, 2013
It has become one of the happiest events in our Archdiocesan calendar—the 50th and 60th Wedding Anniversary celebration held each fall. Once again, St. Brigid Parish accommodated the affair with their usual very gracious hospitality. After eight years, folks now plan for this celebration as soon as the date is announced, which means that children and grandchildren from out of town can now put this date on their calendars well in advance and travel to be with parents, grandparents and great-grandparents in order to honor them on their special day. People take time to say some truly wonderful things to each other at this moment. One man told me that his wife “makes the entire world beautiful!” A wife told me that her husband “is the reason she gets up each morning.”
Those expressions of affection are an indication that family life is still a fundamental value for people everywhere—even when the media might suggest that time-honored family life is quickly going the way of the dinosaur. The smiles that filled the day came from young and old, as the jubilarians were the center of attention because of their love and fidelity to one another and to all of the members of their families. The day is given over to the gift of being a family, even families that face problems and difficulties—and what family does not? Family life holds the secrets that bring joy to the hearts of people.
I hope that the young people who shared in the day with their grandparents also received the lesson that Pope Francis had spoken to their contemporaries in Assisi the day before our celebration: “Don’t be afraid to marry and start a family!” Their grandparents and great grandparents are living witnesses that true happiness can be founded on such promises of love.
While the event brought lots of smiles and tears of joy, it was also an opportunity for some people to bend the Archbishop’s ear. One lady asked me to help her pastor to become more cordial and available to the people of the parish. “He never stands outside church even to greet people. He just says his Mass and then runs away to hide in the sacristy!”
If I had had my wits about me at that moment, I would have suggested that she urge her pastor just to watch Pope Francis who has won the hearts of people everywhere by simply being available and approachable. His popularity is largely the result of his warmth and accessibility.
Another lady told me to stop using gender-neutral language like “significant other and life-partner!” I was taken by surprise because I had not made any such reference in anything that I had said. She then told me that she was not referring to me, but to so many other situations where such language is used. “I’m a wife and he’s a husband, that’s the way it is!” I assured her that I understood that fact. However, the language of public discourse is not under the direct control of the Archbishop of Atlanta! Moreover, like so many other situations in our contemporary world, the best response to such challenges is to highlight the blessings of marriage and family life as this celebration does so well.
The ministry and witness of Catholic couples who are engaged in helping families to strengthen the bonds of love and unity is the antidote to the language of despair and cultural ambivalence. I am deeply thankful to everyone who helped to make this event another joyful success. I would like to single out the members of Marriage Encounter who have taken on this ceremony as a personal investment and service to our Archdiocesan family.
Since our last celebration of the 50th and 60th Wedding Jubilee Mass and reception, I have had the great honor to preside at several weddings both here in the Archdiocese and elsewhere. The young couples that I encountered have been simply splendid people. Yet in light of our Jubilarians, they are only minor leaguers while the Jubilarians have attained the World Series of Love and Fidelity!