August 18, 2006

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Faithful marriages are a gift for our parish communities

Alverna and Martin Young were faithful parishioners of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral—as faithful and also as generous as any parishioners could ever be.

Over the years, they became familiar friends of mine and, of course, of the Cathedral community as well.

It was as if when they were present, everything would be OK. They brought with them a sense of serenity, and they were never without ready and steady smiles. The amazing thing was that they were a quiet and self-deprecating couple, people who by nature were not at all interested in being noticed. But they stood out in a beautiful way.

Alverna died in early summer. I am told that she was conscious and alert to the end and that, characteristically, she slipped away quietly. Martin is not well, and surely after all these years of marriage, he misses his lovely wife very much. Our cathedral will miss her as well. Alverna deserves to be remembered as part of the cathedral heritage.

Alverna and Martin would tell you that they were simple people who chose to stay in the old neighborhood. They professed a loyalty to their cathedral parish that is not always so common these days.

And they were not only loyal to the cathedral as a parish community. They had an unusually refined understanding of what a cathedral church is about. They loved their pastors, and they were loyal to their archbishops as well. They had an uncharacteristic sense of and regard for the larger Church, beyond the boundaries of their parish.

This couple, though aged and shying away from the limelight, participated actively in the life of the cathedral community, even as the going got tough in recent years. Alverna and Martin kept themselves informed about Church matters, whether it was good news or bad news. Their unwavering faith was edifying and steadying for so many of us who couldn’t help but notice.

They were generous with their time and talent as best as aged folks could be. And they were generous with their treasure as well. They would be ready examples of what it means to live stewardship as a way of life even into old age—and to do so without much fuss.

I especially want to note that Alverna and Martin Young deserve to be remembered because they were living witnesses of faithful love until death parted them. Martin must miss his wife dearly, but I also believe that after all of their years of being together, somehow he senses her presence even now. I know couples like that who have been separated by death, but the spiritual union is still there. I mention this as an encouragement to younger couples.

In early summer, I had the privilege of celebrating the golden wedding anniversary of my brother and sister-in-law. On that occasion, I reflected about how so many things have changed during the last 50 years. So much has changed the last 25 years. There have been remarkable technological improvements that have done a lot to make life more efficient and more comfortable. Think of all the improvements in our homes and schools, even our church buildings. Transportation, communication, health services of all kinds, entertainment and sports; in almost any realm of life we can think of, there have been so many improvements.

What happened to marriage and family life in that same period of time? Our society is trying to cope with almost a 50 percent rate of marriages that don’t work. We worry about latch-key kids and single-parent homes and broken families, not to mention things like child abuse, family drug problems and an almost endless list of worries about marriage and family life.

Faithful marriages like that of Alverna and Martin Young, of my brother and sister-in-law and of so many others of you who enjoy God’s blessing on your marriages, are a gift for our parish communities and our contemporary culture. We must not take these faithful couples for granted. Theirs is a fine witness in these days. And it is a blessing to celebrate them in our parish communities.

Alverna and Martin would be the first to credit God’s grace for their years together because no couple, no matter how deep their love is on the day of their marriage, can make it through the good times and the bad, through sickness and health until death without the grace of God.

Many good things have made life better in the last 50 years. And life has been troubled, too.

But among the good things is the down-to-earth example of faithfully married couples. Their example does more good than all the other developments.

We thank God for the “Alvernas” and “Martins” of our world. †


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