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(Editor’s note: While Archbishop Buechlein continues to recover from a stroke, we offer some reprints of his various columns for your enrichment. The following column is from the Oct 3, 2003, issue of The Criterion.)
For most people who were out and about Sunday afternoon a week ago, those out shopping or golfing, for instance, the afternoon pretty much came and went like any other Sunday in September.
Then, as now, in Indianapolis, or in any town or community anywhere in our archdiocese, like anywhere else in the world, there were people, young and old, rich and poor, beautiful and not so beautiful, who were driving around or walking the streets or shopping centers looking for something to do. They were looking for some meaning in their lives. There were—and are—lonely people looking wherever people are for someone who cares.
And if any of these lonely people had happened to walk into SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis that Sunday afternoon, they could have found an answer to their seeking. Every September, one of the most beautiful liturgical events of the year takes place in our cathedral. We celebrate our golden wedding jubilarians, and the cathedral is packed with happy couples, their families and friends.
How did these beautiful couples manage to find a love that could last 50, 60 or 70 years? How could they do this when so many marriages come apart?
When these couples married many years ago, they knew theirs was not just another wedding. And their wedding day was not just another day in 1953 or 1943 or whatever year they were married. They wanted their wedding day to mark their calendars forever. They gave themselves to each other 100 percent or they would no longer be married. And they have lived in the good days and the bad, the days of sickness, perhaps even tragedy, and so they know that their life together was not, is not, and will not become a romantic dream.
The fact that they wanted to be in the cathedral last week tells us that when all is said and done, the meaning of married life together—the meaning of their love for each other and the trust that they have for each other—had to be rooted in God. Their very lives tell us that they have needed God’s blessing on their marriage over and over again.
No one can go it alone through life. And those couples could not go it alone in marriage. I believe they would tell us that the secret to a happy marriage is the commitment to have God as your mutual third partner. Prayer has been a lifeline.
And in the golden years, they know that even now their love needs to be carefully tended and nurtured. No couple’s love on the day of their wedding is enough for a lifetime because love is not static. Love is a decision that grows, and is pruned and tempered by life’s experiences and, yes, it can falter if not re-enforced. How well those jubilarians know that they need God’s blessing for their love.
And to be sure, it is the rare jubilee couple that has not suffered the sadness of the cross, perhaps even tragedy, in their time together. To prepare for that eventuality, Christ graced our Church with the sacrament of matrimony. It is why husband and wife come to have their marriage witnessed and blessed in the Church. In any walk of life, the older we get the more we realize how much we need God.
Trust and faith between wife and husband need constant attention. That is the second reason why our jubilarians sought the blessing of the Church—before family and friends, they promised to help each other build the trust and love they would need all the days of their life together. And last Sunday afternoon they renewed their promise to stand by each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health until death.
I suspect that, through the years, there may have been days when keeping their marriage promises may have seemed like the only measure of their love. Marriage, like all of life, has growing pains. But I bet those challenging times pale compared to their proven love.
Why are our jubilarians so happy? They are wives and husbands who reach out to family and friends. Their prayer together led them to care for their neighbors. Through the years, they cared for the elderly, the poor and the sick.
True love is not just for the husband and wife. That is what we mean when we say marriage is a sacrament of the love of God. God’s love takes flesh and touches others through married love. The key to a happy marriage is to share love with family and neighbors. And we remember that Christ expanded our notion of family and neighbor to include anyone in need.
God bless our jubilarians! †