By Natashya Fernandez
Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe invites nearly 150 married couples to let the message of Christ completely fill our lives.
One hundred and forty-four couples have last weekend joined together in celebrating their wedding anniversary at the 2017 Annual Marriage Day Mass on Saturday 12 August at St Mary’s Cathedral Perth.
All couples celebrating a significant anniversary this year, specifically 25, 30, 40, 50, 60 and 70 received a certificate to commemorate the special milestone in their marriage.
The Mass was celebrated by Archbishop of Perth Timothy Costelloe SDB together with priests from the Archdiocese of Perth.
Director of Catholic Marriage & Fertility Services, Mr Derek Boylen said that the Mass is a time to celebrate the contribution the sacrament of Marriage makes to the church, the community and society.
“This year, the combined total years of married life experience comes to about 5800. A third of them have been married for 50 or more years,” Mr Boylen said.
While the event has grown over the years, Mr Boylen said that the Mass was initially run by the Knights of the Southern Cross and the Australian Family Association but recently Catholic Marriage and Fertility Services have helped with the organising and planning of it.
“Each year we have grown bigger and bigger and this year the longest married couple celebrating today are married for over 70 years.
“The work of the agency is to support and promote marriage and family life, and I think this is one way as a whole Church and archdiocesan community, we can really celebrate the sanctity and dignity of marriage,” Mr Boylen said.
Archbishop Costelloe welcomed all the couples to the Saturday service and said that despite the cold weather, he was happy to see so many couples coming together to celebrate the wonderful gift of the Sacrament of Marriage to the Church and society.
“Some of you are celebrating particular anniversaries and all of you have come here to celebrate your marriages and the wonderful gift that the Lord has given to us all.
“In our opening hymn, we are summoned out to seek first the kingdom of God, and at the heart of every Christian marriage is this search for the kingdom of God, particularly in the day-to-day reality of your lives,” he added.
While he reflected on the readings for the Mass, he said that he was fascinated by the fact that those who chose the readings decided to use the same readings which were used for the celebration of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop.
“It is a powerful reminder to me that in a very real sense, every one of us shares the same vocation, whether we are clergy, or religious or married people or single people.
“Every one of us is called, in the words of the first reading, to ‘let the message of Christ completely fill our lives’. We are all called to ‘sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God’. And the challenge for all of us is, as the Gospel today puts it, to ‘put God’s work first and do what he wants’”, he added.
The Archbishop continued saying that as we celebrate one of these special vocations, the call to Christian marriage is important for us to ask just what it is that the Sacrament of Marriage, and the living sacrament of married people, is keeping alive for the good of the whole Church.
“Saint Paul answers this question when he tells us that Christian marriage is a sacrament of Christ’s love for his Church.
“Quoting from the Book of Genesis, St Paul says that ‘a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is a profound one’, St Paul goes on to say, ‘and I am saying that it refers to Christ and his Church’.”
He adds that while this must be both a daunting and inspiring thought for married couples; in their lives together, through all the joys and tribulations, a married couple is, for the whole Church, a living sign of the fidelity to which they are all called and are an expression of the unbreakable bond which exists between the Lord and them, between Christ and his Church.
“The love which you have for each other, and which has held you together sometimes for many, many decades, shares in and reveals at least to some extent, the nature of the love that Christ has for us, and the nature of the love we are being invited to offer to him.
“There can hardly be a vocation in the Church of greater dignity and importance than this. Just as religious men and women who take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience are living reminders that these are qualities every Christian is called to bring alive in his or her life.
Married people, in and through the power of their love for each other, are meant to be together, for the whole Church, living and powerful reminders of Christ’s unbreakable love for and fidelity to each of us individually and to all of us together as his Church,” the Archbishop said.
“At this time in our history, when the very foundations of our understanding of marriage are called into question by so many in our society, the witness of fidelity, of forgiveness, of commitment and re-commitment, which tells the story of the lives of all who are gathered here in the Cathedral this morning, becomes our best and most powerful answer to the challenges Christian marriage is facing.
“Thank you for your presence here today, thank you for your witness and your fidelity, thank you for being a living sign of the unbreakable and unswerving communion between Christ and his Church,” the Archbishop concluded.