TOGETHER FOR LIFE
If the Bible is the all time best selling book year after year in the publishing business, I would be willing to wager that the tiny booklet entitled TOGETHER FOR LIFE, written years ago by Syracuse diocesan priest, Monsignor Joseph Champlin is the best seller among Catholics. Used by practically every engaged couple preparing for marriage, this compendium of the possible readings one might choose to be proclaimed at ones’ wedding, the choices of prayers, prefaces, nuptial blessings (a few of which are very sexist) and prayers over the couples allow those approaching the sacrament to plan almost every last detail of their liturgical ceremony with greater ease I often say than planning the reception, the honeymoon, the rehearsal dinner, etc.
On Sunday in our Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle, about 358 couples from 60 of our parishes came to celebrate twenty-five and fifty or more years of marriage – truly together for life. There was an abundance of joy in that Church on Sunday for what was basically a simple Sunday Liturgy with a renewal of marriage vows thrown in for good measure. All total there were some 17, 793 years of successful married life there staring each other in the face, looking at one another and holding right hands, repeating the words of many years ago.
Two couples were celebrating special milestones: one their seventy-first anniversary and the second their seventy-second anniversary. John and Mary Kampschroer, originally from Wisconsin and from our St. Thomas Aquinas parish in New Port Richey, were present for their 71st anniversary. Normally, that would have taken the proverbial “cake” and they would have walked off with first prize.
However, Toan and Chai Nguyen, a Vietnamese couple who could speak no English, dressed in traditional Vietnamese clothes, have been married 72 years, tying the knot in their native Vietnam on November 11, 1940. Their marriage brought 12 children into the world who have given them 54 grandchildren, who have given them 57 great-grandchildren. They are from our St. Thomas the Apostle parish in Homasassa. Together for life and not in the most easy of circumstances either.
The Gospel today spoke of the incredible power of “touch” when Jesus touched the leper and healed him even though to do so was against the law and anyone caught doing it was immediately considered unclean themselves. I reminded our jubilarians how important that gift of touch most likely was in their married lives and how it too healed at extremely difficult moments. An embrace when a child dies, a kiss to end a brief spat, a hug when one has been aware for days and returns to their spouse. Then I asked them to once again touch one another’s hands and “repeat after me.”
Marriage Jubilee Sunday and the Church’s World Day for Married Couples are among my most pleasant annual duties. It took about as long to stand for pictures following the Mass as did the liturgy before it, but the gratitude of the couples always makes me realize just how much the gift of presence and touch can mean. To each I spoke a “Happy Anniversary” followed by the photographer’s equally automatic, “look this way and smile please.” Together for Life – how sweet it must be!
The number of couples who attended:
59 couples celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary
133 couples celebrating their fiftieth anniversary
88 couples celebrating their 51st through 59th anniversary
76 couples celebrating their 61st through 69th anniversary
1 couple celebrating their 71st anniversary
1 couple celebrating their 72nd anniversary
Tags: Anniversaries, anniversary, Barbara and Bob Owens, Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle, Catholic, Church's World Day for Married Couples, John and Mary Kampschroer, Jubilee, Jubilees, Marriage, Marriage Jubilee Sunday, marriage vows, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Thomas the Apostle, Toan and Chai Nguyen, vows, Wedding