Tuesday, February 4, 2020
Priscilla A. Greear - Florida Catholic
MIAMI | About 150 couples — including over 20 celebrating at least 50 years of matrimony — gathered with Archbishop Thomas Wenski to celebrate the cross and crown of sacramental love during this year’s Wedding Anniversary Mass.
Couples married one, 25 or 50 or more years, supported by families and friends, stood to renew their commitment to each other publicly, with the longest married couple marking 70 years. Inside St. Mary Cathedral, music and Scripture mellifluously shifted between English and Creole, Spanish and Latin during the Jan. 25 liturgy that preceded National Marriage Week, Feb. 7-14.
Aura and Victor Ordonez, members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Doral, were celebrating their 25th anniversary, having dated in high school in Managua, Nicaragua, and married in college. They’ve grown up together and passed on their Catholic values to their son and daughter.
“In my case, faith has taught me the value of family and the importance of God as a main part of our lives. I've learned that a family of God is naturally a better family; we are strongly united and of course blessed,” said Victor.
He said he and his wife married “when we were very young, just in our early 20s, and reaching our 25th anniversary has been a lovely accomplishment for ourselves and our kids. What a better way to celebrate it but by renewing our vows in the house of God.”
Aura Ordonez spoke about the importance of communication. “Sometimes you agree and sometimes you don’t. As long as you discuss things related to your family you move forward,” she said.
In his homily, the archbishop affirmed marriage as a reflection of God’s love.
“Your lived commitment to each other, ‘for better or for worse,’ allows us to see the depth and the beauty of love brought to full maturity; we can see that mature love knows true freedom because it is committed. Because married love is true sharing in Jesus’ own vocation, married love, in imaging the love of Christ for his bride the Church, is a love tried and purified in the crucible of suffering and sacrifice.”
He said that the vocations crisis also affects the number of those willing to assume the risks of marriage, citing statistics that less than half of U.S. households comprise married couples.
But in marriage they can face challenges together, he said, recalling the golden words cited by Pope Francis: please, thank you and sorry. The archbishop quoted Tolstoy in “Anna Karenina” that while “happy families are alike, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
“In other words, there are many ways to go wrong; but the one way to go right is the way of love,” Archbishop Wenski said. “Marriage lived in the Lord, marriage lived by the Lord, and marriage lived for the Lord, is a true vocation, a vocation that radiates the light of Christ, the light of the Gospel.”
Michelle and Enrique Chaverry happily received a blessing for their five-year marriage. They became friends at work, dated and later broke up. Enrique had been hesitant to remarry after divorce, but Michelle told him, “if we’re going to be together, we have to get married.”
A native of Jamaica, Michelle Chaverry reflected on the importance of respect, acceptance and compromise.
“You have a bad day and you can relax and not be criticized; the togetherness (of) knowing there is somebody who really loves you and you can return that love to,” she said. “You always want to keep praying for a strong union, a strong marriage, because you never know what could happen. You keep these lines of communication open and ask the Lord to help you stay committed to your marriage.”
Cuba natives Jose and Dulce Casanovas were celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary, expressing their gratitude to God and the United States.
“We both came from practicing Catholic families and the Mass was very special to me,” said Jose, adding that they had also marked their 50th anniversary at the annual liturgy five years ago.
Upon meeting, he asked his future wife to help him improve his English, as both planned to flee communism. He also invited himself to join her when she volunteered as a catechist on the outskirts of Havana — admitting now that neither grammatical perfection nor catechesis were his highest priorities.
Initially friends, they migrated to Miami in 1961 without even a penny and married in 1964. Their faith sustained them.
“It took a lot of patience and understanding each other and God’s will. We began to participate in the Christian Family Movement, Cursillo and Emmaus. That really helped,” said Dulce Casanova. “Because without God’s help we wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
Natividad Rodriguez, of Little Flower Church in Hollywood, was marking 56 years of “very good marriage” with her husband, Luis. She thanked the archdiocese for hosting the Mass and said she also asked for renewed strength to care for Luis in his illness.
“I’m happy in my life because I’ve had my husband all my life. I feel a little sad because my husband is sick. I’m not happy but it’s something God gives me, the chance to take care of him,” said the Colombia native. “My God is good and every second he helps me and tells me the way I have to go. It was a time to recommit to my marriage.”
Adriana Perez, archdiocesan coordinator of marriage ministries, said afterwards, “In spite of all the talk about decline in marriage there are many people very committed to marriage and the archdiocese is committed to strengthening those who are already married. And we’re working very hard to strengthen the program for marriage preparation.”