BRISTOL — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated Mass for World Marriage Day at St. Mary of the Annunciation in Bristol on Saturday, Feb. 2.
“It’s a pleasure to be back here at St. Mary’s in Bristol. It’s so beautiful, especially in the snow!” Bishop Rhoades said. He added his thanks to the organizers from the World Wide Marriage Encounter group for inviting him.
The bishop offered up prayers for “strength of marriage in our country and society, and I ask God’s special blessing upon all the married couples here and around the world.”
Bishop Rhoades also shared with the congregation that Bishop John M. D’Arcy’s, bishop emeritus, 56th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthoos was that day.
World Wide Marriage Encounter is a marriage enrichment program with the emphasis on communication between husband and wife offering a unique approach aimed at revitalizing Christian marriage.
A young priest in Spain, Father Gabriel Calvo began the program in 1952 when he started offering conferences for married couples. In 1967 a couple and a priest presented the weekend to seven couples and four priests at the University of Notre Dame. By the summer of 1968, 50 couples and 29 priests were presenting weekends all over the U.S.
During his homily, Bishop Rhoades said he was delighted that the second reading was St. Paul’s hymn to charity in the first letter to the Corinthians — “perfect for World Marriage Day. It is the most popular reading chosen by couples for their wedding ceremonies.”
The bishop said to fully grasp the meaning of St. Paul’s hymn to love, we must look at the original Greek used — there are several words for love in Greek.
Bishop Rhoades told the congregation that he didn’t learn the Greek in seminary but instead learned it as a teen from Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
“It was late 1960s, early ‘70s and I was watching one of his TV shows and he spoke of each of the forms of love,” he said.
“Eros” is romantic or sexual love, “philia” means the love of friendship “brotherly love,” “storge” is parental love, and, lastly, “agape” is the love that Paul is speaking of. Agape means a totally benevolent love, one not tainted by selfishness.
“It is love just for the sake of loving, not seeking any reward or return of the love. The other kinds of love can seek a return or can be tainted by selfishness. It is the word the New Testament uses for God’s love for us, the love that is seen and revealed in Jesus’ self-gift on the cross.”
“When one thinks of St. Paul’s description of agape love, one may think it is extremely idealistic. All the traits of love listed by St. Paul are seen in Jesus. So to take on those traits is to imitate Christ, to become more like Him. We shouldn’t consider St. Paul’s description of love as so idealistic that it is beyond us, but it is not something we can attain on our own power,” he said. “Agape love is God’s gift to us. How else could we love our enemies as Jesus commands us?”
“If you love someone with agape, you will never cease to love them. That is why the Church seals a couple’s love with Christ’s Divine love (agape love) in the sacrament of Marriage. With this love, we experience the peace of Jesus at the deepest level of our souls. This is divine love. It doesn’t destroy romantic or friendship love, but it purifies, protects and empowers these human forms of love.”
The bishop thanked the married couples present and reminded them that it is important that they renew the “yes” of their wedding every day, relying on the strength that comes from the sacrament.
“The vocation to love is a wonderful thing, the only force that can truly transform the world. Your family becomes a true domestic Church when Christ is at the center of your marriage and when His love animates your relationship,” Bishop Rhoades said.
After the Mass the bishop joined about 30 couples at Das Dutchman Essenhaus for dinner. Two of those couples were Steve and Jan Zavodny, parishioners at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Fort Wayne, and Tony and Janine Brown of St. Joseph Parish in Fort Wayne.
The Browns have been involved in Worldwide Marriage Encounter since 1996, “and it was truly life-changing experience,” Tony said. The Browns are presenters and are training the Zavodnys to be presenters, too.
The Zavodnys have been involved since 1998 and wish “to try and help couples enrich their marriages — you can always make a good marriage better,” Jan said.
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