Wedding Anniversary Jubilee turns 50

September 4, 2012

They come from all walks of life, from top executives to those who always worked with their hands. The years weigh heavily on some, and they move with halting gait, with canes or walkers or wheelchairs, while others still walk with a spring in their step. A glance reveals that their ethnic roots are diverse — from East or West Europe, Pacific islands, from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Africa, India, Vietnam and other nations of the Far East. The first language of many is not English. 

The one thing they all have in common is that 50 years ago, or 25, they stood at the altar with their beloved to pronounce a blessed and holy promise of themselves as a gift to one another, exclusively, until death do part. Even though 50 years have passed, in their memories it is as vivid as if they had taken that fateful step a year ago. 

Though different, they have in common that they bring the image of God Himself. Blessed John Paul II remarked that, while taking nothing from the fact that each individual person is an image of God, the one-flesh union of husband and wife forms a unique image of God in the Trinitarian love relationship, a love which is free, total, faithful and fruitful forever. Each of the Jubilee couples, in their own way, is a sacramental sign of this reality. While they became that sign 25 or 50 years ago, now that sign is all the more telling, all the more believable, all the more compelling because the years of ups and downs, joys and sorrows, trials and triumphs make the "forever" of God's love so very real.

On Sept. 16 at 3 p.m. the whole local Church will join Daniel Cardinal DiNardo in honoring these veterans of family life, with a Mass and reception at the George R. Brown Convention Center. In the past, the Jubilee celebration has taken place in two or three installments due to space limitations. But this year the celebration is even more special. It is the 50th annual Wedding Anniversary Jubilee, so everyone is celebrating together. The first honorees of this traditional celebration were married in 1913!

With a tear, our jubilarians recall how little they knew of what their wedding promises would bring. Little did they realize the many big and little surprises of family life — of children born and lost, the pain of overcoming selfish habits for the sake of marriage and family, the joys of seeing their family grow and learning to cooperate with God's grace to keep it all together. 

The wise eyes of the 50th jubilarians regard those married 25 years ago, and smile inwardly at the secret these "youngsters" are about to learn — that the first 25 years are the hardest, and that perseverance brings the reward of a more mellow and comfortable relationship. 

The magic moment comes when all the jubilee celebrants stand with husband facing wife, she looking intently into his eyes and he taking her hands into his. Led by the cardinal, all the couples renew the sacred promises — but now with deeper knowledge and gratitude than ever before. Their eyes overflow with the depth of the meaning of those familiar, yet ever radical promises, "...for richer, for poorer sickness and in health ...until death do us part!"

Joe DeVet is the Consultant for Natural Family Planning for the Archdiocesan Office of Family Life Ministry.