The teaching of the Catholic Church on the indissolubility of marriage is vital at a time when the “divine vocation” to married life is facing dramatic challenges, the Bishop of Shrewsbury has said.
In a homily preached at the annual Mass in celebration of marriage and family life, Bishop Mark Davies said that the indissoluble character of Christian marriages was a “gift” which enabled spouses to marry truly for love.
“For Christians, marriage can never be reduced to a social convention open to being broken or refashioned,” said Bishop Davies at the Church of Our Lady and the Apostles, Stockport, on Saturday.
“The grace of this indissoluble bond serves as the guarantee of the permanence of married life in the face of human sin and frailty,” he said.
“It provides security for the protection and education of children; and accords with our human dignity, for being made in God’s image and likeness we are capable of such love and lasting commitment,” he said.
“Married life is your way to holiness,” Bishop Davies told the congregation, most of whom celebrate milestone anniversaries this year.
“The purpose and grace of this Sacrament is to bring you and your children to the complete and everlasting happiness of Heaven,” he said.
“It is because marriage constitutes such a great a good for the family, for human society and for our eternal happiness, that the Church defends this lasting and indissoluble union uncompromisingly in every generation.
“She sometimes has to make a lonely stand for marriage, for she recognises in it not an abstract ideal, but the very grace and truth that have been the foundation of your lives together and the wellbeing of your families.”
Bishop Davies continued: “At a time of dramatic challenge to the divine vocation of marriage, how much we need the beauty and constancy of the Church’s teaching.
“How urgently your own witness is needed to the promises of marriage for the sake of all our contemporaries and of the generations still to come.
“It is the witness of a countless number of lives which give testimony to this vocation to holiness and in the service of the greatest good of their children.
“In and through your married lives, the light of Christ’s wisdom and His unfailing, everlasting love is made manifest in the family, the wider Church and in the whole of human society.”
‘The Church never abandons any soul’
In his homily, Bishop Davies quoted from Amoris Laetitia, the 2016 apostolic exhortation issued by Pope Francis following the Synod of the Family, which was held in Rome in 2014 and 2015, to emphasise marriage as a sacrament through which spouses and their children might obtain sanctification and salvation.
He added: “Pope Francis reminds us that, amid the present crisis of the family, the Church never abandons any soul. She ardently desires to accompany and bring healing to everyone in every situation, however painful.
“Yet, this accompaniment must never compromise our faith in the marriage bond,” Bishop Davies said.
Together, the jubilarians shared about 1,750 years of married life. They included 12 couples celebrating their silver jubilee (25 years), one couple who reached their pearl anniversary (30 years), three who have reached their ruby anniversary (40 years), 15 who are celebrating golden wedding anniversaries (50 years) and five who will be toasting their platinum anniversaries having spent 60 years of married life together.
They were joined by Jim and Fleur Ryan of Altrincham – parishioners of the Church of St Hugh and St John inTimperley, Cheshire – who this year celebrate 63 years of marriage. Also present were Vincent and Molly Mooney (pictured), parishioners of St Mary’s Church, Dukinfield, Tameside, who cut a wedding cake after the event because they were longest-married couple at the event, with a union which has lasted for 67 years.
Eric and Rose Stevenson, parishioners of St Gabriel’s Church, Alsager, Cheshire, who celebrate 69 years of married life, were unable to attend the Mass this year.
Unusually, the jubilarians included two couples celebrating their golden anniversaries along with their children celebrating silver wedding anniversaries.
Golden jubilarians Anthony and Anne Pickersgill, parishioners of St Gabriel’s, attended the Mass with daughter Amy Foster and husband Paul, who also live in the same parish.
David and Magdalen Donlon (sister of Fr Joseph Donlon, now retired), parishioners of St Joseph’s Church, Sale, Cheshire, attended the Mass with daughter Magdalen Rogers and husband Jeremy, parishioners of St Anne’s Church, Nantwich, Cheshire.
Mrs Donlon said it was wonderful to be able to celebrate landmark anniversaries with close members of her family.
“It is extra special,” she said. “Every anniversary is special. Your golden is very special but to have your daughter celebrate her silver at the same time is a great joy.”
The Donlons were also accompanied by niece Justine McEniff and husband Ciaran, parishioners of St Monica’s Church, Appleton, Cheshire, who are celebrating their silver anniversary (pictured above, left to right, are Magdalen, Justine, Ciaran, Jeremy, David and Magdalen).
David and Clara Segura of Manchester, who celebrate their seventh anniversary in October, also attended the Mass with their four children – Juan, Joseph, Isaac and Miriam (pictured below).
(Photographs by Simon Caldwell)