Catholics across archdiocese to celebrate World Marriage Day
by Katie Hyde
Special to The Leaven
It was a bitterly cold, gray February morning when the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas celebrated World Marriage Day for the first time. Snow flurries whipped around the Cathedral of St. Peter as Deacon Tony Zimmerman, lead consultant for the archdiocesan office of marriage and family life, prepared to walk into the cathedral. As he looked up at the thick, snow-laden sky, he worried that Mass turnout would be low.
He couldn’t have been more wrong.
The cathedral was absolutely packed.
“They came, young and old,” said Deacon Zimmerman. “One couple who had married not that long ago — she wore her wedding dress and he wore his suit. We had a Mass and we celebrated the gift of matrimony. It was a real celebration of the beauty of marriage.”
Since that first celebration four years ago, Catholic couples across the archdiocese have gathered every year on the second Sunday of February to celebrate their commitment to God and to one another.
This year, World Marriage Day will be celebrated at Masses the weekend of Feb. 10. There will also be an archdiocesan- wide event with the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph on Feb. 10 at the Cathedral of St. Peter at 2:30 p.m., celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
In 1985, Worldwide Marriage Encounter, a group that organizes marriage enrichment weekends for couples, began encouraging a celebration of marriage on the second Sunday of February. The day received the apostolic blessing of Pope John Paul II in 1993 and now is celebrated across the United States and in several other countries.
The celebration came to Kansas City four years ago when Deacon Zimmerman and his wife Barbara approached Bishop Robert Finn and requested a Mass to celebrate marriage.
“Barbara and I went to Bishop Finn and said, ‘Look, we have one reason we want to promote this, and that is that couples are not really aware of the importance of their marriage to the church and to the world,’” Deacon Zimmerman said.
According to Deacon Zimmerman, the messages embodied in World Marriage Day come at an important time in history, as many people are losing faith in “the perfect marriage.” World Marriage Day challenges people’s doubts by gathering couples as a testimony to real, loving marriages.
“If you know a couple that has a strong marriage and you see the gentleness and the selflessness, the acts of kindness that they show to one another, the way that they look at each other, the way that they are with one another, you see how much they mean to one another and love one another,” said Deacon Zimmerman.
“If you’re not married, you say, ‘If I marry, I hope it’s that way,’ and if you are married, you say, ‘Are we that way? If we’re not, we should be,’” he added.
In a culture in which fewer and fewer people are choosing to marry, this day is a testimony to the happiness and love that comes out of marriage.
“It gives real hope to the world,” he said.
World Marriage Day is not the only event designed to help Catholics strengthen their marriages.
The archdiocese has launched several new initiatives recently to help Catholic couples, including the “Living in Love” marriage enrichment retreat, a weekend program to help couples rediscover their marriages and reconnect with one another. Over 100 couples have attended the retreat, according to Deacon Zimmerman, with great success.
“Whether your marriage is just great or things are a bit stale, this retreat is a great opportunity,” he said. “We’ve had some couples married 50 or 60 years, and we have some just married a few years. Everyone has something to gain from it.”
Brad and Libby DuPont, who both work as consultants for the archdiocesan office of marriage and family life, are one success story of the program.
“You know, Libby and I thought our marriage was great,” Brad said. “We’d been married very happily for nine years. But we learned that our marriage could be even better in ways we didn’t imagine.”
Amid the busy lives that so many of us lead these days, said Deacon Zimmerman, it’s important for couples to take time to nourish their marriages, even in small ways.
“Particularly in this year of the Faith Initiative, we’ve seen the archbishop at the very beginning urging couples, ‘Do something for your marriage,’” said Deacon Zimmerman, “because we take our marriages very much for granted, and it’s normal. What happens is you get up, you try to get kids off to school, you try to get yourself to work, you go crazy all day, you come home, then you’ve got dinner, you’ve got bills, you’ve got this, you’ve got that, and then the next day you wake up and get back on that treadmill.”
He compares working on marriage to working out: Each needs attention, dedication, and patience.
“You know, a lot of people are really rigorous about working out three times a week,” he said. “Some diet, some exercise, some do all sorts of things. But we need to realize that in marriage, two people become one body. We need to take care of that body in just the same way.”