World Marriage Day Mass celebrates ‘heroic love’

Mark and Gayla Schmitz, parishioners of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Lawrence, take part in the World Marriage Day celebration Feb. 10 at St. Therese Church North in Parkville, Missouri. Married for 13 years, the couple attended the World Marriage Day Mass as part of their Valentine’s Day celebration. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

by Marc and Julie Anderson

PARKVILLE, Mo. — Undaunted courage.

According to Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, that’s one of the essential elements of Christian marriage.

The archbishop served as the homilist at the World Marriage Day Mass celebrated jointly by the archdiocese and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph on Feb. 10 at St. Therese Parish North in Parkville, Missouri. 

Celebrated by Archbishop Naumann and Bishop James Johnston of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, the Mass is held annually to pray for all married couples, but especially for those living in the region. The Mass was just one of many events held Feb. 7-14 to mark National Marriage Week. 

Near the beginning of Mass, Bishop Johnston welcomed everyone present on this day on which “we thank God for the gift of the sacrament of marriage and all the blessings that flow from that into the family and also into the larger family, into the church and into the world.” 

In his homily, Archbishop Naumann discussed the universal call to holiness all Catholics have by virtue of their baptism, but also the particular call to the vocation of Christian marriage. 

“I think sometimes when we speak of vocations, many think immediately of the priesthood or the consecrated religious life, and it’s true enough we need these special vocations of leadership and service within the church,” he said. 

But it doesn’t end there.

“God has a plan and a special mission for each and every member of his church,” he continued. 

Within the universal call to holiness, Archbishop Naumann said many receive a particular vocation such as priesthood or consecrated religious life, while others are called to the vocation of Christian marriage.

“It is indeed a call to heroic love, a very important call,” he said.

Noting there is “a crisis of marriage” within the United States as fewer than half of American adults are married, the archbishop said social scientists studying marriage today paint a bleak picture, indicating women are finding it increasingly difficult to find marriageable men, while many men are disengaged in relationships and addicted to pornography and video games. 

The archbishop also noted it’s become normal for advertisements to promote cohabitation instead of marriage.

“One of the challenges that we face in our culture and in society today,” he said, “is to really renew the family and renew the importance of married love in our culture and society.

“Marriage is the foundation of the family, and the family is truly the foundation of culture and society. Everything depends upon it. And without strong marriages, our families will be impaired.”

Elsewhere, the archbishop said undaunted courage provides couples with the ability to live out their vocations daily, never knowing what is coming next, but trusting in each other and their love, as well as in God.

“Thank you today for your own living out of this beautiful vocation,” he added, “this challenging vocation, this vocation of heroic love that is Christian married life.”

For Mark and Gayla Schmitz, members of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Lawrence, the day brought much joy.

Married for 13 years, the couple said they were pleased to see the church emphasizing the need for strong marriages. 

“I think it’s good the Catholic Church is working hard to promote different marriage enrichment activities to reinforce marriage and family because, as the archbishop said, marriage and families are the foundation of society,” said Gayla.

Mark agreed, and said celebrating strong marriages will help renew society. “And I think this celebration of World Marriage Day is one small way to do that,” he added.

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