By John Heuertz
Special to The Catholic Key
KANSAS CITY , KAN. — Married couples and well-wishers from both sides of the state line joined to celebrate the fourth annual Worldwide Marriage Day Mass and Celebration with Kansas City, Kansas Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann Sunday afternoon at St. Peter’s Cathedral.
The Mass is always said on the second Sunday in February, and it’s been a joint project of the Kansas City – St. Joseph diocese and the KCK Archdiocese since a fateful conversation Deacon Tony Zimmerman of St. Therese parish and his wife had with their bishop four years ago.
“I had read something from one of the bishops in Ireland that people don’t realize marriage isn’t just about them and their family,” he said. “They have to be told by their shepherds that it’s also important for the nation and the world.”
The deacon and his wife approached Bishop Finn, convinced that World Marriage Day could benefit married people in the whole area, and it became a joint project from the start.
This year the Archdiocese sponsored the event, and Archbishop Naumann elaborated on two or three key points in his homily.
He taught that God gives every human a vocation, and that the vocation of marriage is critical.
The archbishop also reiterated the Irish bishops’ teaching about the importance of marriage in the larger world. “Everything is built on family, which is built on marriage,” he said.
God in His mercy extends His hand in friendship to all married people. But going the other way, “there is a difference in how Catholics see marriage.”
“Secular culture sees people choosing each other in a marriage. Christians see God calling people to heroic love for another person for a lifetime in marriage.”
“If marriage is a calling from God, it’s something you can’t revoke.”
“World Marriage Day exists because it’s important to celebrate and honor the gift that God has given humanity in the sacrament of marriage,” said Brad DuPont, a consultant in the Office of Marriage and Family Life in the Archdiocese. “It’s to thank God for the gift of marriage.”
“But it’s also to recognize marriage and celebrate it as a pillar of society and to strengthen married couples in their married love.”
Part of Worldwide Marriage Day is finding the couple in every state that has been married the longest. In the Archdiocese, this couple is Clarence and Billie Trageser of Queen of the Holy Rosary parish in Wea, who have been married for 70 years.
Dean and Naomi Jackson of North Kansas City, Mo. were presented an award at Sunday’s Mass for their 66 years of marriage in Missouri. Dean Jackson explained how he and his wife did it: by doing everything together, by never having money problems due to a simple lifestyle, “and by our faith in God.”
Most parishes honor couples married fifty years or more. “But a lot of marriages fail in three or four years now, and many young couples no longer believe that a lifelong committed marriage is still possible,” Deacon Zimmerman said. “They see broken marriages everywhere they look.”
Thus, couples that share an enduring, joy-filled marriage are important as role models.
“What I liked best about the Archbishop’s homily was when he told us how important the marriage vocation is,” said Deanna Halligan of Ottawa. “Ken and I can be good role models for others.”
“When you come to church you can see other couples who understand how important marriages are,” Deacon Zimmerman said. “You can see other couples trying to do what you do.”
“Christian marriage as we understand it from St. Paul in Ephesians is that the married couple is a sign of Christ’s love for the Church. The little acts of kindness they do for one another every day are acts of heroic love.”
“It’s like St. Thérèse’s Little Way. They show what Christ’s love for the Church and for us is all about.”