KC bishops, married couples celebrate the gift of marriage

Couples recite together a prayer for their marriages before receiving a blessing from Archbishop Naumann February 11 at the World Marriage Day Mass. (Megan Marley/Key photo)

By Megan Marley

“The future of the Church rests on marriage and family life. The same is true for our society as a whole,” said Bishop James Johnston of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in his World Marriage Day homily on February 11. “That is why treasuring, fostering, supporting, and strengthening marriage and family is a priority for all of us.”

Bishop Johnston and Archbishop Joseph Naumann once again celebrated an annual Mass for World Marriage Day, this year on the Kansas side at Church of the Ascension in Overland Park. Archbishop Naumann was principal celebrant, while Bishop Johnston gave the homily. About 200 persons attended the Mass, which has been a joint project of the Diocese and Archdiocese since 2009.

Sponsored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME), World Marriage Day is a day to honor husband and wife as the foundation of the family, and the beauty of their faithfulness, sacrifice and joy in day-to-day married life. According to the WWME website, the idea of celebrating marriage began in 1981 in Baton Rouge, La., when couples encouraged the mayor, governor and the bishop to proclaim Valentine’s Day as “We Believe in Marriage Day”. The event was later adopted by Worldwide Marriage Encounter’s National Leadership, and in 1983 renamed “World Marriage Day”.

Speaking to married couples in his homily, Bishop Johnston quoted St. John Paul II’s encyclical Familiaris Consortio, explaining the family’s role in the world as a “saved and saving community” at the heart of the Church’s mission. He also shared three key ways married love serves as an important example in the world.

“These are three things of importance today that married love and family life can especially witness to: our lives are not our own, we become extraordinary in the ordinary, and true love is creative,” he said.

Bishop Johnston pointed to the rise of secularism in our society, and explained that when there is an absence of God for Whom we are created to worship, we substitute things as the highest good and are left with the self-centered belief our lives belong utterly to us.

But in marriage, “A man and woman make a total gift of self to the other without condition or reservation. And, the daily duties and events of family life are a constant reminder that one’s life is not one’s own,” Johnston said. “We are made to give ourselves away in imitation of God. Because the old tendency of Adam is still there, and so Christ gives his grace to do this, to give ourselves as gifts through the sacrament of Marriage.”

Bishop Johnston used the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” as an example for his second point.

“The beauty of the film is that, with the help of a guardian angel, George comes to realize just how extraordinary his life really is. In taking care of his wife and their children, and sacrificing his ambitions, his time and himself for others, so many people have been blessed,” he said. “The same is true in every family. Extraordinary things occur there; and you become extraordinary there.”

He continued by saying that Jesus, who was God and man, lived most of his life unknown and in humble conditions. His mother, extraordinary as she was, was a housewife and his father on earth was a handyman-carpenter.

“Marriage and life in the family is so important because this is the place where we learn to be like Jesus…in the everyday events; the joys and the sorrows; the trials and the triumphs; the spills and the scrapes, and the dirty laundry and the meals together; and yes, even in the sins and the forgiveness that follows,” Johnston said.

For his final point that ‘true love is creative’, Bishop Johnston spoke of a documentary he watched of a brain surgeon who was trying to locate where creativity comes from by studying creative persons, like musicians who can improvise music spontaneously.

“While the brain has an important part to play in artistic creativity, God has revealed something very important: that love is ultimately behind creation. And true love, lived out in marriage is ordered toward creating new life,” he said.

Johnston commended the encyclical ‘Humanae Vitae’ for its insights into the unitive and procreative meanings of the marital act, and encouraged couples to embrace the Creator’s design for married love and life.

“At every marriage, the priest says just after the wedding promises of the couple, ‘What God has joined, man must not divide.’ What is true for the couple is also true for the act that expresses that union: love that is ordered to life cannot be divided.

“It is true that the future of humanity passes by way of the family, including your families,” he said. “Thank you for your commitments, thank you for your love, thank you for your witness.”

After Bishop’s homily, Archbishop Naumann led a prayer and said a blessing over the couples present before continuing the Mass. Afterwards, Mass-goers were invited to a social reception in the lower level of the church, hosted by local Worldwide Marriage Encounter leadership.

For more information on Worldwide Marriage Encounter, visit wwme.org. To read the entirety of Bishop Johnston’s homily, visit kcsjcatholic.org/2018/02/world-marriage-day/.


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September 26, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph