They are septuagenarians, octogenarians, nonagenarians --- and, in some cases, younger --- but they are lovebirds all, who come every year to celebrate World Marriage Day Feb. 9 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
And, by their presence and witness, they promote and strengthen the institution and sacrament of Holy Matrimony, one of five pastoral priorities of Archbishop José Gomez.
This year’s participant couple attendance at both the 10 a.m. English Mass and 12:30 p.m. Spanish Mass increased from 2013, with double the participation at the Spanish Mass.
Honored as the longest-married couple among 81 couples attending the World Marriage Day Mass in English were 85-year-old Ralph Guerrero and his wife Mary, 84, who were married at La Placita Church in Los Angeles on Nov. 25, 1951 (62 years plus).
A couple of hours later, nonagenarians Benjamín and Ángela Morán --- married 75 years ago in El Salvador --- were honored as the longest-married among 75 couples at Mass celebrated in Spanish.
They and the other couples celebrating milestone anniversaries this year (starting with 25 years) made real the imagery of “salt and light” in the day’s Gospel reading, as suggested by Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Solis, who presided at both Masses.
Bishop Solis said married couples have a special mission to become the salt of the earth and the light of the world by the way they live their faithful commitment in their married life.
“Today we are here with you in order to ask Our Lord’s continued blessing upon you, your family and our community that you remain committed to your love for one another and to become witnesses of God’s love, hope and service,” said Bishop Solis. Laughter ensued a few minutes later when he joked before leading the participant couples in a renewal of their vows, “Be sure that you’re facing your right spouse.”
Witnessed by family, friends and parishioners, the couples renewed their vows with the words: “I have taken you and take you again as my spouse. I promised to be true to you in good times and bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”
“My dear friends,” said the bishop, “you have renewed your marriage vows before the church. May the Lord in his goodness strengthen your commitment and fill you with his blessings.” Applause broke out when the bishop added, “You are married again; you can kiss one another legally.”
At the conclusion of the liturgy, married couples who had previously registered with the Cathedral were invited to have their photo taken with Bishop Solis in the area behind the crucifix on the altar.
“We’ve always felt that marriage is an important sacrament for us,” said Patrick Gavit, interviewed by The Tidings while standing in the photo line with his wife of 25 years, Marie Ebiner Gavit, parishioners at St. Louise de Marillac in Covina.
“I think it’s important,” Patrick continued, “for society to know just how important the sacrament of marriage is and for us to acknowledge that and to reaffirm that by coming to a Mass like this. It’s really nice and supportive to see all the other happily married couples. That’s very affirming for us.”
“We’ve been married 28 years, and we thought it would be important every year to celebrate at one of the World Marriage Day Masses within the archdiocese,” said Paul Montgomery, attending with his wife, Marisa, parishioners at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Ventura who are local liaisons for Retrouvaille, an organization that teaches communication and conflict management skills to help couples improve their marriage.
Simon Torres, attending with his wife, Dolores, gives a lot of credit to his wife for their happy 25-year marriage, which began with their wedding at their parish, St. Finbar in Burbank. “She’s been the best thing in my life, and I wanted to celebrate here in the church,” said Simon. “Our vows are very important to continue. Hopefully, we’re together, alive and healthy for the 50th.”
Reflecting on his 62-year marriage, Ralph Guerrero --- who serves as a Eucharistic minister along with his wife, Mary, at the Cathedral --- attributes the longevity of their union to their Catholic values.
“Love, respect and forgiveness are the three most important ingredients,” said Ralph. “Even though we love each other, there’s always a little up and down, so forgiveness is very important.”
Carlos Morán, translating for his Spanish-speaking grandparents celebrating 75 years of marriage, said that their Catholic faith was very important in their family of eight children and 32 grandchildren. Ángela Morán, 94, shared that her husband, Benjamín, 98, who was a farmworker in their native country of El Salvador, worked very hard in the fields cultivating crops like corn and beans.
“Because we are Catholic, we’ve been happy all the time,” said Ángela.
On Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, Worldwide Marriage Encounter representatives will make a presentation of gifts and acknowledgments to their 2014 Longest Married Couple Project Winners: Harold and Edna Owings in their hometown of Burbank. The Owings have been married 82 years as of Nov. 24, 2013. The event, held at Bellarmine-Jefferson High School, will be featured in next week’s Tidings.