Love, laughter, and the Lord mix at Marriage Mass, Date Night

Photo Caption: Bruce and Debbie Askins (right) of St. John’s Parish, Clinton, and Bob and Rita Williams of St. Patrick’s Church of Merna in Bloomington renew their vows at the Diocesan Marriage Mass Feb. 19.

By: By Tom Dermody

A “banquet of love” was followed by servings of laughter when married couples from around the Diocese of Peoria gathered on Saturday, Feb. 19.

“Married couples, you are the foundation of everything that happens in our church,” said Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, before leading about 175 couples attending the Diocesan Marriage Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in a renewal of their vows.

“You have a sacred vocation,” the bishop told the couples, from newlyweds to some well beyond their golden anniversaries. “Your love builds up not only one another, but the church. The diocese thanks you for being the people you are.”

Following the Mass — which included music often heard at weddings such as the “Ave Maria” and a prelude of Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” — 115 of the couples continued the celebration of marriage at a “Valentine Date Night” sponsored by the diocesan Office of Family Life at the Spalding Pastoral Center. The evening included a dinner and a comic routine on the differences between the sexes by Rex Havens. (See related story below.)

In his homily at the Mass, Bishop Jenky told the couples that despite what may happen politically or how it is promoted in the entertainment industry, marriage is created by God and exists solely between a man and a woman.

Christian marriage, as a sacrament, reflects the “ultimate good news of the Gospel,” said the bishop, namely that “God is love, endless love, love without limit.” In marriage, couples “are called to share in the life and love that continues between the Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit.”

Speaking without notes from the steps of the cathedral sanctuary, Bishop Jenky shared more good news about marriage. He quoted studies showing that married couples are “the healthiest people” and noted their love also “overflows,” improving the lives of those around them.

Couples that pray together also stay together, the bishop added. When a couple regularly prays and “invites the boundless power of God’s love into their lives,” the divorce rate falls to one in every 1,000 marriages, he said.

The perfect prayer, he said, is the Mass, often called “a banquet of love.” At the Mass, we “taste and see” God’s limitless love and mercy.
Many of those attending the Marriage Mass — held annually near Valentine’s Day — were dressed in red. They exchanged kisses at the end of their renewal of vows.

Tim Roder, director of the Office of Marriage and Family, welcomed the couples to the Date Night that followed the Mass. He encouraged all married couples to take advantage of resources developed by the U.S. Catholic bishops through the program, “For Your Marriage.” Marriage support in several forms, including a challenge to do something for your marriage every day, is found at the website

Craig Dyke, associate director, led the couples in an exercise called “60 seconds to energize your beloved.” He asked them to stand, face one another, hold hands, and look into one another’s eyes for a minute, praying with and expressing love for their spouse.

“There is nothing more powerful or intimate than praying together,” said Dyke, who encouraged the couples to repeat the 60-second exercise every day.



“If anybody thinks this is a man’s world you owe it to yourself to have a wedding.”

Comedian Rex Havens spent an hour Feb. 19 exploring the “mystery” of the differences between men and women. But the 115 married couples attending a Valentine Date Night at the Spalding Pastoral Center on Feb. 19 laughed at his jokes in equal measure.

A lot.

The event, which opened with a dinner, followed the Diocese of Peoria’s Marriage Mass. (See related story.)

From his opening deadpan of “How many of you are married?” to his closing plea for women to “hold out a little hope for us men,” Havens inspired reactions from roars of laughter to nods of agreement on marital topics from finances to fashion.

Some examples from his routine, called “To Her, With Love”:

To drive home his point that it’s a woman’s world, Havens analyzed a typical wedding day and “what a very tiny piece of that day’s puzzle” the groom is.

The bride’s dress, he pointed out, is “saved and preserved as a shrine.” The groom’s clothing is rented.

“Don’t let it bother you that 500 other men got married in your suit,” he told the husbands. “You’re still very special.”

The cost of the respective rings are also vastly different. “Woman’s best friend is a diamond,” said Havens. “Man’s best friend is a dog.”

Havens joked that when he and his wife were married “she wanted checks that were pretty. I wanted checks that would clear.”

The couple decided to divide the checkbook. “I got the deposit slips,” said Havens.

He described children as “God’s way of protecting us from having too much money.”

The world of women is much more complicated than that of men, Havens claimed, and he used shoes and make-up as two examples. Listing a litany of types of women’s shoes, Havens said “Men don’t know a pump from a flat. They just know when you have a flat, you need a pump.”

Meanwhile, men only have two shoe choices: brown or black. “And sadly for men that’s often one choice too many,” said Havens.

Similarly, Havens described dozens of make-up choices for women, while men have two make-up options: “Shave, or don’t shave.”

Havens, author of the book “Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from My Wife,” did occasionally show a serious side. Reflecting on the death of his father when Havens was only 19, he advised the couples to “never assume love will last” and “never take it for granted.”

He listed seven things all husbands need to say occasionally, ranging from “You were right, I was wrong” to “If anything, the dress makes your butt look too small.”

And he closed by asking women to “hold out a little hope for us men.”

“Our attitude changes like our attitude about cars,” said Havens. “When we are young, we want sleek, sexy ones with high performance. Later, we just want one that isn’t going to give us a lot of trouble.”

SPALDING PASTORAL CENTER | 419 NE MADISON AVENUE | PEORIA, IL 61603 | PHONE (309) 671-1550 | FAX (309) 671-1595
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