Christian marriage celebrated at Marriage Mass, Date Night

Photo Caption: Dexter and Bethany Brigham of St. Louis Parish, Princeton, take part in a “60 Seconds to Energize Your Marriage” exercise during the Valentine Date Night following the Diocesan Marriage Mass Feb. 9.

By: By Tom Dermody

One couple’s wedding was three months ago, while another husband and wife had been married for 67 years. But Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, had the same message to those couples and all in-between attending the Diocese of Peoria’s Marriage Mass last Saturday at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria.

“The best is yet to come,” the bishop promised in his homily.

He wasn’t speaking about the Valentine’s Date Night that followed at the Spalding Pastoral Center, even though the evening of a tasty dinner and a concert of uplifting music by composer Eric Genuis was “better than we ever dreamed,” according to Dexter and Bethany Brigham of Princeton. The Brighams were one of nearly 100 couples attending the annual event, coordinated by the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Family Life.

Reflecting on the Gospel story of Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana, Bishop Jenky said the best will come at the heavenly wedding banquet that awaits those who love and strive to be like Christ.

“To become Christ-like is a lot more important than having a perfect wedding reception, or expecting never to face trouble in a marriage,” he told the couples before leading them in a renewal of their marriage vows.

Married love, he said, is “built upon the example of Jesus Christ himself, who gave up his life for his Bride, which is the Church.” Catholics believe that marriage is a sacrament, “an outward sign that bestows grace and makes God’s love present not only for the married couples, but also for their children, and even for the community of the Church which they build up by the witness of their love.”

Coming the weekend before Ash Wednesday, the Mass was filled with joyful “Alleluias” sung and spoken. During Lent, Catholic liturgies refrain from using the word, the bishop explained. But he said the “over-the-top” use of the exclamation of joy and praise was especially appropriate with all the couples present for the Marriage Mass.

“The church rejoices and gives thanks for the gift of Christian marriage and your witness,” he told the couples.

That sentiment was echoed later in the evening at the Date Night.

“Thank you for your witness, all of you,” said Craig Dyke, director of the Office of Evangelization and Family Life. He encouraged the couples to pray regularly together, saying “there is nothing more powerful, nothing more intimate than praying with your spouse.”

The couples present also experienced the uplifting power of music, courtesy of composer Genuis, who played keyboard with top-level musicians including a violinist, cellist, and vocalist.

A virtuoso pianist whose music bridges classic to contemporary styles, Genuis shared stories of his own marriage and family life during the concert. “Angel in Disguise” was composed for his daughter, now 8, who has Down syndrome. He explained that he sang the powerful ballad “No Greater Love” to his wife on their wedding day 18 years ago.
Genuis said it is an insight to married love that the lyrics to “No Greater Love” — including “I learn from you, sensing the passion, enduring the pain” — have even more meaning 18 years later.

“I couldn’t mean them then nearly as much as I mean them today,” he said, relating family experiences including two children who lived for only a few hours and another daughter who had major heart surgery at three months. He thanked God for giving them the strength to endure the hard times.

Genuis now devotes his life to creating music that not only entertains, but inspires and uplifts. He frequently performs at prisons, in which there is “nothing that would inspire the human heart.”

The evening ended with a prize giveaway and Dyke inviting the couples to stand and gaze into one another’s eyes during an exercise called “60 seconds to energize your love.”

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