Couples renew vows at Marriage Mass, later enjoy Valentine Date Night

Couples renew their vows at a previous Diocesan Marriage Mass in this Catholic Post file photo.

It takes three to make Christian marriage work, “a husband, a wife, and God at the center,” Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, reminded couples from throughout the Diocese of Peoria at the annual Marriage Mass on Feb. 13 at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Prior to leading the couples in renewing their marriage vows, Bishop Jenky thanked them for their witness, calling their marriages “outward signs of the love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Steve and Colleen Hammel, members of Holy Cross Parish in Champaign, share a kiss during the Diocese of Peoria's Marriage Mass on Feb. 13 at St. Mary's Cathedral. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Steve and Colleen Hammel, members of Holy Cross Parish in Champaign, share a kiss during the Diocese of Peoria’s Marriage Mass on Feb. 13 at St. Mary’s Cathedral. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“A man and a woman in a Christian marriage together become one flesh and one spirit,” said Bishop Jenky. “They are the single most important unit in the Body of Christ, the church, and by their growing and changing and being tested and loving one another they truly build up the Body of Christ and they strengthen the vocations of everyone else.”

Bishop Jenky emphasized the need for prayer as a couple.

“Even the slightest prayer binds people together,” he said, suggesting couples hold hands as they pray a Hail Mary or The Lord’s Prayer.  Faithfully attending Mass as a couple “opens us to a power and goodness and gift that have no end.”

Fidelity, forgiveness and perseverance are all hallmarks of Christian marriage, said Bishop Jenky.

“It is a Christ-like quality not to give up on one another,” he told the couples, “to be there when it’s easy and to be there when it’s hard. And the blessings God promises for those who live that kind of fidelity are enormous.”

DATE NIGHT: DINNER, SONG, DANCE

The Marriage Mass took place on the evening before Valentine’s Day, and more than 70 couples continued the

The longest married couple at the Valentine Date Night, as determined by a dance-off, were Steve and Jackie Smith, members of St. John Parish in Clinton. The Smiths, married 62 years, were wed at St. John Church on July 31, 1953. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

The longest married couple at the Valentine Date Night, as determined by a dance-off, were Steve and Jackie Smith, members of St. John Parish in Clinton. The Smiths, married 62 years, were wed at St. John Church on July 31, 1953. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

celebration of love by attending a diocese-sponsored Date Night including dinner and entertainment at the nearby Spalding Pastoral Center.

In welcoming the couples to the date night, Shirley Plaag — coordinator of the Office of Evangelization and Faith Formation — read from an address to married couples by Pope Francis. He called marriage “a demanding journey, at times difficult, and at times turbulent, but such is life!” It is the “sacrament of the love of Christ and the Church,” added the pope, who advised married couples to never let the day end without having first made peace if they have argued.

Nashville Christian recording artist Andrea Thomas, accompanied by Maria Spears on piano, blended standard love songs such as “The Way You Look Tonight” and “My Valentine” with original music, including from her recently released CD exploring choosing faith over fear titled “Will You Go?” Spears also performed three songs on her own.

Nashville Christian recording artist Andrea Thomas addresses married couples at the Valentine Date Night on Feb. 13 in Peoria. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Nashville Christian recording artist Andrea Thomas addresses married couples at the Valentine Date Night on Feb. 13 in Peoria. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

As Thomas sang her rendition of “When You Say Nothing at All” by Alison Krauss, she invited couples to dance. Thomas then narrowed down the couples by asking those who have passed milestone years of marriage to continue dancing. The final two dancing couples were both from St. John Parish in Clinton — Paul and Marcia Nothnagel, who have been married 55 years, and Steve and Jackie Smith, who celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary last July 31.

After performing in Peoria, Thomas traveled to El Paso, Texas, where she and country music star Collin Raye — with whom she recorded an inspirational album in 2011 — were among the performers at a “Two Nations, One Faith” watch party at Sun Bowl Stadium. The celebration took place as Pope Francis celebrated Mass across the Mexico border in Ciudad Juarez.

EDITOR’S NOTE: More images from the Diocese of Peoria’s Marriage Mass and Valentine Date Night have been posted to an album on The Catholic Post’s Facebook site. 

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