Couples enjoy evening of love, blessings, renewal and music at Marriage Mass

Couples from throughout the Diocese of Peoria renew their wedding vows during the Marriage Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria on Feb. 15. Among them were Jason and Kelly Weber of the Heart of Peoria Catholic Community (right) and Ed and Cathy Lee of Immaculate Conception Parish, Monmouth. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Love was in the air at St. Mary’s Cathedral the evening after Valentine’s Day as couples from throughout the Diocese of Peoria renewed their wedding vows at the annual Marriage Mass.

“As married couples, you are not only a blessing to one another, but your love and fidelity are blessings to the entire Body of Christ, which is the church,” said Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, in welcoming remarks.

Following the Marriage Mass, couples were invited to visit and be photographed with Bishop Jenky. Nik and Ina Kuster of St. John Paul II Parish in Kewanee were among dozens who accepted the invitation. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

The Feb. 15 liturgy contained several prayers of blessing for the couples and their families, and the readings proclaimed themes of love and marriage, including St. Paul’s explanation of love to the Corinthians and the Gospel reading of the wedding feast at Cana.

In place of a homily, Bishop Jenky continued his Marriage Mass and Anniversary Mass tradition of reading a “Matrimonial Exhortation” that was formerly part of all Catholic weddings. The bishop said the text offers “a vision of what marriage in Christ is all about.”

Because God is its author, marriage is “of its very nature a holy institution, requiring of those who enter into it a complete and unreserved giving of self,” the exhortation reads. It notes that Jesus referred to the love of marriage to describe his own love for the Church, “and so he gave to Christians a new vision of what married life ought to be — a life of self-sacrificing love like his own.”

After completing the exhortation, the bishop invited all married couples present to stand and face one another as he led them through a renewal of their wedding vows.

A MUSICAL EVENING

Adding to the music of the liturgy was a small choir comprised of Congolese families from Immaculate Conception Parish in Monmouth. Singing a capella from the second balcony after Communion, their voices blended beautifully in French and Lingala as they sang of respect for marriage.

“The Catholic Church has people from all over the world,” said Bishop Jenky near the end of Mass, “and our diocese is very blessed with considerable diversity.” He thanked the Congolese families for bringing “the riches of the African church to our liturgy.”

Following Mass, the bishop visited and posed for photos with the married couples before many of them headed to the nearby Spalding Pastoral Center for an optional dinner and date night. There, the couples were greeted by Sister Ana Pia Cordua, SCTJM, director of the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Faith Formation.

She thanked them for “all you have done to increase the church.”

At a Date Night that followed the Marriage Mass, musical entertainment was provided at the Spalding Pastoral Center by pianist and composer Eric Genuis, shown here with Josee Weigand on violin, vocalist Alexandra Olsavsky, and Ian Robinson on cello. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“Let us give thanks to the Lord for all the years of faithful love that you have experienced in your life,” said Sister Ana Pia. “For all the troubles you have faced, for all the fruitfulness of your love and sacrifice.”

Post-dinner entertainment was provided by pianist and composer Eric Genuis, who performed about 10 of his original works accompanied by a cellist, violinist and vocalist.

Genuis often performs “Concerts for Hope” in prisons, veterans’ hospitals, homeless shelters and inner-city schools. On that Saturday, he had already taken part in two concerts at the Taylorville Correctional Center.

“I want to write music that brings hope and brings joy and inspiration,” he told the group. His works, performed flawlessly by the gifted musicians on Saturday, accomplished that goal. Among the most memorable was his closing song in Peoria, titled “Here I Am” and powerfully sung by Alexandra Olsavsky. Genuis explained it was written when his youngest daughter, born with Down syndrome, was in intensive care following a heart surgery in her infancy.

Its lyrics could also apply to the married couples in the audience that night. Here is a sample, followed by a YouTube link to the full song:

“Here I am, I’m your fire when it’s cold / Here I am, I’m your guide when you’ve lost your road /

I’m your shield when arrows fly, I’ll never leave your side / Here I am forevermore.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: More photos from the evening have been posted to The Catholic Post’s site on Facebook.

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