Married couples blessed, called to witness God’s love to the world

Galen and Jennifer Baxter of St. Patrick Parish in Raritan and couples throughout St. Mary's Cathedral kiss after their marriages were blessed by Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka during the Diocesan Marriage Mass on Feb. 12. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

In the 1970s, The Carpenters had a hit song called “Top of the World” that spoke of the bliss of being in love. At the Diocese of Peoria’s Marriage Mass on Feb. 12, Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka told married couples from throughout the diocese than even when they feel totally blessed by their relationship, God wants to give them more.

Mike and Denise Boyer of St. Patrick Parish in Washington listen as Bishop Tylka gives the homily at the Diocesan Marriage Mass on Feb. 12. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“There are even better times when we give more of ourselves to each other, when we make sacrifices for one another, when we lift each other up, and when we help each other become the best versions of ourselves — not only as individuals, but as a couple,” Bishop Tylka said during his homily at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria.

In fact, it is the vocation of married couples to witness to God’s love through their sacrifices “and so transform the world,” said Bishop Tylka. “And the world needs to be lifted up and brought to an understanding of God’s love,” he added.

Moments later, Bishop Tylka asked the dozens of couples present to join hands and face one another as he prayed that God would strengthen and renew their marriage covenant.

At the end of the blessing, he encouraged the couples to kiss — and they happily obliged.

HUSBANDS AND WIVES AS EQUALS

The annual Marriage Mass was followed by an optional Date Night complete with dinner and dancing to the New Orleans jazz music of the Water Street Stompers at the nearby Spalding Pastoral Center. The evening came just two days before Valentine’s Day, and many of the couples were dressed in the traditional red for that celebration of love.

At the close of Mass, Bishop Tylka offered some background on St. Valentine, including that during a time of persecution he persevered in celebrating the sacrament of marriage for couples.

“That is one of the reasons he was martyred,” said Bishop Tylka, who prayed the couples would “persevere in your marriages despite many challenges.”

In his homily, Bishop Tylka offered advice for meeting those inevitable challenges, including a reminder that husbands and wives are equals in a marriage.

“You complement one another, you help fulfill one another,” he said.

Patrick and Sharon Asher of St. Patrick Parish in Washington and dozens of other couples join hands for a blessing of their marriages by Bishop Tylka during the Diocesan Marriage Mass on Feb. 12. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

And just as Jesus came down from a mountain to offer the “Sermon on the Plain” in the day’s Gospel reading, he also comes to the “level plain” of husbands and wives to be a vital part of their relationship.

“Jesus has come down to walk with us, and as a couple we’re on the same level. We walk together,” he said.

For the Marriage Mass, the second reading was the familiar definition of love given by St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. Returning to the theme of being “at the top” of their relationship, Bishop Tylka said that even when marriage seems at its best, there is more potential, more possibility, and “more that’s needed.”

“That’s God. That’s faith. That’s hope. That’s love,” he said.

Providing music for the Marriage Mass was Jon Kroepel, director of Sacred Music, on piano, accompanied by Rebecca Tarrant on flute, and with Lisa Liddle as cantor. Mark and Crystal Potthoff of Sacred Heart Parish in Peoria served as lectors.

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