This time, the bride was wearing a veil. Lillian Silver might have been talked out of wearing a veil when she married her husband Allen 35 years ago, but at the Diocese of Oakland's wedding anniversary celebration, she got her way.
"But the four best words we live by are: listen, learn, live, and above all, love."
The Silvers were among the 140 couples who represented 5,936 years of marriage, or as Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, quipped in welcoming them, "That's almost as old as God."
"It shows eternal love," he said.
The diocesan wedding anniversary Mass included couples who have been married at least 25 years. The longest-wed couple among them was Adolfo and Petra Padilla of Oakland, who have been married for 72 years.
The Padillas are parishioners at St. Elizabeth in Oakland. Mrs. Padilla's one-word secret to a long marriage? "Patience," she said.
A dozen couples preceded the bishop to the altar, each bearing roses to be placed at the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the child Jesus.
Family groups filled the pews of the cathedral, which reserved more than half of the space for the anniversary celebrants. Many of the brides wore corsages, and the bridegrooms boutonnieres. Granddaughters wore long dresses and party shoes, reminiscent of flower girls.
Olga Montez, celebrating her 25th anniversary, carried a bouquet of multicolored roses. "It takes many different colors to have a good life," said her husband Roberto. The Mendezes are parishioners at the Cathedral parish.
"By your fidelity to your spouses you prove your marriage is a covenant between you and God," the bishop said in his homily.
Noting that some marriages take place skydiving, underwater or in Las Vegas with an Elvis impersonator officiating, the bishop said, "You couples decided to get married in the Catholic Church.
"You understand marriage is a sacrament, not just something between the two of you, but between the two of you and God."
A covenant, he told them, "is an unconditional bond of love."
The bishop drew on his experience as a Navy and Marine chaplain who has counseled couples as they prepare for marriage.
"You'll really know you're married when one of you has to give up something major," he would tell them. As an example, he told them of a Marine who left the Corps, which he loved, because his wife could not bear the stress of his deployment.
"Real love is loving for the good of the other," he said.
"Your marriage is a sacrament you received from each other," he said. "We could say there are three who got married," he said, echoing Archbishop Fulton Sheen, husband, wife and God.
"You are co-creators with God," Bishop Barber said. "You are Godlike. You have the power to create other human beings. That's amazing."
The bishop also asked the long-married couples to share their secrets of success with couples preparing for marriage in the diocese. Their experiences in problem-solving and communication could be valuable to those who are about to be married.
"You can do much better than a priest can," he said. "We could use some help with that."
Near the end of Mass, the bishop repeated the nuptial blessing the couples heard of their wedding days.
After Mass, the happy couples and their guests went downstairs for a reception in the festively decorated hall, where wedding cake was served. They stood in line to be photographed with Bishop Barber. A slideshow of their wedding photos played on a big screen. A harpist played. "The Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet" was among the selections. Its alternate name is "A Time for Us."
Success secrets of long-married couples
The Diocese of Oakland Wedding Anniversary Mass on Oct. 19 celebrated couples who have been married 25 years or more. The Catholic Voice asked some of the people who attended: What's your secret?
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