Mass in Thanksgiving
for Marriage at Westminster Cathedral, May 2013
In recent years, this Mass have become an annual event, this year, with
over 600 couples with a combined total of 39,830 years of marriage attending
this year's celebration!!
The Mass in Thanksgiving for the Sacrament of Marriage, held
at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday 18 May at 3pm, was celebrated by the
Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, who gave a special
blessing to the couples.
Mike & Carolyn Crawshaw's Story
All kinds of family pressures almost stopped
us going to the mass at Westminster Cathedral in May to celebrate our 25th
wedding anniversary. We were married at Westminster in the Lady Chapel but
had been back only once in the 25 years. In the end we went more out
of duty to our marriage, with a sense of “we ought to”.
It certainly felt unusual heading into London on a Saturday afternoon without
at least a couple of our five children. We warmed to the idea as the journey
progressed but we were completely taken aback by the feelings we felt as
we turned the corner at Victoria to see the familiar facade of Westminster
Cathedral - memories came flooding back.
The church was packed with over 600 couple celebrating 10, 20, 25, 40 ,
50 or 60 plus years’ of marriage. Many had come dressed in finery. Behind
us, a couple in matching gold outfits and headress beamed as we took our
places. An air of joyous celebration filled
to the following couples from the Parish who attended:
Clara & Nigel Hopkins (25th),
Peter & Krystyna Berners-Lee (25th),
Fiona & Frank Bogle (10th),
Barbara & Nicholas Gompels (25th),
Ian & Sally McNeill (50th),
Benjamin & Leilani Sparrow (10th),
Patrick & Marianne Ryan (10th),
Anna Marie Felice & Graham Laing (25th)
Michael & Carolyn Crawshaw (25th), &
Evelio & Maria Azcona (50th).
throughout the service. There were emotional
moments too – particularly when we were all asked to stand and face our spouse.
In one deep voice, 300 men renewed their vows to their wives; in reply the
melody of women’s voices filled the air as the women repeated the vows they
had made to their husbands so many years ago.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols gave an interesting talk (reproduced below) which demonstrated how supportive
the church is of marriage and the family. We felt truly grateful to God and
blessed anew as we left the cathedral, pausing for a photograph on the steps
– this time with the Archbishop, but with the memory of all those young friends
and family who stood with us 25 years ago and launched us on our wonderful
adventure of married life
Archbishop Vincent Nichols' Homily
Today's Mass is such an important event. And it is a joyful, blessed and
amazing event: six hundred married couples together here in the Cathedral,
among you twenty three couples celebrating their Diamond wedding anniversaries,
a hundred and thirty reaching their Golden jubilees and many others celebrating
Ruby, Pearl and Silver jubilees, together with some ten-year olds, giving
a total of almost twenty thousand years of married life. Yours is a voice
and an experience to which all should pay attention. No doubt those years
have been marked by times of tensions and struggles. But today it is the
joy and faithfulness of your love which we celebrate and for which we thank
This is an important event because it bears eloquent witness to two crucial
truths: to the truth about the nature of marriage; and to the true role
and importance of the family, given stability by its foundation in marriage.
Looking back over all these years, I am sure that you, as couples, say
of each other that in your marriage you have found your completeness, your
other half, indeed, perhaps, your better half.
That is what our faith underlines: that there is a certain, unmistakable
incompleteness in man and woman; and that this lack finds important fulfilment
in the union of husband and wife, a union that is so complete that it is
ordered, in itself, to bringing forth new life. Marriage, then, fulfils husband
and wife and is itself fulfilled in the life of the family. On these foundations
we rightly understand marriage to be an exclusive commitment and a life-long
partnership between a man and a woman. And this is its shape by nature.
In addition, by faith marriage bears the divine image, for God's invitation
to each of us, to know him, love him and serve him in this life, is itself
a kind of marriage proposal, an offer of intimacy made out of love and fulfilled
in love. Understanding marriage correctly, together with the experience
and witness of married love, truly helps us to know and love God and to
understand the life of faith to which we are called.
This witness you give, to the true nature of marriage in its natural and
supernatural meaning, is a witness that is sorely needed today. It stands
against those trends in our society which seek to undermine this understanding
of marriage, reducing marriage primarily to a means of satisfying individual
I thank you for your witness to marriage, to the loving effort that it
requires and to the profound joy and fulfilment that a faithful marriage
brings. I hope many in our society will realise, before it is too late,
the importance of full and unequivocal legal backing for this true and lasting
definition of marriage. The core of marriage is not determined by human
laws and conventions. For a healthy society, those laws and conventions
should always support marriage as an institution characterised by an openness
to children and the responsibility of fathers and mothers remaining together
to care for children born into their family.
The second witness you give today is to the importance of the family, given
stability by its foundation in marriage.
Strong families serve society by bringing forth healthy children and maturing
young adults, by being a rich source of a compassion for sick members, of
support for others in time of crisis and of care for the elderly and the
dying. Stable families are the first and best answer to many of the personal
and social consequences of hardship and deprivation today (Note 1). Families
are often best placed to respond to those needs. No intelligent government
can continue to ignore the urgent priority of giving support and practical
encouragement to marriage and family stability as the first response to
growing social needs.
Stable and loving families also lay the foundations of every wider association,
including the Church. And the health of a society depends on the strength
of such associations and communities.
Yes, the good of the Church too depends on you. For we know that faith
is passed on, from generation to generation, mainly through the bonds of
family life. Of course schools and many wider associations assist the family
in this task. But it is at home, from mother and father, from grandmother
and grandfather, from uncle and aunt, that children see and learn their faith
and the practices which give life and expression to it. Both prayer and charity,
the great hall-marks of the life of faith, are first learned at home. Yes,
marriage is a sharing in the mystery of God presence among us, a sacrament,
a means of grace; and family life is the first school of faith, the first
school of life in its fullness, directing our lives towards God and towards
our ultimate destiny, our eternal home-coming into the presence of God.
Today's readings give us great heart for the task and witness that lie
ahead. The words of St Paul ring bells for all of us. As we go about our
daily tasks we know only too well that all is not complete, that 'the entire
creation has been groaning in one great act of giving birth.' We know within
ourselves, too, that 'we groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be
set free.' We marvel at the role we have been given, that of working with
the Creator to bring about a better order of life through our service and
our love. How strongly that vocation resonates in the hearts of so many young
people who say, often with a real passion, that they truly want to use their
lives to make the world a better place! They are right. This is our highest
calling and the deepest source of satisfaction in our world.
And we hear today that this same Creator God gives us the gift of his Holy
Spirit to be with us and to work with us in these tasks.
But most importantly we hear the words of the Gospel, the truly Good News
that we and our society need so much to hear: that this Holy Spirit comes
to us from the side of Jesus, from his breast, and it is for us, who are
so thirsty, a fountain of living water. And what is more, Jesus cries out
to us, to every person, that we are to come to him and from him receive all
that we need to enjoy this great gift of life which we have been given.
Today we pray for an outpouring of that Spirit, from the wounded side of
Jesus. We pray that we may receive that Spirit afresh and that our society,
too, may be refreshed by that same Spirit: a Spirit who gives birth to deep
compassion, to ready repentance and forgiveness, to a passion for what is
true rather than expedient.
This is the richness of life to which you witness today. May this Holy
Spirit continue to strengthen your families and most especially the love
you have for each other as with great thankfulness you now renew the promises
of marriage you first made all those years ago.