Bishop to long-married couples: Keep growing in holiness

Anne Marie Amacher
Alan and Thelma Wulf, front, and Nancy and Bill Foley renew their commitment to each other during the 50th+ wedding anniversary Mass. About 85 couples attended the Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport on Oct. 24.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Bill and Nancy Foley of Jesus Christ Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton looked into each other’s eyes as they renewed their commitment to marriage vows during the 50+ anniversary Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral on Oct. 24.

The couple, who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary Aug. 21, treasured this renewal of their vows. Their anniversary date was not a joyous one as Bill was in the hospital. Nancy said she felt truly blessed that they were able to make the trip to Davenport on Oct. 24 to celebrate their anniversary with family. “We truly believe in marriage,” she said.

Alan and Thelma Wulf of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport celebrated their 51st anniversary. The diocese was unable to hold a celebration in 2020, so the Wulfs were more than happy to celebrate this year. “It was a beautiful Mass,” Thelma said. “We wanted to be a part of it — even if it was a year later.”


Bishop Thomas Zinkula presided at the Mass with about 85 couples in attendance. Father Thom Hennen, pastor and rector of the cathedral was the concelebrant. Deacons Dan Huber and John Jacobsen assisted.

“It’s a crummy day, but I’m glad you are here to celebrate 50-plus years of marriage,” Bishop Zinkula said as rain and wind pushed against the cathedral windows. He had presided at a Mass at St. Mary Parish in West Point the night before at which he blessed a couple that was celebrating 72 years of marriage.

In his homily during the anniversary Mass, the bishop addressed the question, “What is marriage?” He said it involves three aspects: A couple turns to each other (inward), to the “Other,” who is God (upward), and to others (outward).

In reflecting on the inward aspect, the bishop quoted from a passage from the Song of Songs, which was read at Mass: “Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come…. My lover belongs to me and I to him.” The bishop referred to St. John Paul II’s observation about the two sides to love. The first is subjective, which is a pleasurable experience that happens inside of us when we are attracted to someone. This involves physical appeal, emotional feelings and sensual desires. “This is good — emotions and desires aren’t bad and they may develop into love and even enrich love. But it isn’t authentic love — love in the fullest sense — because subjective feelings come and go.”

The other side of love is the objective aspect, which involves an intentional commitment — a covenant. “This love is sacrificial, unconditional and selfless. It is, as St. Thomas Aquinas put it, to will the good of the other. This love is true love. In self-giving love, a man and a woman recognize that their lives are not their own. They surrender their own will to each other. They give themselves to each other.”

Bishop Zinkula took another example from the Gospel passage that was read at Mass, the wedding feast in Cana, to reflect on the upward aspect of marriage. When they ran out of wine, Mary turned to Jesus, the Son of God, for help. If marriage is to be all that it can be, God needs to be a partner in it. In fact, God needs to be at center of the marriage, the bishop said.

The goal of a Christian marriage is not simply for a husband and wife to try to make each other happy, he said. “It is for a couple to help each other grow in holiness, deepen their union and raise children.

Ultimately, the goal is to help each other make their way to heaven. What could be more important than that?”

To reflect on the outward aspect of marriage, Bishop Zinkula referred to the second reading, a passage from Paul’s Letter to the Romans. “He urges us to reach out to each other, to love one another with mutual affection, to contribute to each other’s needs, to exercise hospitality. If a couple’s love is good and true and strong and holy, they need to share it with those around them.”

The more a married couple gives their love away to others, the more they get in return, Bishop Zinkula said. “Their own lives are not diminished, but instead are profoundly enriched. And so, my dear seasoned married couples keep practicing turning inward, upward and outward.”

As Mass concluded, Marianne Agnoli, diocesan Marriage and Family Life coordinator, told the couples they are a witness to others. Agnoli oversees marriage preparation for engaged couples and tells them she hopes they too will one day participate in the diocesan 50th wedding anniversary Mass.

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