Married couples from St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, join in a World Marriage Day Blessing offered by Father John Michael Patilla, parochial vicar, Feb. 10. Courtesy photo
Married couples from St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, join in a World Marriage Day Blessing offered by Father John Michael Patilla, parochial vicar, Feb. 10. Courtesy photo

By Dr. Carly York | Correspondent
and staff reports

As World Marriage Day was celebrated around the world Feb. 10, parishes of the Diocese of Trenton bestowed special blessings on married couples, and invited them to share the comradery of others recognizing their faith-strengthened union.

In Nativity Parish, Fair Haven, married couples were invited to receive a blessing at every Mass during the weekend. Father James Grogan, Nativity pastor, values the significance of this Sunday in the Church’s calendar every year.

“It is remarkable to think that over 100,000 priests around the world are thinking about, talking about and praying for marriages,” he said.

Parishioners Jim and Anne Henry have been married for 25 years. “It is great that the Church recognizes marriages because it is under attack,” Anne reflected. “While marriages sometimes get harder over time, they also get better. So, any blessing will help!”

Barbara and Tom Offerdahl have been married for 57 years. “A blessing is a good thing,” Barbara remarked. “We need all we can get!” The couple believes that faith has been a strong force in keeping them together for so long.

Molly and James Hogan celebrated World Marriage Day with their little son, Jack, beside them. “World Marriage Day is a reminder of the importance of marriage,” James reflected. “Marriage ties everything together – our love for each other and our son is a reflection of God’s love.” Molly and James have been married four years.

In his homily, Father Grogan reminded the congregation that “it is through married life that we become acquainted with Jesus.” He reflected on the Gospel story in which the apostle Peter responds to Jesus in exhaustion and frustration, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.”

“In a marriage, there can often be a lot of struggle, and couples can get to the point of exasperation that they are getting nowhere.” Father Grogan explained. “But when we follow the words of Jesus, we get an abundant ‘catch.’ God’s response is overwhelming grace when we turn to look at him, and that is how we can encounter abundance in married life.”

Father Grogan encouraged the congregation, “Jesus teaches us that ‘wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am with you.’ On this World Marriage Sunday, it is truly powerful to think that over a billion Catholics are asking for marriages to be blessed. God is surely with us in this celebration.”

In St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, Lori McCahill, director of marriage ministry, said that about 500 engaged and married couples were blessed by pastor, Father Garry Koch, and parochial vicar, Father John Michael Patilla, across the five parish Masses for World Marriage Day.

“‘The blessing of the sacramental union is a sign of the love of Christ for his Church, and is a good way to pray for the on-going blessings of the Lord in our lives,’” McCahill quoted Father Koch.

St. Benedict Parish offered Valentine’s Day treats for all couples after Masses, and the marriage ministry hosted a Beloved Brunch.

“Couples watch the ‘Beloved’ series on Formed, and we share faith, fellowship and a catered brunch,” McCahill said. “It is a wonderful afternoon to reconnect with our spouses and share in Christ and His Church.”

In addition to preparing couples for marriage through Pre-Cana, McCahill serves with her husband, Mike, in a peer, inter-generational marriage ministry, with outreach to couples of all stages in married life.

“St. Benedict has had a tremendous initiative to convalidate couples who are not in a Catholic marriage and I spearhead that as well,” she noted.

On World Marriage Day, McCahill’s aim is “to remind the congregation that our goal at St. Benedict is to help couples grow in their relationship with Christ and with each other. Couples need to know the Church continues to pray, nurture and cherish their marriage … for their entire married life.”

Vincenzo and Samira Spinelli have been married nine years, three of them as members of St. Benedict Parish. While attending the brunch, they reflected on the significance of World Marriage Day.

“It brings awareness to a very sacred institution,” Vincenzo said. “Through marriage and the teachings of the Church are rooted the foundations for strong and loving relationships. It also helps to remind couples of the promises that they made to each other … helping them to always keep God and faith in their marriages.”

Samira echoed Vincenzo’s sentiments. “I think it’s wonderful to have a day dedicated to marriage and seeing … spouses receive a special prayer,” she observed. “It reminded me of our wedding ceremony, where I felt God's presence … I believe moments like this weekend are a reminder of our union, and how faith and love from above is within the marriage.”

The couple has two young children, and try to attend as many parish events as possible.

“It is a good way to meet others in the parish, while engaging in a group activity as a family,” Vincenzo said, noting that his children and wife “are the ones that complete me as a person… I love spending time with the family cooking in the kitchen and trying new things together… through these experiences one can truly see the effects of faith and religion.”