The annual Mass in Celebration of Marriage and Family Life is an important fixture on the Archdiocesan calendar and this year it took place on the most fitting of days – Mothering Sunday.
The 11am Mass on 11 March was the time and date as the Metropolitan Cathedral community welcomed couples, families and more than a few visiting babies, toddlers and children to a celebration overseen by the Archbishop of Liverpool, Malcolm McMahon.
The Archbishop remarked that he hoped that every family had delivered breakfast in bed to their mother in honour of the occasion. Moreover, he stressed that Jesus gave the gift of marriage to the Church as a sign of love.
During his homily, Archbishop McMahon also returned to the Lenten themes of the second reading from John 3 – and, specifically, how though Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night, Jesus stresses that we must live in the light – and live according to the truth:
‘And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, for fear his actions should be exposed; but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light.’
A highlight of this annual Mass is the handing over of the Bibles. Every year, family Bibles are entrusted to three different families for the next 12 months – and passed on in a ceremony during the Mass. This is symbolic of the importance of scripture in the life of the Catholic family, underlining that each family should treasure the Bible and have one in their home.
These illustrated, leather-bound Bibles are inscribed with the names of each family that has had the honour of keeping them in their home for a year. During this year’s Mass, the following handovers took place:
• From Andy and Karen Schofield, who had celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary last year, to Mal and Barbara Jordan.
• From Claire and Andrew Sutton, who were married in 2016, to Therese and Michael McGrath who celebrated their 40th anniversary on 11 March.
• From Clare McDonnell and family to Jacqui Sellek.
After the passing on of the family Bibles, the Archbishop invited all married couples present at the Mass to stand and face each other, holding hands. Together they renewed their promises as husband and wife, and prayed together that God would strengthen the love they share, keeping them true to their pledge to each other.
After the profession of faith, fragrant incense bowls were brought forward during the prayer of the faithful – these were symbolic of the people’s prayers for marriage; for couples preparing for marriage; for the spirituality of marriage and family life; and for those facing difficulties in family life. Next was the offertory procession, involving members of the Broekman family.
Another feature of the Mass was the splendid music. The choir sang Gregorian chant and traditional music in Latin which enhanced the atmosphere of prayer and reflection. The hymns reflected beautifully the themes of marriage and the blessings of family life – including the following lines from ‘God in the Planning’:
‘God, in his planning and purpose of life,
Hallowed the union of husband and wife:
This we embody where love is displayed,
Rings are presented and promises made.’
During the concluding rite, Archbishop McMahon offered a special blessing for those celebrating significant anniversaries this year, inviting couples celebrating any number of years together ‘ending with a five or zero’ to come up for a special and joyous blessing of their union, thanking God for their long and happy marriages, blessing the love of their youth that continues through daily life and through the years. There was also a blessing for all the families present at the Mass.
To conclude the celebration, there were refreshments in the Gibberd Room downstairs following Mass, with the Cathedral congregation, families and friends gathering together before heading home.
For the Archdiocese’s Department of Marriage and Family Life, this annual Mass is just one day in their year-long ministry, working alongside the Department of Pastoral Formation. The Marriage and Family Life ministry aims to encourage families to grow in the awareness and understanding that God is present in the every-day events of marriage and family life. From the beginning of creation, God created ‘family’ and it is within the experience of family – the joys and the sorrows – that we see the true gospel of love and forgiveness proclaimed.
Maureen O’Brien heads up the Marriage and Family Life team with Frank Reppion assisting her. Together they prepare over 400 couples a year for marriage and encourage families to understand that home is a holy place. Maureen has also written colourful picture books about God and faith for Catholic families to read to their young children, helping parents to pass on the faith to their children.
For Catholics in the Archdiocese with a strong interest in events like our 11 March celebration Mass, a significant date for the diary is this summer’s World Meeting of Families taking place in Dublin. The Irish capital was chosen by Pope Francis to host this triennial international event from 21-26 August, following the theme ‘The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World’.
It is an event which brings together families from across the world to celebrate, pray and reflect upon the central importance of marriage and the family as the cornerstone of our lives, of society and of the Church. This ninth edition will consist of the following events: a national opening of the World Meeting of Families across all the different dioceses of Ireland; a three-day Pastoral Congress with speakers and workshops, including programmes for young people and children; a Festival of Families from all over the world; and a solemn Eucharistic celebration at the Final Mass on 26 August.
For more information, visit: www.worldmeeting2018.ie