The most important words in a wedding might be "I do," but the most important words to a marriage are, "please," "thank you" and "sorry."
Nearly 200 couples that have already learned that lesson gathered for a special Mass for couples married 70, 60 and 50 years. The diocesan Office of Family Life hosted the annual wedding anniversary celebration at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo on Sunday, Oct. 23.
Bishop Richard J. Malone welcomed the full house at the cathedral, calling the event "one of the most longed for and happily anticipated celebrations of the year."
In his homily, Bishop Malone spoke about Pope Francis' exhortation "Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love)," specifically chapter four, which reflects on St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13.
"In my experience in celebrating weddings for couples, I would say that most often, 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the go-to biblical texts that people choose. And you can see why. It talks about how love is patient and kind. It's really a beautiful lyrical hymn of St. Paul to the authentic love in our lives and in our relationships," the bishop said.
"Love is not rude," wrote St. Paul. The pope replied with a simple grandfatherly reflection: "To love is to be gentle and thoughtful, not impolite, not harsh."
The bishop continued, "'Love bears all things,' says St. Paul. That can be a challenging one for all of us. Says the pope, 'Love does not have to be perfect for us to value it. The other person loves us as best they can with all their limits, but the fact that love is imperfect does not mean that it's untrue or unreal.' The reminder there that the only love that is perfect, that is 100 percent gold medal, 4.0, A-plus perfect is God's love for us."
The pope also offered practical advice that the bishop relayed. "In the family, three words need to be used: please, thank you, sorry."
"A wise grandpa speaking to all of us," said Bishop Malone.
During the Mass, the bishop asked all the couples present to renew their vows promising to be true in good times and bad, in sickness and health; and to love and honor each other for all the days of their lives.
For Donald and Jean Brenner, the Mass had extra special meaning. The Williamsville couple celebrated their 70th anniversary that day. They had their granddaughter with them, who was also celebrating her anniversary, although just a mere six years.
The Brenners met as teenagers while working at the Bailey Theatre where Donald was the doorman, and Jean, an usherette. They dated for a couple years before Donald popped the question. Looking back, he can't say for sure how he knew she would be the one for him.
"I guess it's just the feeling that you get," he said at an after-Mass reception at the Adam's Mark. "I don't know how else to explain it to you. It's somebody that you get along with that you can talk with and do things with. That's how you do it."
Jean agreed. "We worked together and enjoyed one another's company."
Their love has set a high bar for their children and grandchildren. Granddaughter Jackie Caya chose Oct. 23 as her wedding day hoping to follow in their footsteps.
"Just seeing the two of them together gives us hope for us. That's why we wanted to share our wedding day," she said. "When we were choosing our wedding day, we couldn't have chosen a better day to be able to honor our grandparents. And hopefully make it to 70 years ourselves."
Jason Caya, Jackie's husband said the elder couple, who married as teenagers, have become an inspiration to his wife and himself.
"They are a great example of what it means to stay together through good and bad, and still come out the other end with a love more powerful than anything. It's inspiring," he said.
"It's funny. We asked them, 'What's the secret?' My grandfather will say, 'Just togetherness. Just be together. Share your love with one another," said Jackie. "They go to Mass every Sunday, so I know keeping God in the marriage is really important. I think they set a really good example for us."
Both couples are parishioners of SS. Peter & Paul Parish in Williamsville.
The Diocese of Buffalo began this special wedding anniversary celebration in 1992, under the guidance of Bishop Edward Head and the Bishop's Lay Advisory Council.
He thought it would be a nice witness to our Western New York community about the sanctity and commitment to married life," explained Nancy Scherr, director of the Office of Family Life.