In the liturgical calendar of the Church, January 25th recalls the great act of conversion of Saul of Tarsus to becoming the Apostle of the Gentiles known as St. Paul. Following his conversation, Paul travelled to ‘foreign lands’ bringing the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. Most famously in his First Letter to the Corinthians he writes the famous passage about the the gift of Love. During the discourse he names the qualities of love:
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:4-7)
In Welsh lore, January 25th is also synonymous with St. Dwynwen. As legend states Dwynwen lived in the 5th century and was one of the prettiest of the 24 daughters of Brychan Brycheiniog’s. She fell in love but her father had betrothed her to another man. As a result she devoted her life in the service of God as a religious and prayed constantly for the intentions of ‘true lovers’. Hence she has become known as the ‘Welsh St. Valentine’.
No finer day to celebrate the gift of Love
As modern society distorts or even destroys the notion of Marriage and family life as both a fundamental part of the fabric of society and as an enduring bond of Love, the constant of an everlasting bond of Love needs to be lauded and celebrated. As St. Paul reminds us in the route above, the first quality of Love is the virtue of patience. The meaning of patience is to endure, to suffer, to submit. True Love is a never ending gift that enriches and grows through trails, through suffering. As we look to the model of Love within Marriage our model is the model of Christ’s Love for His Church and he ‘loved them to the end’ (Eucharistic Prayer IV) through his patient suffering on the Cross.
With January 25th having such a heavy emphasis on the Gift of Love, it seemed fitting to the parish of All Saints, Newport to celebrate the gift of Love within the parish. A thanks giving Mass was celebrated by parish priest Fr. Michael Doyle with personal invitations being extended to couples preparing for marriage within the parish over the year and married couples celebrating milestone anniversaries. The celebration offered all present the opportunity to give thanks to Almighty God for the gift of Love within their lives, and to seek his aid in the road that lay ahead.
In a moving Homily, Fr. Peter McLaren spoke from the heart of his own experience having preciously been married before the death of his beloved wife Marie. He constantly reminded the the engaged couples how “lucky” they are if they have found true love. He reminded all present that the gift of true Love within the Christian context always has Christ at the centre. When we have found true love it patiently endures all things, and places its trust in the person of Jesus Christ who help the couple through the most difficult of times. Fr, McLaren went on to relate how his love for his wife brought him to faith in the Catholic Church and eventually service as a Deacon within the diocese and eventually priest.
As the celebration continued Fr. Doyle blessed the engaged couples and offered prayers for the road ahead, before inviting the anniversaries couples forward to give thanks and impart a blessing on them. The celebration was blessed with couples celebrating 50 and even 60 years of married life together. As one attendee recounted, they had no doubt that with God’s grace they would reach 60 years of marriage; they were more surprised that they have survived life to reach the ages of 84 and 95 respectively!
Following the Mass a reception was held in St. Anne’s church hall allowing all present to share stories, experiences and advice with the soon to be wedded couples. The afternoon was a beautiful celebration that had touched everyone present. The parish of All Saints gives thanks for the beautiful witness of all involved and prays for continued growth in the Love all the couples share, and for the closeness of Christ throughout their lives.
Ad multos annos to all concerned!
In the photograph Fr. Peter McLaren and Fr. Michael Doyle are pictured with two of the Golden jubilee couples and a Diamond celebration couple. Also photographed is the splendid cake provided for the celebration.