Under the Trinity Dome of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, couples celebrating milestone anniversaries this year gathered on Sunday June 16, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, for the Jubilarian Mass, a special Mass celebrated by Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory. 

Around 440 couples from the Archdiocese of Washington attended the Mass, representing the 620 couples who registered to have their anniversaries recognized by the archdiocese this year. These couples, celebrating anniversaries ranging from 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 and 75 years, have been married a total of 28,215 years. Of the couples who attended the Mass, 320 were married for 50 or more years, and nine have been married 70 years or more.

A couple poses for a photo with Archbishop Gregory after the Jubilarian Mass at the National Shrine. (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)

At the beginning of his homily, Archbishop Gregory recognized the kinds of love celebrated that day: married love in particular, but also the divine triune love of the Holy Trinity, and fatherly love, as marked by Father’s Day. 

“Each expression of love is important and yet each quite distinct,” he said.

In the mystery of the Holy Trinity, as revealed by Christ, people begin to learn of and enter into God’s inner life, into communion and friendship with Him, the archbishop said. 

“Our jubilarian couples know all too well that love always demands self-revelation as they recall when as young couples they came to know one another more intimately each day, even into the many years of their marriages,” he said. 

Such revelations, the archbishop said, strengthened the love of the jubilarian couples, even through the vicissitudes of married life. 

“When they came to establish a home, they began to know even more about each other,” he said. “He was strong and handsome, but not a very good plumber. She was beautiful, but not the cook that your mother was. Each day our couples learned about the strengths and weaknesses of the other and their love deepened.” 

Though human loves falls so far short of the “perfect community of love,” the oneness and threeness of the triune God, people are nonetheless called to participate in this friendship and relationship with God, Archbishop Gregory said. 

“You and I are invited to enter that great circle of love, and we do so by the grace of the Holy Spirit,” he said. 

This participation in marriage allows a richer understanding of the mystery of human and divine love, the archbishop said. 

“There is still more for you to discover because love is an inexhaustible gift that continues to deepen the more it is shared,” he said. “It is made more perfect in the way that it is given away to others. Love is an unfathomable reality that continues to confound and bless those who are brave enough to probe its mystery.”

Archbishop Gregory thanked the couples for their fervent and lasting commitment that stands witness to a world in need of holy marriages. 

“What our jubilarian couples have done for all of us is to reveal first within their own families and then for the entire Church the ingredients of true love in the history and stamina of their marriages,” he said. “We need to know and the world has so frequently forgotten what it takes to live a committed and faithful loving marriage. We have forgotten too often that the ingredients of love are often not glamorous or well-known, but vital nonetheless.” 

After the homily, the couples renewed their wedding vows, and Archbishop Gregory blessed their wedding rings. 

“I ask those lucky husbands to now kiss their wives,” the archbishop said. 

The approximately 440 couples at the Jubilarian Mass renewed their marriage vows, and then the husbands were invited to kiss their brides. (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)

Among the jubilarian couples at the Mass were Pam and Ralph Smith, parishioners at Jesus the Good Shepherd in Owings, Maryland, who were celebrating their 51st wedding anniversary.

The couple met in high school and were engaged for three years before getting married. Patience and consideration have been an element of the couple’s long-lasting marriage, Pam Smith said. 

“You have to have a lot of understanding, and a lot of give and take,” she said. 

“You have to understand that it is a commitment,” her husband added. “A lot of people forget that.”

After the Mass, Archbishop Gregory posed for photos with couples celebrating anniversaries. (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)

Another couple, Betty and Jethro Lee from St. Joseph Parish in Largo, Maryland, will celebrate their 53rd anniversary in September. For the Lees, faith and love of family has played an integral part in their 53 years together. 

“Keep praying and keep God in your life,” Betty Lee said, “because you are not going to find anyone perfect because you are not perfect.” 

At the Jubilarian Mass, Archbishop Gregory praised the couples for their witness of love to the world. (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)