Our Lady of the Rosary and Christian Marriage, Nuptial Mass of Alex and Jocelyn Wing, October 7, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Anthony of Padua Church, New Bedford, MA
Nuptial Mass of Alex Wing and Jocelyn Trindade
Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary
October 7, 2017
Gen 24:48-51.58-67, Ps 103, 1 Pet 3:1-9, Jn 2:1-11

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following text guided today’s homily: 

God’s and Your Long Wait

The long-awaited day has finally arrived, and I’m not just talking about the 615-day expectation of today’s bride and groom, the family and friends, since Alex proposed to Jocelyn in Orlando on February 1, 2016. I’m speaking about God’s expectation for this day. Today has a long prehistory, extending back far before Alex and Jocelyn met for the first time on April 30, 2015 at the train station in Providence, before Alex first emailed Jocelyn on November 26, 2014, the day before Thanksgiving, before today’s maid-of-honor, Cassandra Borges, signed Jocelyn up on CatholicMatch.com in October 24 because she desperately wanted God-children and so, procrastinating on studying St. Thomas Aquinas while a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, composed Jocelyn’s whole profile and put it up for Alex eventually to discover. The prehistory goes back before either of you, Alex and Jocelyn, were baptized or born. It goes back to before the foundation of the world, before God said “let there be light,” to that image in God’s mind to create the human person in his own image and likeness, male and female, and give man and woman — from Adam and Eve to Alex and Jocelyn — the vocation to experience and recapitulate in their own life an icon of the loving communion of persons who is the Blessed Trinity. This day, indeed, has a long prehistory, as God has been waiting to give you both this great blessing.

The meaning of this date

Just as the Lord has kept this appointment on his calendar from before there was any need for a calendar, so you, too, chose this day with great specificity, something that is worth pondering today as something foundation for the covenant God will be making with you and for you with each other. It wasn’t just any open Saturday in October. As you, Jocelyn, told me during our sessions preparing for marriage, “We chose October 7, 2017 as our wedding day because it is the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary during the 100th Anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions in Fatima. We want to consecrate our marriage to Our Lady of the Rosary (the title Our Lady gave herself in Fatima when asked by Lucia who she was.” The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary during the Centenary of the Fatima apparitions. How beautiful that is!

Inviting Jesus with Zeal to your Wedding and your Married Life

But the reality is even more beautiful, that the same Mary who appeared in Fatima, attended a wedding in Cana of Galilee, as we see in the Gospel, and St. John tells us that “Jesus was also invited,” and there, at her bidding, worked his first miracle to bless that young couple. Today that same loving mother and her divine Son come here to Acushnet Avenue in New Bedford, to work an even greater miracle than converting water into wine. Jesus comes to transform the water of your human love, friendship, attraction and commitment into a sacrament, something that expresses and shares in his own spousal love. He will work the miracle of joining you in one flesh for the rest of your life. Just as Mary acted on that day in Cana before the bride and groom, even the mother of the bride, had any idea they had a problem on their hands, so we’re confident that Mary is interceding for both of you, for what you know you need and even for what you’re unaware you need, and she’s praying that you fully cooperate with the daily miracle her Son wants to accomplish in you.

The wedding of Cana shows us how to cooperate with God. Mary turned to the servants at the wedding and instructed them to do whatever Jesus, her Son, told them, and Jesus then told them to fill the six 20-30 gallon stone jars with water. That wasn’t an easy command. The jars were huge and made of stone, something that couldn’t be carried. 2000 years ago there were no hoses and plumbing to pipe water into every home. There was only one place to go for water and that was the well in the center of town. Let’s say there were five servants. If each of them had a three-gallon jug — something that would contain 25 pounds of water — they would each need to make twelve round trips to the well in order to fill the six big stone water jars. It would have been easy for them to make, let’s say, eight, and fill the jars two-thirds. Or on the eleventh trip, they could have said “basta,” there would be enough wine there to last for quite some time. But St. John tells us, “They filled the jars to the brim.” They cooperated with great zeal, not even knowing exactly what God in their midst would do. Mary is praying that you cooperate just as fully, not doing just “something,” not even giving 90 percent, but giving it your all, seeking to live with all the virtues that God himself wishes to give and develop within you.

St. Peter describes those virtues in the epistle you chose for your wedding. He says to brides, “Your adornment shouldn’t be external [like jewelry, veils, beautiful white dresses] but the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the light of God … like the holy women” whose praises are sung in the Scriptures. Alex, having known Jocelyn from the time she was 15, I can affirm — with the parishioners of St. Anthony’s — what I am confident you already know: that she is a womb who is adored with this imperishable beauty of the heart. St. Peter calls her and you both to fill your lives with the brim with Christ-like virtues and desires, like being “of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward each other, compassionate, humbly, returning a blessing to each other.” Christ wants to make you his blessing to each other. For this to occur, relive the mystery of Cana each day. Invite Christ and his mother to your marriage just as much as you have to your wedding day. Invite them into your home, your prayer, your work, your better and worse, your sicknesses and health, your prosperity and your poverty. St. Francis de Sales once wrote that many marriages struggle and some fail because rather than inviting Jesus, Mary and the saints into their marriage, many couples invite Adonis and Venus, the pagan gods of eros. They invite the standards and ways of the world rather than God and the friends of God. That’s the great choice you have to make today and each day moving forward.

Just as much as today, Jocelyn, as you hear the words of Genesis you chose for your first reading, “Do you wish to go with this man?,” the question made to Rebekah who responded “I do,” momentous words you are about to say to Alex, so today you and Alex both are being asked the question, “Do you wish to go with this God-Man?,” and you’re called together to say, in harmony, as a couple, “I do,” putting your full personality into saying it together to Jesus who makes a commitment to accompany you to the end. That’s what today is about. Today, as servants of God, you’re being told by Mary to do whatever Jesus tells you, and, side-by-side, you’re each being summoned to help each other to go with zeal, over and over again, to draw from the well of Living Water who is Christ, who seeks to well up within you, your marriage and your family to eternal life.

Going to the Well with Mary through the Rosary

One of the greatest ways families learn to do that that each day is in the school of the greatest disciple who ever lived, the one who not only tells us to do whatever her Son asks but whose whole life is a commentary on the words “Let it be done to me according to your Word.” And I think the greatest of all Marian devotions to excel in that school is the Holy Rosary, a compendium of the Gospel, that when prayed well really helps us to fill all the water jars of our home with the grace Jesus gives that Mary is praying for us to receive. I rejoice, today at your wedding intentionally chosen on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, that the Rosary is already a part of your lives and your relationship. Jocelyn, you told me that you grew up praying the Rosary as a family after family members. You humbly admitted that you didn’t always enjoy it; sometimes it was a chore and you and your brothers Clinton and Josh would try to come up with excuses every once in a while to get out of it, but you learned those habits, and eventually matured enough to appreciate it and love it as much as your parents Henrique and Iselda.

Alex, you told me that you grew to love the Rosary as you were being drawn to enter the Catholic Church. In the early days of your relationship, before you had ever met in person, you prayed the Rosary together on Skype. There’s never been a better use of that 2003 internet creation! Jocelyn, you shared with me your memories of what that was like. “I remember the first time Alex asked me to pray the rosary with him over Skype,” you shared during marriage preparation. “I’ve prayed with many people before, but this was the first time I was praying with Alex and it was different. It felt like I’d known him my whole life and that praying with him was natural and felt comfortable. I was beginning to sense that God had plans for us and that Alex might be the one I had prayed for since I was a teenager, and more specifically in 2011 when I last went on pilgrimage to Fatima during World Youth Day.” It was through praying the Rosary together that you began to realize that he could be the one.

And what a beautiful gift it was that Our Lady of the Rosary fulfilled the prayer you had made to her, Jocelyn, on the Feast of the Assumpion, in 2011, when, kneeling before the spot in which she had appeared to Saints Francisco and Jacinta and one-day we pray St. Lucy in Fatima, you asked Mary in the Rosary to help you discover your vocation, whether it was to be a woman religious, or whether it was to the married life, imploring that if it were the latter, Mary would protect and help your future husband and bless you with children. Well, Our Lady of the Rosary was listening in the Capelinha, and she answered your prayers, drawing Alex before you even knew who he was more and more toward her and through her to the Blessed Fruit of her Womb and getting him ready eventually to ask you to pray the Rosary with him not just on Skype but in person. After you met for the first time and before you headed back to Virginia, Alex, you gave Jocelyn your set of rosary beads that you had been praying with for months. What an extraordinary gift, this chain of love for God that became a symbol of your love for each other!

In marriages of Latinos, there is a beautiful rite after the exchange of vows and rings, called the “Lazo,” which is basically a huge set of two Rosary beads linked together that is put over the couple to symbolize their indissoluble union by members of their respective families. Neither of you is Latino and we don’t have that formal rite today, but I hope that you will recognize that Jesus, his Mother and the whole Church, are placing an invisible Lazo over you today, praying that you may obtain what the mysteries of the Rosary contain, and always be bound by a love for this Marian devotion so that you may advance together in the school of holiness for which she is both valedictorian and magistra.

The Rosary and the ever-urgent Fatima Message

The Rosary is such an important part of the Message of Fatima, which we are marking this year and will celebrate in a special way on Friday, October 13, on the 100th anniversary of the last of the apparitions and the famous Miracle of the Sun. One of my favorite stories from the apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima is how Our Lady was compelled gently to correct the three shepherd children for “cheating” on how they were praying the Rosary. The eldest, ten-year-old Lucy at the time, described in her eventual Memoires that they had been told by their parents to say the Rosary after lunch, but, since they wanted to pray, devised a way to get through it quickly. They passed the beads through their fingers saying nothing but the two word combinations “Pai Nosso” once, “Ave Maria” ten times, and “Glory Be” once. They did that for five decades and were finished, as she said, “in the twinkling of any eye” so that they could begin to play pebbles. When our Lady appeared to them, she taught them how to slow down and to pray the whole Our Father, the whole Hail Mary, and the whole Glory Be in each decade, and from that point forward, they prayed the whole prayer. But Our Lady’s tutorial didn’t stop there. She taught Jacinta how to go beyond merely just saying the complete prayers. She pointed her to the 15 tableaus in their Parish Church of Fatima (Aljustrel), which depicted the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, and helped her to learn how to meditate on each of them as the most important part of praying the Rosary, because the Rosary is meant to help us, in contemplating the mysteries of Christ from within the heart of Mary, how to imitate Christ and Mary better in our life. And after helping them to pray it well, she invited and encouraged them, perhaps better, insisted that they and us pray the Rosary each day. In each of her six appearances a century ago, she spoke about the importance of praying the Rosary daily. In May, Mary appeared to the shepherd children the first time holding Rosary beads in her hand and asked the three of them to “recite the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war.” One month later, as they were praying the Rosary, Mary appeared and asked them to “say the Rosary every day.” In July, she stated, “Pray the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace in the world” and, “When you recite the Rosary, say at the end of each decade: ‘O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need.’” The following month she expressed her wish that they “continue to say the Rosary every day.” In September, she reiterated, “I want you … to continue to recite the Rosary to obtain the end of the war.” Finally, in October, she revealed her identity as “the Lady of the Rosary” and said, “I desire … that people continue to recite the Rosary every day.” Could she have been more emphatic about the importance of praying the Rosary daily or about relating to her through the Rosary? The three shepherd children responded with great dedication. She wants all of us to respond with that dedication. She’s particularly praying for the two of you today, Jocelyn and Alex, to take this prayer up just like the saints of Fatima.

The Prayer for and of the Family

That’s because, as St. John Paul II used to stress, the Rosary is a prayer of and for the family, one that helps solidify the family bond with each other and with God. St. John Paul II wrote in his beautiful 2002 exhortation on the Rosary, “ The Rosary is … and always has been, a prayer of and for the family. At one time this prayer was particularly dear to Christian families, and it certainly brought them closer together. It is important not to lose this precious inheritance. We need to return to the practice of family prayer and prayer for families, continuing to use the Rosary. … I would therefore ask those who devote themselves to the pastoral care of families to recommend heartily the recitation of the Rosary. The family that prays together stays together. The Holy Rosary, by age-old tradition, has shown itself particularly effective as a prayer that brings the family together. Individual family members, in turning their eyes towards Jesus, also regain the ability to look one another in the eye, to communicate, to show solidarity, to forgive one another and to see their covenant of love renewed in the Spirit of God. Many of the problems facing contemporary families, especially in economically developed societies, result from their increasing difficulty in communicating. Families seldom manage to come together, and the rare occasions when they do are often taken up with watching television. To return to the recitation of the family Rosary means filling daily life with very different images, images of the mystery of salvation: the image of the Redeemer, the image of his most Blessed Mother. The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of the household of Nazareth: its members place Jesus at the center, they share his joys and sorrows, they place their needs and their plans in his hands, they draw from him the hope and the strength to go on.” Alex and Jocelyn, we’re all praying not just your family will pray together to stay together, but that your home will be just as focused on Jesus as the home of the Holy Family in Nazareth was: and the Rosary will help you to do it. Help each other to grow in love of praying this prayer together.

Alex, you told me during marriage preparation, “I had always hoped to find someone that would help me grow in my Catholic faith, being that I was a convert in my early twenties.” And God sent you two women to help you to help you to grow in that faith. He has obviously sent you Jocelyn, who was a catechist in this parish even as a teenager and someone who was so good, effective and authentic in teaching the faith that I asked her to become the head of our program when she was just in her early twenties. You’re marrying a great and experienced teacher, your own age, who practices and believes deeply what she teaches. And she’s also one who knows that she receives as much as she gives in this regard. She told me about what she learns from you: “Alex makes me want to be a better woman and a better Catholic. Alex is a ‘baby Catholic,’ who converted when he was in his early twenties, and so he’s learning new things about the Faith that I take for granted. While I help him learn more about the Faith, he helps me to be a better human being. He calls me out on my shortcomings when I have a short fuse with others, and gently reminds me when I should do something for someone because simply ‘it’s the right thing to do.’ He’s helped me mature a lot and set goals for myself that I was afraid to set before meeting Alex because he fills me with confidence. Alex has brought me closer to Christ because through his love for me, I am better able to see and understand God’s love for me.” I rejoice that you have each other to grow together. But as I said, you have been given two women. The other is Mary. And she wants to help both of you, and all of us, excel in her school, the academic in which she helps us not only to learn from the Master, her Son, and to learn her Son and become more and more like him.

The Rosary and the Mass

Mary’s school in general, and the School of the Rosary in particular, lead us here to the altar, to the Eucharist, to Christ, the Blessed Fruit of Mary’s womb. One of the things I love most about this Church of St. Anthony where I was blessed to serve as pastor for seven years is the stained glass window series around the Church. I have given hundreds of tours here and I would always point out the beautiful scenes from which the light of God continues to shine through, in order to illumine our paths. I would always ask those on tour whether they could discern a pattern. Many, seeing a scene or two, would say that they seemed to be various episodes in the life of Christ. But fewer than I supposed would get the pattern. They are the mysteries of the Rosary — the five joyful, five sorrowful and five glorious when the stained glass windows were installed in the 1950s for the 50th anniversary of the Church. I would always try to point out that pondering the mysteries of the Rosary is always meant to prepare us for the supreme mystery being celebrated on the altar, that the more we meditate on Christ’s life the easier it is for us to embrace him with faith when the Blessed Fruit of Mary’s womb comes down on the altar. It’s so fitting that now, since 2002, we have the five mysteries of light in the Rosary and the fifth mystery is the Institution of the Eucharist, when we can pray about what Jesus did for all of us in giving us himself to be our supreme spiritual nourishment. I rejoice that just as you both have a love for the Rosary so you have an even greater love for Jesus in the Eucharist, where Jesus’ mother seeks to lead us all. Alex, you were led into the Church by your hunger for the Eucharist, which is where your study of Sacred Scripture led you. Jocelyn, your deep conversion to living the faith in its fullness happened when you were 12, when on a Youth 2000 retreat, you recognized you had truly met Christ in the Eucharist during adoration, that Christ was truly present in the consecrated host and that what he said through his Church was true. Your life changed as you realized that his love for you required a response. And you began to share the love your parents had for Jesus in the Eucharist and come on your own to daily Mass.

Marriage and the Mass

Just as the stained glass windows surround you today with the beauty of the Mysteries of the Rosary, so you are about to be enveloped together in this Eucharistic mystery. I never tire of saying at every Nuptial Mass I’m privileged to celebrate, that it’s extraordinarily fitting that Catholics marry in the context of a Mass, because the Mass is not only the source and summit of the Christian life as a whole but the root and center of the Sacrament of Marriage. The early Christians used to illustrate the reality between the Sacrament of Matrimony and the Sacrament of the Eucharist in their architecture, covering the altars with a canopy just like ancient beds were covered, to communicate that the altar is the marriage bed of the union between Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride, the Church. Catholics believe that it’s here on this altar that we, the Bride of Christ, in the supreme act of love, receive within ourselves, the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus, the divine Bridegroom, becoming one-flesh with him and being made capable of bearing fruit with him in acts of love. The Mass is the means by which Christ the Bridegroom will regularly renew you, Alex and Jocelyn, in the indissoluble one flesh union he will form in you today. This is the way by which you will receive within Christ’s love for you and become more capable of sharing loving each other as he has loved you first, to the point of laying down your lives for each other and making your married lives a commentary on the words of consecration, “This is my body, given for you.” Today around this marriage bed of Christ’s union with the Church and with you, inspired by your faith, your family, your friends, and all the angels and saints who are depicted in this Church, in praying that the Lord who has begun his good work in you and brought you here to this altar will nourish your sacred vocation and bring it to completion. We ask the Lord, through his Mother, the Queen of the Holy Rosary, never to stop blessing you with his holy, spousal love and, through the way that you share that love with each other, never to stop blessing us all. Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us! Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for Alex and Jocelyn, who now are about to be joined by your Son.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

A reading from the Book of Genesis

Then I bowed down in worship to the LORD, blessing the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. If, therefore, you have in mind to show true loyalty to my master, let me know; but if not, let me know that, too. I can then proceed accordingly.”  Laban and his household said in reply: “This thing comes from the LORD; we can say nothing to you either for or against it. Here is Rebekah, ready for you; take her with you, that she may become the wife of your master’s son, as the LORD has said.” When Abraham’s servant heard their answer, he bowed to the ground before the LORD. Then he brought out objects of silver and gold and articles of clothing and presented them to Rebekah; he also gave costly presents to her brother and mother. They called Rebekah and asked her, “Do you wish to go with this man?” She answered, “I do.” At this they allowed their sister Rebekah and her nurse to take leave, along with Abraham’s servant and his men.  Invoking a blessing on Rebekah, they said: “Sister, may you grow into thousands of myriads; And may your descendants gain possession of the gates of their enemies!” Then Rebekah and her maids started out; they mounted their camels and followed the man. So the servant took Rebekah and went on his way.  Meanwhile Isaac had gone from Beer-lahai-roi and was living in the region of the Negeb. One day toward evening he went out. . . in the field, and as he looked around, he noticed that camels were approaching.  Rebekah, too, was looking about, and when she saw him, she alighted from her camel and asked the servant, “Who is the man out there, walking through the fields toward us?” “That is my master,” replied the servant. Then she covered herself with her veil.  The servant recounted to Isaac all the things he had done. Then Isaac took Rebekah into his tent; he married her, and thus she became his wife. In his love for her Isaac found solace after the death of his mother Sarah.

A reading from the First Letter of St. Peter

Wives should be subordinate to your husbands so that, even if some disobey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct when they observe your reverent and chaste behavior. Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God. For this is also how the holy women who hoped in God once used to adorn themselves and were subordinate to their husbands; thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him “lord.” You are her children when you do what is good and fear no intimidation. Likewise, you husbands should live with your wives in understanding, showing honor to the weaker female sex, since we are joint heirs of the gift of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” (And) Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.