Michael and Sheila Herron from St Patrick Church in Malvern attend mass in honor of their 50th anniversary.

Michael and Sheila Herron from St. Patrick Parish in Malvern attend Mass in celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary.

Marriage is a sacrament and a life-long commitment – that was the central message of Archbishop Charles Chaput in his homily at the annual Mass for couples celebrating significant wedding anniversaries held this year at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul on Saturday evening, May 6.

“We say marriage is a sacrament,” the archbishop told the congregation. “We believe sacraments are moments in our lives when we meet or encounter Jesus Christ.”

He exhorted the couples to “love your spouse as Jesus loves his church.”

What the state means by marriage in current society, Archbishop Chaput said, “is not what the church means by marriage. Many young people who enter marriage today do not expect it to be a lifetime commitment.”

The congregation that the archbishop led in a renewal of their marriage vows was in itself proof positive that the Christian understanding of marriage is an ideal that is not dead.

The cathedral was packed, and most of the couples who stood to repeat their vows were married 50 years or more.

“It was magnificent,” said Father Gerald Dennis Gill, the cathedral rector. “It hasn’t been like this for years.”

What is the secret of an enduring marriage? Responses given by couples to this question were surprisingly similar.

“The secret is listening to each other,” said Jerry Plewes, of St. Cecilia Parish in the city’s Fox Chase section, married to his wife Mary for 65 years.

“We try to be patient; sometimes it goes the other way,” Mary said. “I belong to a prayer group and that has helped me. I trust in the Lord.”

“I always have the last word,” Jerry puckishly added. “It’s ‘Yes dear.’”

Brenda and Ed Lewis, married 25 years, offer one another a kiss as a sign of peace.

Brenda and Ed Lewis, married 25 years, offer one another a kiss as a sign of peace.

Bob and Diane Hehn of Visitation Parish, Trooper, will celebrate their 50th anniversary this week, and Bob reflected, “We feel like we are very compatible. We like to discuss anything that is an issue before we take action. We are patient and persevering.”

“We married our best friend,” Diane added.

Andy and Marlene Gdonski, also at the half-century mark and members of St. Mary Parish in Schwenksville, have faced their challenges in marriage together and both summed it up in one word: “Compromise.”

Patience, prayer, compromise and commitment — add them all together and you get enduring love.