In all the pilgrimages I have accompanied to the Holy Land, particularly dear to the pilgrims has been the “Renewal of Marriage Vows” in the Shrine at Cana of Galilee. I witnessed there couples married for decades (even six decades, in one case), full of gratitude for their years together and aspiring to live together as many more, if only it should please God to grant it them; but also young couples, full of enthusiasm, thankful for Providence’s gift of each to the other in marriage, determined to live permanently their reciprocal vows. Likewise I had the privilege of seeing couples “midway” along their life’s journey, burdened by so many concerns, who wished to more effectively to confront the challenges of the present and those yet to come.
The Shrine at Cana is indeed the Shrine of couples’ love. It was there that the Lord Jesus authored the first “sign” of His redeeming mission (John 2, 11) to signify precisely the redemption of human love and the hallowing of marriage, which he willed to raise to the dignity of a sacrament of His own loving union with the Church.
The joy and thanksgiving of the couples happily married in Christ should not, however, be an occasion of sadness and pain for those who are not now so blessed as to be present together at the celebration. Thus, the “renewal of marriage vows” is made possible also for those pilgrims who, though married, are not accompanied on the pilgrimage by their spouses, for reasons such as age, ill-health, work requirements or simply lack of sufficient means. These married pilgrims, too, are involved in the celebration, with explicit mention of their absent spouses, considered spiritually present there with them. Thoughtful reference is then to be made, in a general way, to widows and widowers. With them we give thanks for the marriage they had even until death did them part, for their love endures beyond the moment when the mystery of death meant that one of them preceded the other into the life beyond. Continue reading>>