‘In marriage, love is the mission’

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Hands, some bearing wrinkles of a long and well-lived life, were squeezed gently, and a few tears were brushed away as couples re-exchanged vows during the Marriage Jubilee Mass Oct. 19.

Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde celebrated the annual liturgy honoring marital love and commitment at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, where about 250 couples marked either 25 years or a half-century of marriage.

In a pew along the cathedral's right transept were Ronald and Sharon Gripshover, parishioners of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Colonial Beach. Smiles spread across their faces as they reaffirmed the promises they'd made decades before.

"This day reminds you of the past and how you've gotten to where you are," said Sharon. "And it helps you appreciate the Lord's action in our lives."

Celebrating their 50th anniversary next month, the Gripshovers also attended the annual Mass for their silver jubilee. The intervening years have been marked by milestones. Six of their seven children married, one was ordained a priest, and 50 grandchildren were born, the most recent just weeks ago.

Four of their children, including Father Ronald J. Gripshover Jr., now parochial vicar of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Arlington, were present at the Mass.

During his homily, Bishop Loverde said the Lord is the "third partner" in married life, and husbands and wives must perpetually turn to Him for assistance.

"Each couple here has journeyed together, sharing both times of authentic joy and happiness and times of sorrow and sadness," he said. There have been "times of accomplishment and success, but also times of disappointment and failure … and long periods of the routine, ordinary and commonplace things of daily life."

Through all, the bishop told the jubilarians, "you have persevered," because you have been open to the "presence of the Lord Jesus in your lives."

For Sharon and Ronald, it was science, you could say, that brought them together. But perseverance and faith have sustained them.

The two met as physics students at Michigan State University, both inspired as high schoolers to aid the space race after the Russians launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite.

In an interview last week, the Gripshovers said two things have helped keep their marriage strong: They pray together every night, and they never go to sleep in an argument.

"In those early years of marriage, sometimes we'd go to bed late," said Sharon, laughing.

Fellow golden jubilarians Paul and Laurel Gauthier, parishioners of St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax, shared their own marital wisdom prior to Sunday's Mass.

"People say that marriage is 50-50," said Paul, a past grand Knight. "But it's actually 100-100." His wife nodded, adding, "You both have to be willing to give it your all."

Bishop Loverde said in his homily that the marital relationship is ordained by God.

"Each human person is created to live not in isolation but in a life-giving relationship with another, and in marriage - understood to be the union of one man with one woman - in a relationship rooted in permanence, fidelity and openness to new life," he said.

The bishop reflected briefly on the extraordinary Synod of Bishops, which concluded the day of the Marriage Jubilee Mass. He said the gathering in Rome was part of an effort to "arrive at new ways of expressing the perennial truth regarding marriage and the family."

Echoing his letter issued Oct. 17, he said that "regrettably, wildly diverse interpretations" were voiced following the synod's midterm report, but he encouraged the faithful to "be at peace." The truth about marriage is rooted in natural law and the Scriptures and will not change, he said.

Concluding his homily, the bishop thanked jubilarians for their witness of faith and for striving "to make real the truth that in marriage, love is the mission."

That mission and its fruits were demonstrated by the Gripshover family after Mass, as Father Gripshover wrapped his parents in a bear hug.

"My parents' example has sustained me and encouraged me in all things, including my vocation," said Father Gripshover. "Their love and faith is profoundly wonderful."

It's the kind of love the Lord speaks of and offers to each of us, he said. "It's the kind of love that is forever."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014