Couples mark wedding anniversaries at cathedral

BOSTON -- After 50 years, Ronald Falcione says he would marry his wife, Debbie, all over again.

The couple met in college in Washington, D.C., when their friend groups ran into each other while going out for drinks. Although they attended different schools, they were both math majors, and when Ronald's friend discovered this, he switched seats so the two of them could sit together and get to know each other.

"We've had a good life together. There's no such thing as perfection, but if I made one choice that I wouldn't change, it's marrying her," Ronald Falcione said.

The Falciones, who are parishioners of Cathedral Parish, were among more than 70 married couples who renewed their wedding vows and received a special blessing during the archdiocese's annual Wedding Anniversary Mass, which took place on Nov. 6 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley was the principal celebrant of the Mass, which is organized by the archdiocese's Family Life Office to honor couples who have reached milestone anniversaries -- usually 10, 25, or 50 years. This year, they also invited couples who celebrated milestone anniversaries during the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of years that the couples had been married ranged from 10 to 62. Most of the participating couples were marking their silver anniversary, 25 years, or golden anniversary, 50 years. Many were accompanied by family or friends.

In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley said that for the Irish, the traditional way of proposing marriage has been by asking, "Would you like to be buried with my people?" The French, in contrast, have traditionally proposed by saying, "I want to begin a conversation with you that will last the rest of our lives." The cardinal said that both proposals contain "very special truths."

"The Irish proposal reminds us that marriage is for a lifetime, and the French proposal reminds us that marriage begins with a dialogue," he said.

He also talked about the symbolism of wedding rings. In Romance languages, he said, the word for a wedding ring is "alliance," which means "covenant." He likened the wedding ring to a rainbow, the sign of God's covenant after the flood.

"We as people of faith believe in a God who makes promises and keeps them, and he is pleased when we make promises and keep them," Cardinal O'Malley said.

He emphasized that love is a decision rather than an emotion.

"It is a decision to make a gift of your life to another. And that's the decision that you made on your wedding day, and that's the vow that you professed. And that big decision was a service to humanity and to the Church," he said.

Cardinal O'Malley explained that the current "vocations crisis" is not a lack of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, but to marriage. He cited some statistics indicating the decline of marriage in the U.S. In 1960, only 28 percent of adults were single. Today, over 50 percent of adults are single.

Looking at the Gospel reading of the day, which recounted the martyrdom of seven brothers in 2 Maccabees 7, Cardinal O'Malley reminded the assembly that the word "martyr" means "witness."

"We are called to be witnesses of the resurrection in the way that we live our lives of discipleship. Your witness, living your marriage vows, is your martyrdom," he said.

After the homily, the anniversary couples renewed their commitment to each other, and Cardinal O'Malley blessed them.

Raymond and Mary Helen Modeen of St. Irene Parish in Carlisle, were among those renewing their vows after 50 years of marriage.

"It was a beautiful Mass, a beautiful reminder of our relationship and our love for each other for the past 50 years and going forward as well," said Mary Helen Modeen.

When asked what other married couples can learn from their experience, Raymond Modeen echoed the cardinal's words about marriage involving dialogue. He also acknowledged that a married couple will not know everything about each other and will learn new things over the years.

"It's a discovery process. And when you discover these things, you need to figure out how to adapt and bring those into your relationship," Raymond Modeen said.

He also stressed the importance of faith.

"The faith is so important in keeping a marriage strong, because we believe in a higher power that we should worship and looking at marriage as a vocation towards that end," he said.