Couples called to holy marriages, not perfect ones, at anniversary Mass

Joseph and Cheryl Bowling, members of All Saints Church, received a certificate from Archbishop Fabre highlighting their 70 years of marriage during a Celebration of Matrimony at the Cathedral of the Assumption Sept. 17. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre led long-time married couples in a renewal of their commitment to one another during a special liturgy Sept. 17 at the Cathedral of the Assumption, suggesting they seal their commitment with a kiss.

The annual Celebration of Matrimony honored 119 Archdiocese of Louisville couples marking 30, 40, 50 and 60-plus years of marriage this year.

Thanking them for their witness to love and marriage, Archbishop Fabre noted there are a host of sayings about love, including “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.”

“Well, that’s craziness,” he said to a cathedral full of laughter. “Those of you who’ve been married a long time know that’s craziness.”

Love, he said, makes you say “sorry” quicker “because you’ve hurt someone you love,” he said.

And couples will hurt one another because no one is perfect.

“There are no perfect marriages. We can’t do anything perfectly. There are holy marriages that we can attain,” he said. 

And forgiveness is central to holiness, he said, noting that couples must “seek forgiveness and grant it. This is part of the totality of the relationship.”

On the morning of his resurrection, Jesus gathered with his disciples and had the “opportunity to say, ‘I told you so; you have disappointed me,’ ” the archbishop pointed out. Instead, Jesus says, “Peace be with you.”

“Can you imagine what flooded the apostle’s hearts when he said this? They saw the totality of Jesus’ love for them,” said Archbishop Fabre. “Even though they couldn’t be perfect, they could be holy. Forgiveness invites us to strive after holiness.”

Kenneth and Billie Carter Martin, members of St. Bernadette Church, celebrated 30 years of marriage during the liturgy. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

The archbishop thanked the couples for their witness to marriage, forgiveness, love and holilness, adding, “You have been an image of Christ in the church for all of us.”

Among those witnesses who attended the Mass were Joseph and Cheryl Bowling, members of All Saints Church in Taylorsville, Ky., who are celebrating 70 years of marriage this year. 

They credit the longevity of their marriage to faith and a healthy helping of teamwork.

“You make the bed together,” said Joseph Bowling with a twinkle in his eye. “It’s like a team of horses, you pull together.”

That goes for the whole family, said Cheryl Bowling, noting that they have eight children, 21 grandchildren and 30 great-grand children. 

“We all work together,” she said. “We are very fortunate, our family is very loving with one another.”

Early in their marriage, prayer became essential to their family, the couple said.

“It started out with just prayer before meals. Over the years we’ve added phrases,” said Joseph Bowling. 

One of the intentions they added early on was, “May our family be blessed with religious vocations.”

Long-married couples renewed their commitment to one another during a special Mass Sept. 17 at the Cathedral of the Assumption. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

Their youngest child became a diocesan priest, Father William Bowling, pastor of St. Martin de Porres Church and Holy Name Church.

“The vocation prayer came years before he was born,” his mother noted. 

These days, Joseph Bowling, 93, said he has adopted a new prayer, “for a safe and happy death.”

And he said their family members seem always to be on the go. So they also pray: “We thank you for bringing us home at the end of the day, especially those who were traveling.”

Their faith, he added, “That’s the whole thing.”

In addition to the Bowlings, two other couples are celebrating 70 years of marriage. They are Frank and Martha Wheeler of the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky., and Raeburn and Nellie Mattingly of St. John the Baptist Church in Rineyville, Ky.

The archdiocese’s Office of Family and Life Ministries organized the Mass. The office will honor couples celebrating 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 years of marriage in 2023 on Nov. 26 at noon at the Cathedral, 433 S. Fifth St. To register, call your parish office.

Marnie McAllister
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Marnie McAllister
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