“I pray that today cracks open our hearts and starts a new path.” Bill Donaghy, from the Theology of the Body Institute, kicked off the 2014 World Marriage Day celebration in Manhattan last Sunday, February 9th. World Marriage Day began in 1981 after couples in Baton Rouge, LA petitioned their mayor, governor, and bishop to associate Valentine’s Day with honoring married couples. The following year, 43 state governors signed and proclaimed the day and designated the second Sunday of February for its observance, and in 1993, Pope John Paul II imparted his Apostolic Blessing on World Marriage Day. This day, which has gained honor and recognition from both secular and religious authorities, stands to honor husbands and wives as the foundation of the family, the basic unit of society.
Living Authentic Love in a Challenging World
The 2014 World Marriage Day Celebration in Manhattan, sponsored by the Family Life/Respect Life Office, took a giant leap from previous years by adding a half-day of formation and community fellowship to a special Sunday Liturgy honoring the longest-married couples in the archdiocese and inviting all the married couples present – from those married less than one year to the longest married couples married between 65 and 75 years – to renew their wedding vows. In the end, 50+ couples registered and attended the event at St. Malachy’s Church (The Actor’s Chapel) near Times Square, welcoming Theology of the Body Institute speaker BIll Donaphy and Fr. Louis Leonelli, CFR, from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.
If we live the gift, and give ourselves, it will evolve into life. ~Bill Donaghy
The theme of the 2014 celebration, “Living Authentic Love in a Challenging World” offered couples a glimpse of Bl. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” a teaching that gives a clear, unwavering answer to modern culture’s mistrust of human love. The Theology of the Body is the heritage of John Paul II’s rich insight since his years as a young Polish priest working with single people and newly married couples, evolving into his philosophical masterpiece, “Love and Responsibility,” and later delivered in its rich Gospel-filled context in a series of Wednesday addresses given over five years that earned the name, the Theology of the Body.
Start Living It, Even While Learning It
The central message of the Theology of the Body is the calling for every man and women to become a gift for another. Bill Donaghy explained, “If we live the gift, and give ourselves, it will evolve into life.” Man’s ability to give himself in love to another arises from his recognition that he is already loved (cf. 1 Jn. 4:19). Bill explained that that Theology of the Body unveils the plan of God’s love for humankind as, “the great mystery of God is the invisible becomes visible through the physical.” Realizing and receiving the gift of Jesus Christ, who became a man to give himself in death for man’s salvation, every person is invited down a path of love with Jesus Christ to make oneself a gift to their spouse, friend, and neighbor. Bill explained that the good news of the Theology of the Body is that love in all its forms, including sexual love, is a great gift and source of wonder when treated with dignity. His advice that day to the married couples was, “start living it, even while learning it.”
Fr. Louis Leonelli brought the formation part of World Marriage Day to a close by encouraging the couples to live out a life of love before the world. “Be that Gospel message to your family, [and] to your neighbors.” Fr. Louis stressed the importance of the home as the school of love, saying “Children need to be taught every day in the home,” and explained the need for families to witness their love before others, saying “Other people [and] children learn when seeing you in public.” World Marriage Day ended with a Sunday Liturgy, celebrated by Bishop Gerald Walsh, Vicar General for the Archdiocese, followed by an afternoon reception, where married couples relaxed and enjoyed the company of others walking the path of marriage.