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Bishop's Column

Bishop Barbarito Column
   February 16, 2024

Living Marriage in the Present Moment

This time of the year brings a most happy occasion to our Diocese to which I look forward and enjoy very much. It is the annual celebrations of marriage anniversaries which take place in the northern and southern parts of our Diocese. Many couples come to celebrate Mass and renew their marriage vows. They bring with them a great deal of joy and a true sense of what marriage and family life are all about. The couples range from celebrating 25 years of marriage all the way to the upper 70 years of marriage. Pope Francis frequently speaks of the saints next door, and these couples truly are saints within our midst as they live their lives in true love and sacrifice. While I am very privileged to give the homily on these occasions, it is the couples themselves who speak the homilies by the example of their lives. I wish to congratulate all of our couples within our Diocese celebrating various marriage anniversaries this year and assure them all of my prayers and high esteem.

When we celebrate an anniversary, be it marriage or otherwise, we look to the past and look to the future. This is a good thing to do in the present moment as it helps us to focus our attention on the present moment. We must always keep in mind that we look to the past and anticipate the future in the present moment. It is in the present moment that God’s grace is present, and we experience His joy by living in that moment. The couples celebrating their marriage anniversaries are well aware of this reality. It is their constant living in the present moment over the years that has made their lives and those of their families so rich, despite the difficulties that they often experienced.

Another very joyful experience for me is celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation in our parishes around the Diocese. The parents and grandparents who are present at the celebrations are true witnesses to the meaning of love and marriage. Their children are there because of them. They cooperated with God in giving life and have fostered that love over the years by the sacrifices they have made for their families. I like to tell the young people that we are made in the image and likeness of God and God is the perfect family, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for all eternity. He created us to be like Him, and that is why we live in family, grow in family and experience love in family. That is why life truly comes into existence through the family. I again like to express to the young people that it is in the present moment that we find God and the joy of life. While they have much to look forward to in their lives, they will not be able to experience true joy unless they experience the grace of God in the present moment to its fullest.

The key to the spiritual life, indeed to life in general, is to live in the present moment, which oftentimes seems so ordinary. This is a very good practice to concentrate upon during this season of Lent. To live in the past or to live in the future is to live in a graceless moment. While it is important to look to the past and to the future, God gives us His grace for today. We can recognize those graceful times in the past and look forward to them in the future, but the grace is here for now. So many times, we worry about the future and wonder how we will cope because the future is now a graceless moment. The only moment of life that we live in is the present one, and God is most present to it. As married couples grow in their relationship with each other through the years, more and more they recognize this reality which they hand on to their children. As young people begin to mature, they realize this more and more and find the grace of God in their lives.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, is an extremely popular and beloved saint by men and women of every age and background precisely because she lived so simply and fully in the present moment. Her “Little Way” is truly a school of spirituality for all stages in life from which we can learn. It is based on simplicity and the ability to realize the present moment as a means to know God and find happiness in life. She wrote, “Whoever possesses the present moment, possesses God. Therefore, whoever possesses the present moment, possesses everything. The present moment is enough. Don’t let anything trouble you.” Her words echo exactly the words of Christ and are important words for us to understand in realizing peace within our lives and within our families. Living in the present moment is how St. Thérèse, who experienced much suffering and feelings of desolation in her life, was always able to be joyful and to inspire joy in others who never knew her suffering.

As we continue with the season of Lent, we give thanks to God for the many graces which he bestows upon us each and every day. The more we recognize them, the more we are able to live in joy and to hand on to others what truly matters. The gift of marriage and family life are centered in the present moment and that is why so much joy is found in them.  

Again, congratulations to all couples celebrating their marriage anniversaries this year. You are great examples of what the meaning of life is all about and of true joy in the present moment.

Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito