By Celine Klosterman
FAIRFIELD — Couples who pray together stay together — at least according to some who’ve been married half a century.
“Faith is a good foundation for a marriage,” said Carol Marlin, a member of Church of All Saints in Keokuk who’s been married to Francis Marlin for 50 years.
“We’ve always kept God in our marriage,” Francis Marlin said. “He has to be the main part of it.”
The parishioners were among about 20 couples who attended a Mass Oct. 10 at St. Mary Church in Fairfield for spouses celebrating their 50th anniversaries. The Davenport Diocese sponsors the Mass annually.
“I’m sure your very lives have preached a strong message over the years,” Bishop Martin Amos told couples in his homily. He joked that as a “professional bachelor,” he would nonetheless speak to them about marriage.
He offered three pieces of wisdom, the first of which was, “Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.” He asked couples to think about their visions 50 years ago for their families. Perhaps those plans included a nice house, “two beautiful, highly intelligent, well behaved children” and a certain job. “No doubt you got something quite different.”
Some people leave marriage because it didn’t measure up to their expectations, Bishop Amos noted. But mature people accept each other and adjust their dreams to reality. “Without knowing the future, you took each other for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. It is a tribute to you and your love that you have remained faithful to those promises these many years.”
For the second bit of wisdom, the bishop noted that “Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.”
“Fifty years ago, you probably saw each other as Mr. and Mrs. Perfect. But it didn’t take long to learn that he or she was not perfect.” In response to that realization, spouses might try to change their partners, he observed. But mature husbands and wives recognize each others’ flaws — and love their spouses anyway.
Finally, Bishop Amos said, “Love truly is patient; love is kind, not jealous or rude or self-seeking. It is not prone to anger or to brooding over injuries. And for that to happen there needs to be, as St. Paul said to the Colossians, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, forgiveness and above all, love. That kind of love never fails.”
“…May God continue to bless each of you, your marriage, your families and your futures.”
After the Mass, in reflecting on the secrets to a long marriage, Carol Marlin echoed one piece of wisdom the bishop shared. “Not everyone’s perfect. You learn to adjust to them.”
She and other Catholics agreed commitment is vital. “It takes a lot of work — you can’t just bail out,” said Anne Erlandsen, a Church of All Saints parishioner who attended the Mass with husband Leon.
“You have to be positive that it’s going to work,” said Marlene Bentler. She and her husband, Ray, belong to St. John Parish in Houghton. Faith and prayers help, she said. And “We’ve both been fortunate we’ve had good health.”
Couples cited benefits of their commitment — especially family and grandchildren, Marlene Bentler and Francis Marlin each said. “We’re still playing cards together after 50 years,” she added of herself and Ray.
“It was rare to see 50th anniversaries years ago,” said Adrian Box, who belongs to St. John Parish with his wife, Carol. “We’re pretty lucky to make it to 50 years.”