This month, my husband’s parents, Ken and Peg, celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary. What a gift they have been to my husband and me in beautifully modeling for us the holiness of the ordinary days of marriage.
Both in their 90s, and experiencing the limitations of their aging bodies, there is still a sparkle in their eyes and a gaze of love in their hearts when they look at one another. Instinctively, they seem to know each other’s needs before they’re spoken, and they act upon them without delay. While they move a little slower, and minor irritations flare more easily, it is clear they are more than just life companions — they are each other’s best friend.
Friendship in marriage is not something that automatically comes with the wedding vows. It is something that is crafted over years of opening your hearts to one another, sharing your feelings and being vulnerable with your spouse trusting he or she will love you like God does — no matter what.
It is easy to share positive feelings like joy, happiness or excitement with a friend. It’s another to share messier feelings like shame, anger or loneliness. Those are the kinds of feelings you rarely reveal to an acquaintance or a casual friend because you are never quite sure how the other will react. Will he or she think less of you, judge you or become uncomfortable in sharing such a level of intimacy? The feelings that touch the deepest core of our heart are usually ones we share with our best friend — a person who knows us sometimes better than we know ourselves and accepts us for who we are not who they want us to be. When that friend is also your spouse, it deepens the intimacy and communion that God calls couples to through the sacrament of marriage.
In the book Project Holiness: Marriage as a Workshop for Everyday Saints, authors Bridget Burke Ravizza and Julie Donovan Massey present the results of a research process they conducted of Catholic married couples in two Catholic dioceses in the Midwest who were identified by members of their parishes as “particularly holy, or saintly.” Through interviews with these couples, the authors found that married friendship was a contributing factor in identifying holiness in those couples. The authors discovered: “Friendship in marriage brings partners closer to God in various ways: it inspires virtue by example, it teaches self-transcendence and responsibility for the other; it leads to personal flourishing through support and challenge; and it strengthens partners to live out their faith commitments.”
Those aspects are definite qualities I see in Ken and Peg. In fact, it is something I have seen, as well, in numerous couples I have met as coordinator for the annual diocesan Mass for couples celebrating significant wedding anniversaries in their lives. Last year, I invited couples who registered for the 2022 Mass and were celebrating 50 years or more of marriage to share their love stories for a special anniversary booklet I put together for the event. Eighteen couples took me up on this invitation. Their stories and pictures can be found on the diocesan website at
The enduring love stories collected in that booklet are portraits of mature love fashioned from putting the other first, facing life’s heartaches and joys together and of self-giving love — all hallmarks and foundations for a beautiful friendship. Like Ken and Peg have been for my husband and me, the couples in that booklet are also models for each of us of the holiness of the ordinary days of marriage.
By Mary-Jo McLaughlin