LAFLIN — Rita and Bill Dehaba, of Duryea, have wanted for many years to get to church for the Feast of Holy Spouses. But they never seemed to get to the Mass. Until this year.
“We’ll be married 44 years this coming Friday, Jan. 29,” Rita Dehaba said. “We decided it was finally the year to make time to come to the special Mass because it would be nice to honor all of those years together.”
So, on Jan. 24, when many people were either shopping or watching football playoffs, or even shoveling snow, they joined nearly 200 people in worship Sunday afternoon at the Oblates of St. Joseph Seminary for the special Mass honoring the parents of Jesus Christ as a couple.
Christians usually think of Mary hovering over the child in the manger and Joseph standing by before he goes on to his work as a carpenter, said Rev. Paul A. McDonnell, O.S.J., Provincial Superior to the Oblates’ Holy Spouses Province, who traveled from Santa Cruz, California, to be the principal celebrant for the service.
He noted that even in today’s world, women are known for being someone’s mother or for holding down some kind of job. And the men are recognized by their occupations or what team they coach or what organization they might belong to. But in the home, they are a couple who deal with finances and child-rearing and making plans for the future together.
“Mary and Joseph, too, faced the same difficulties, the same problems, the same day-to-day issues that any married couple might face — getting food on the table, raising children, keeping the household together,” he said. “So we celebrate their struggles and their lives together as a couple in this feast day.”
The Mass included more than half a dozen co-celebrants from the Oblates of St. Josepoh Community as well as an honor guard from the John F. Kennedy Assembly 948 Knights of Columbus from Pittston. Several of those Knights were also part of the choir that filled the church with glorious song.
While the Mass was open to anyone, it was especially dedicated to married couples or those about to be married. Many of the couples in the church were celebrating long years joined in marriage like Mary and Joseph.
They were couples like Liz and Phil Vanesko, of Harding, who celebrated their golden wedding anniversary last October. They talked about their anniversary celebration given by their five sons and daughter, about the Mass in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Swoyersville — it was Holy Trinity Church 50 years ago — about how daughter Mary sang at the service and about the friends from the People of God Community who gave them a dinner to celebrate the many years of married life. But they also clung to the essence of it all.
“It was a true commitment to each other,” Phil Vanesko said. “We had good times and hard times. But we stayed together through everything.”
The couple, like so many others at the Mass, illustrated the quote from the late Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, President of the University of Notre Dame, quoted by McDonnell in his homily: “The most important thing that a father can to for his children is to love their mother.”
“This feast day is a reminder, a way to try to honor the sanctity of marriage and to maintain the way we see marriage as God’s law and natural law,” McDonnell said. “Over all of this, viewing Mary and Joseph as a married couple, as spouses, also teaches us to be faithful to God in whatever vocation we are called to in this life. Through faith in God — and faith with God, we fulfill our responsibilities to each other.”