On Friday, May 25, Women of Grace® founder Johnnette Benkovic and the General Manager of EWTN Radio, Jack Williams, were united during a nuptial Mass at Espiritu Santo Catholic Church in Safety Harbor, Florida, in a ceremony that celebrated the sacredness of this sacrament as well as the love that brought the two of them to the foot of the Lord’s altar. Thanks to the generosity of Father Wade L. J. Menezes, CPM, who officiated at the Mass, the following is the homily he gave during this celebration.
Father Menezes began his homily by quoting a few comments by religious and secular sources about the sacrament of marriage.
“Saint Bernard of Clairvaux says, ‘It is in the perfect Union of two hearts that a complete and perfected marriage consist.’
“An anonymous source tells us that the perfect marriage is that of an imperfect husband and an imperfect wife who absolutely refuse to give up on one another. I think in this modern age that is worth repeating for all marrieds including our friends and families.”
With his usual humor, Father included this quote: “A marriage counselor writes that the key to any successful marriage is that the married couple should eat out twice a week – the wife on Mondays and the husband on Wednesdays.”
He went on to quote from the Catechism, No. 1638, which says that “from a valid marriage arises a bond between the spouses which by its very nature is perpetual and exclusive. Furthermore, in a Christian marriage, the spouses are strengthened and, as it were, consecrated to the duties and dignities of their state in life by this special sacrament.”
“These truths lead me to my favorite quote about marriage,” Father said.
“The main purpose of a sacramental marriage is to help one another get into heaven. Period.”
He continued: “St john of the Cross, the great Carmelite mystic, tells us that the more God wishes to give us the more He makes us desire. In other words, St. John teaches that Almighty God can never inspire desires in a person that cannot be fulfilled by that person.”
He then turned to the bride and groom. “Jack and Johnette I know both of you, I know you both well, and I know that your main purpose is, ultimately, of today’s sacramental celebration – and that is to help one another get into heaven.
“And Christ the Bridegroom, and His bride the Church promise you that through this valid sacramental union being established as a covenant between the two of you today, you are indeed being strengthened and as it were consecrated through the duties and dignity of this new state in life – marriage. But in one sense it’s not so new of a state in life.”
Father then paid a beautiful tribute to the deceased spouses of the bride and groom.
“I wish to honor here the late Susan Melissa Williams, Jack’s first wife of over 20 years, and I wish to pay honor as well to the late Anthony Joseph Benkovic, Johnnette’s first husband of over 33 years. My friends, think about it, combined that is over 53 years of marriage and the fact that Johnnette and Jack decided – after careful discernment, to each marry again is a wonderful testimony of the marital covenants they had established with their first spouses.
“What a testimony to Jack’s wife! What a testimony to Johnnette’s first husband. In other words, Jack and Johnnette loved marriage so much so they want to do it again – and that speaks volumes about the persons of Susan and Anthony.”
He continued: “And so we have on this day today’s words spoken by God to the prophet Jeremiah in the first reading [Jeremiah 29:11-15], which are also words God speaks to each of you today, Johnnette and Jack – ‘for I know well the plans I have in mind for you says the Lord.’
“St. Paul’s words to the Romans in our second reading [Romans 12:1-2; 9-12] apply to both of you as well, especially in this modern day and age -18 years into the third millennium. In a day and age when natural marriage is under attack by secular forces the two of you are called upon to not conform yourselves to this age but to be transformed by the renewal of your mind that you may discern what is the will of God for you, what is good, and pleasing, and perfect. To let your love be sincere, to hate what is evil and to hold onto what is good, loving one another with mutual affection, and to anticipate one another in showing love.
“And so Almighty God, Who is love . . . has always seen this very moment, in His divine and eternal mind on this May 25, 2018, beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. It is always been in His divine and eternal mind.
“And I think that our good God probably informed this most holy and pure mother of ours too,” he added, while looking over at a beautiful statue of Our Lady.
“Yesterday, on May 24, Jack and Johnnette, you completed the 33rd day of your Marian consecration preparation and today, at this nuptial Mass of your celebrating the sacrament of matrimony, following the Communion rite, both of you will actually make the consecration – that is profess it together as man and wife – according to the St. Louis de Montfort formula, thus inviting our Blessed Mother in a very special way to guide you in this new marriage covenant being established by God between the two of you.”
He went on to quote Pope Leo XIII who said that “marriage is a sacrament precisely because it is a holy sign which gives grace showing forth the image of the mystical nuptials between Christ and His bride the Church. Marriage has God for its author and was from the very beginning holy and religious not extraneous but rather innate to human nature, not derived from men but implanted by god in human nature.”
Father then turned to the congregation and said, “My friends today we are gathered to witness the consent by which Johnnette and Jack mutually give and receive one another in this sacrament, a consent which the Church teaches is sealed by God himself.”
Again, he quoted No. 1628 of the Catechism. “The Church is very clear on her teaching of the sacrament of matrimony that by reason of their state in life and of their words, Christian spouse have their own special gifts.”
“Each one of you has you own special gifts in the people of God,” he told the couple. “And beyond television and radio, I might add. You have your own special gifts, and you’re called to be complementary with those gifts, each one toward the other, in your new married life together. Indeed the grace proper to the sacrament of matrimony is intended to perfect a couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble union. By this grace, Johnnette and Jack will receive and possess the awesome ability to attain holiness in their married state of life. Indeed to help one another get into heaven.
“Today through their marriage, Christ will come to dwell within Johnnette and Jack in a more deeper ontological sense in a way that marriage – the very relationship between Christ and His bride the church – this grace will give them the daily strength needed to take up their crosses and any crosses which will come, to rise again after they have fallen, and to forgive one another and bear one another’s burdens and to be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. And to love one another with a supernatural, tender love.”
Again, he turned to the congregation, “And so it is my dear friends that Johnnette and Jack ask for your prayers for their marriage, the covenant of which is being establish today, and know they will be praying for each one of you and your marriages as well as the marriages of your loved ones in a very special way.”
He went on to explain the contents of the nuptial Mass program which, in addition to listing the order of the ceremony and Mass, also contained an image of a digital replica of the missionary image of Our Lady of Guadalupe which was set up in the narthex of the church. On the following page was a tear-out sheet for guests to write their prayer intentions.
“We invite you to leave your prayer request for marriages to the gentle care and love of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” the bride and groom wrote in the program. “Your family, your marriage, those of your children, grandchildren, and friends, irregular marriages, marriages and families in distress and upcoming marriages can all be tucked into the tender heart of Our Lady to present to her son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Father Menezes then promised the congregation to say a novena of Masses for those intentions.
He concluded his homily with a blessing:
“God bless you Jack and Johnnette as we embark now on one of the holiest of sacramental rituals in our catholic faith in your honor. God be with you, God is with you, and may our Blessed Mother and the saints and angels guide you all the days of your life.
“Indeed to help lead one another into heaven.”
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Click here if you’d like to contribute to a spiritual bouquet for Jack and Johnnette.
Click here to listen to what radio host and wedding guest Teresa Tomeo had to say about the wedding.