ORLANDO | If there were a secret to how to have a perfect marriage, it would include the Eucharist— the perfect union with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Trinity, received through the Eucharist, Jesus’ Body and Blood, is the key to these successful marriages, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.
Married civilly for 25 years before convalidating their union in the Church, St. Isaac Jogues parishioners Linda and Luis Angel Ortiz participated in the celebration of Mass every Sunday, excluding reception of Communion.
“Those were years of agony for each of us as a couple and individually,” said Luis Angel, who recalled many tears shed.
It was not until 2016, after Luis Angel’s previous marriage was annulled, that the couple received the Sacrament together. Linda recalled the day clearly.
“It was incredible. My husband was waiting for me at the altar with the priest, but all my mind could think about was that I was going to receive the Lord that day, after so many years of not having physically received Him,” she said. “I know He was in our hearts and lives and in all we did, but not receiving Him for so many years caused me great pain. When the moment for Communion came, I was more nervous than in any other moment, even more than our vows.”
“Receiving Eucharist together has strengthened our marriage and grown our intimacy with each other and with God,” she added.
When Luis Angel recalls the day, he still absorbs the enormity of its significance.
“Receiving meant being able to complete the essence of marriage, permanently and completely — like giving marriage the validity we as Catholics believe should exist within married couples,” he said. “It was the day everything changed, that made a difference because we received that blessing from God to be a formal part of God’s family again. It was extraordinarily special for us. We never felt far away, and kept practicing and helping, so it was painful not to be a part of the Eucharist. But at that moment, everything changed for us. We were completely a part of the community, the parish and part of the Body and Blood of Christ.”
Linda describes Eucharist as “an engine” that fills their hearts and strengthens them. It is “what helps us battle difficulties. In that same way, the Eucharist has served as a support for us in our marriage,” she added.
And that support is a kernel of what is expressed through their marriage. “Being able to receive together as a married couple, created a deeper union, reinforced our marriage, and we share more within and without the Church.”
Luis Angel battles nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. While he awaits a transplant, he and Linda marvel at what God’s presence has accomplished through their reception of the Eucharist and its expression through them. He cannot explain his state of health in any other way than miraculous – a life given to him through the Eucharist, through Christ’s death and Resurrection.
“How else can you explain, despite a damaged liver, my bodily systems are functioning well?”
Linda agreed and credited the Eucharist and its outward manifestations.
“Receiving the Eucharist has totally transformed our marriage and our home. It has brought an impressive amount of peace. Knowing that we are receiving our Lord each week is what gives us the energy needed for the week – physically, spiritually, and emotionally,” she said. “We’ve been a calm couple, very united, yet since we received the Sacrament, there was a peace lived in our life and especially in our marriage. For me, it is the Eucharist that provides that. It makes us want to live better in order to continue receiving the Eucharist in a state of grace.”
Deacon Kelvin Berberena and his wife, Maribel, experience a similar spiritual power and bond created by receiving the Eucharist.
“The Eucharist is God and God is everything in our lives,” Maribel said. “Without Him we cannot get up. It is easy when things are going well. It is in the difficult moments where God most visibly displays His grace.”
She and Deacon Kelvin know that firsthand. Diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2021, they and their three daughters endured a grueling year. The couple was praying a community rosary at their parish, St. Augustine in Casselberry, when they got the call. They immediately offered the Virgin Mary all their worries.
“Not that we had no worries,” Kelvin said. “There were at least a couple of weeks of anguish, not knowing what would happen. But we realized this process was going to be guided by Our Lord. We knew God was in control. Almost at the end of four surgeries and chemotherapy, we began to realize the journey we were walking was not about us, but to give testimony to Christ.”
During their health challenge, he was still in formation was ordained to the permanent diaconate. He said he often thinks of Maribel and she of him during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
“I know we are both there in that moment. I represent her and the people of God. It is humbling. It is like the words that follow: ‘I am not worthy’- But God is so merciful He allows me to be there.”
He acknowledges his hands still shake. “I hope it never stops shaking because, for me, it is a moment to surrender my heart. It’s not physical. It is all of my being that is part of that special intimacy,” he said.
Maribel said she empathizes with his experience. “I watch him and am transported to where he is, and how he must feel,” she said.
Like the Ortiz family, the Berberenas believe the Eucharist is a pillar of their marriage.
“The Body and Blood of Christ transforms,” Deacon Kelvin stated. “If we allow God to actualize, to allow that God animate Himself within us through the Holy Spirit – when we give God His proper place – we surrender ourselves completely; we can feel and even touch the peace and love of God.”
Both couples will attend the Mass for Marriage, Feb. 11, noon, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe. At that Mass, hundreds of couples will renew their vows — witnessing to the love of Christ flowing through their marriage — flowing from the Eucharist into His Church. All couples and their families and friends are invited to attend.
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic staff, February 09, 2023