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In May, over 630 couples from across the Diocese, accompanied by family members, came together in the Cathedral to celebrate the Annual Mass of Thanksgiving for Matrimony. After the challenges and difficulties of the pandemic, the Cathedral was once again filled with their light, colour and sound. Deacon Roger Carr-Jones, Marriage & Family Coordinator, explains how the mosaics that decorate the Cathedral were accompanied and enhanced by a living mosaic.

Mosaics are fascinating creations. Made from stones like marble, glass, metal, porcelain and much more, together they provide a unique look, due to their varying sizes and colours. The classic mosaic material is ‘smalti’, small hand-cut pieces of coloured glass with an irregular finish that makes them a wonderful reflector of light.

In his welcome address, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said:  'Marriage is a mosaic that you build with your spouse: it is as diverse as the smalti, and shimmers catching the eye of the world. Just as there are millions of mosaic pieces in this Cathedral, there are millions of stories, events and tiny moments that go into creating married love. Each mosaic, like your mutual love, is different in style and tells a unique story.'

If you look around the Cathedral you soon become aware of the variety of different mosaics. Each stone has its own loveliness and when brought together they produce a coherent image of outstanding beauty. Marriage involves the creation of a unique mosaic. When the couple first marry, they bring with them a variety of materials and ideas for the design of their marriage mosaic. Over the years they find that new materials and panels are required, and that the overall layout requires ongoing adjustments and, at times, essential repairs might be needed.

The tiles of the mosaic of married love acquire their beauty and fascination by being brought together. This also includes those pieces that may have been damaged and require careful restoration. At the Cathedral there was a myriad of couple mosaics: some quite new, others of a deeper and richer hue, and those which reflected the hallmarks of age and change. This living mosaic of a partnership of life and love is made up of individual tiles of joy, a shared endeavour, and, naturally at times, moments of sorrow.

We are equally blessed to have a mosaic of movements and organisations, who accompany couples over a lifetime. Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia, called for the ongoing pastoral accompaniment as “couples become more aware of the challenges and meaning of married life”. Just as there are different stages in the creation and ongoing maintenance of a mosaic, so it is with the journey of marriage.

There are catechists and formators in marriage preparation, where the guides and tools are provided for the couple to craft together the individual sets of tiles that they bring. This recognises the power of the bonding mortar of Christ, whose presence holds the marriage mosaic together. As the marriage mosaic is organic, there are then others who assist the couple to reassemble and reassess, replenish and restore, as required, each providing different tools and materials, though the work is always in the hands of the couple.

With your support to the Cardinal’s Appeal, groups such as Pulse (family prayer), Retrouvaille (healing) and, in their 75th year, Catholic Marriage Care (relationship counselling) have been able to help burnish many couple mosaics. The last, Catholic Marriage Care, was founded in the Diocese, and, through the work of its volunteer counsellors, has enabled couples to reassemble and rebuild their couple mosaic.

Again, thanks to your help, these and other groups have set out on new paths in recent years to provide a complementary approach to marriage preparation, enrichment and accompaniment.

Although each couple at the Mass of Thanksgiving brought with them their own unique mosaic, at the moment of renewing their vows a single mosaic of love and happiness was imprinted on the memory of the Cathedral. From many mosaics something new was created. Cardinal Vincent’s words rang true: 'No marriage is unremarkable. Each is special. God is a skilled artist working with our humble materials to create a masterpiece.'

To find out more, visit our Marriage and Family Life section. This work is only possible thanks to your generous donations to the Cardinals Appeal. Read more stories like this in the Autumn edition of the Mosaic Newsletter.