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By Deacon Roger Carr-Jones, Marriage & Family Life Coordinator for the Diocese of Westminster

May is marked by changes in nature. It is the season when the restraint of winter gives way to an abundance of new growth and colour. It is a time when flower shows gather apace, stimulating a wider interest in horticulture, garden design and floral creativity. These floral gatherings are occasions in which connections between the presenters and attendees are nurtured and an atmosphere of celebration hangs in the air. 

May is marked in our cathedral by a rich variety of very special celebrations, one of which is the Annual Mass of Thanksgiving for Matrimony.  Over 465 couples from across the diocese, at various stages of cultivating their garden of married love, came together to renew and recommit themselves to each other. 

Those once small and delicate cuttings of love, which were later grafted together in matrimony, have grown in maturity and design. Each year there are changes to the couple’s design of their love, to ensure repeat flowering and new growth. This celebration of marriage is very special. On this day the cathedral is the setting in which the great variety and display of married love is resplendent.

In his welcome address Cardinal Nichols spoke of the ‘joy of matrimony’, touching on the imagery of a garden tended by the couple. This annual celebration of matrimony, like a flower show, stimulates a greater interest in God’s design of married love.  Just as the gardens of married life are bespoke, the couples at the Mass created the design and flora for the day. The Church for its part provided the rich soil of its teaching on marriage and the liturgy into which the unique gardens of married love are planted.

Nearby a well-known flower show was held in Chelsea. At the heart of that gathering, despite the different designs each year, lies sharing the ‘joy of gardening’. At the heart of our celebration lies the sharing of the ‘joy of matrimony’. It is this quiet joy which sustains the garden of married love, requiring the spouses to provide ongoing nutrients, weeding and watering. Marriage, like a garden, has to be tended and cared for. 

Like gardening, marriage provides important lessons in life, from the willingness of the couple to overcome difficulties and challenges, to their learning to work in harmony for a common design. Marriage requires constantly monitoring the quality of the soil of the relationship and just as it takes time to grow a garden, it takes a lifetime to grow a marriage. The very first wedding recorded in the Book of Genesis was created in a garden, Eden. 

Cultivating a good marriage is like two people growing a healthy garden, one which is always in the process of being redesigned and recreated afresh each and every day. Marriage, like the Chelsea gardens, is not so much about grand designs as the careful attention of the plantsman to detail.  In marriage it is not big romantic acts that sustain the relationship but the small acts of simplicity and love shown each day.   

Marriage, as with a beautiful garden, requires patience and resilience, moving from that initial sketched out vision on the wedding day, to learning throughout the journey to revisit and reimagine afresh your unique Marriage Garden. A great garden is never the result of chance, but of design and hard work. Like a great flower show, the Mass for Matrimony has a format, yet is always marked by its sheer variety of colours and designs. This year every couple went home bearing the award, ‘Best in Show’.

Mass in thanksgiving for Matrimony in Westminster Cathedral

All the photos from the Mass are available to view and download

Photos: Mazur/