'He will do good in the church' - Couple married 51 years encouraged by meeting with Pope Francis

'He will do good in the church' - Couple married 51 years encouraged by meeting with Pope Francis
Pope Francis leaves St Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin, after meeting with recently-married couples, and couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage. Pic: PA

The last time a pope was in Ireland, Vincent Gamble, 77, was helping out as a steward in the Phoenix Park while his wife, Teresa, 75, was at home expecting the couple's fifth child, a little girl who was born a week later.

This time there was no way Teresa was missing out and her patience was rewarded with a front-row seat and a face-to-face meeting with Pope Francis.

The couple, from Stoneybatter in Dublin, were 51 years married in February and were invited to St Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin to represent an enduring marriage among 370 couples who have only just embarked on their married life or are about to in the months ahead.

Religion has always been an integral part of their lives, since they first met as co-workers in the old Tweed perfume factory, through marriage, children, grandchildren and all the challenges that accompany the journey.

Passing the faith on to the next generations is a challenge, they say, but their meeting with Pope Francis has given them encouragement.

"I think this event will help the young people, to remind them of what it's all about. It will give them a bit of a boost," said Vincent.

"He's a lovely man to talk to, easy-going, makes you very relaxed. He will do good in the church. I feel that it will take time but he will do good."

"He asked us to pray for him," said Teresa. "And we asked him to pray for us and our family."

Both were holding rosary beads presented to them by the Pope, Teresa's in white, Vincent's in black. "They're very special," said Teresa. "It's a great occasion," agreed Vincent.

Jordan and Stephen Maguire, both 27, from Ballymun, Dublin, have a long way to go to mark their half century - the young couple celebrated three weeks of marriage on Saturday.

But they feel sure the church will support them in the years ahead as they have felt supported since they were children.

"We've always been involved in our parish ever since we were young. Myself and Stephen got together when we were 14 and ever since then we've been involved in church plays, doing readings, helping out with Christmas Mass. So we were absolutely delighted to be invited here," Jordan said.

Stephen and Jordan had prepared a question for the Pope, about how they could support and strengthen their own faith.

"His answer was that everything comes from the home, that if you keep the faith in the home, you'll keep it for the children," Stephen explained.

Pope Francis meets a couple during a visit to St Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin. Pic: PA
Pope Francis meets a couple during a visit to St Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin. Pic: PA

Jordan said they're not unusual in having a church wedding - two out of the three weddings they attended in recent times took place in the church.

"It is still important for a lot of people to get married in the church. I always knew I would. Ever since I was a small child growing up, I said I'm getting married in a church. Our church has beautiful stained glass windows and it's very picturesque so I knew it would be beautiful."

Despite being separated by generations and social revolutions, the Gambles and the Maguires felt the Pope's message was relevant for them all.

That message was a reinforcement of the uniqueness and specialness of marriage. Over a 25-minute address to the gathering, Pope Francis told them that marriage was the future of the church.

"We have to acknowledge that nowadays we are not used to anything that really lasts for the whole of our lives," he said. Marriage, however, was something to hold on to and nurture for life.

"Pray together as a family," he urged. "Live in deep solidarity with those who suffer and are at the edges of society. When you do this with your children, their hearts will gradually fill with generous love for others."

He continued: "Our world needs a revolution of love. Let that revolution being with you and your families."

It was a relaxed atmosphere, the silence of the congregation as they listened intently to the simultaneous translation in their earpieces punctuated only by occasional laughter at his gentle asides, and the alternating gurgling and fretting of the few young babies present.

Before he began his address, Pope Francis paused for private prayer at the candle of the innocents, a candle that has been burning continuously in the Pro-Cathedral since 2010 in memory of all those who have suffered clerical abuse.

Pairs of baby shoes hang from the railings on Sean McDermott Street in Dublin in memory of the children who died at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway. Pic: PA
Pairs of baby shoes hang from the railings on Sean McDermott Street in Dublin in memory of the children who died at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway. Pic: PA

Around the corner, on Sean McDermott Street, the derelict remains of the last Magdalene Laundry to close in Ireland, are a haunting reminder of that abuse. Local people tied baby shoes and ribbons to the railings and hoped the Pope's motorcade would stop to acknowledge them as they passed. That did not happen.

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