I slept pretty well while in Philadelphia, except the night of Sept. 23.
That night, something had me in knots. I’d been invited to a special event the next evening and the prospect — more compelling now that I was on the ground — had me a bit troubled due to logistics. Attending the event would mean I’d need to get back from Downtown Philly to our hotel 30 miles out on my own. I’m a small-city girl. I like things simple. And safe. If I know I’m safe, I feel free to be adventurous.
I thought of a couple people who live in the area who might be able to help. I tossed and turned, wondering if I should bother them.
I should have known God would help me find a way to work it all out. I had prayed to Him, after all, regarding the situation, and I trusted He’d lead me aright. At breakfast the next morning, I learned of another diocesan staffer who would be staying back for a meeting in the same building where I would be. He was planning on hailing an Uber car back to the hotel. It would work for the two of us to join forces — praise God!
But what had caused this unrest to begin with? What was important enough to pull me away from a planned visit to the St. Katherine Drexel Shrine, and split off from my travel buddy, Ann, when I had been looking forward to that side trip? It had to do, in part, with this man; someone I consider a hero in our day…
Not to mention others I’d known only through conference calls and volunteer editing work from afar. The chance to meet them all in person really did seem like a beautiful gift.
And so it was that I found my way to the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown to be present for the launch of the Marriage Reality Movement; an effort to take back marriage for children and families, with special guest Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.
I want to share what Archbishop Cordileone said that evening, because I think it’s significant and relevant to what is going on in our world regarding marriage. And because I have chosen him as a prayer focus during the Synod of Bishops, which is meeting for most of this month to discuss important issues of our day, particularly regarding marriage and family.
Catholic radio host Teresa Tomeo introduced His Excellency as a “tireless defender of marriage and the right of children to know the truth about love, sexuality, marriage and family.” As shepherd of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, he also oversees the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops subcommittee for the promotion and defense of marriage.
He began by thanking Bill May, founder of Catholics for the Common Good, for his efforts to “find language that succinctly but decisively taps into what the true meaning and beauty of marriage is.” The Marriage Reality Movement, he explained, is about focusing on the good of marriage, through the eyes of children.
Marriage exists to connect children with their mothers and fathers, he continued. It’s a reality that exists in nature, rather than something we can arbitrarily define as we see fit. “We respect and support and organize our society around this to our good, or fail to do so to our detriment,” he said.
The degradation of marriage in our society has been unraveling for a while now, he said, explaining this through the words of St. Augustine, that marriage has three essential elements: the goods of permanence, fidelity and openness to offspring.
Archbishop Cordileone said the meaning of marriage has been eroded through such inventions as no-fault divorce laws, which challenges the permanency of marriage, degrading it as a vocation. “God gives each of us a vocation so that we can attain our common human vocation, which is happiness with God forever,” he said. “A vocation is for life…God designed it to be this way.” He added, “The idea that the spouse can get out of it even against the will of the other pretty much decimates the idea of marriage as a permanent commitment.”
In the 1970s, he noted, more couples began marrying without intending to have children, and the idea that the union of man and woman could be for anything they desired it to be rather than for what it exists, from the reality of nature — to bring children into the world and unite the man and woman to each other and to those children they bring into the world — came to be.
Fidelity has also been being challenged for a while now; thus, the redefinition of marriage attempts began well before recent times.
“The Marriage Reality Movement gives us the opportunity to help people focus back on these goods of marriage and the beauty of God’s plan for marriage as it’s spoken into our very nature,” he said, quoting St. John Paul II, who said, “as the family goes, so goes society.” “But there’s something else here, which we also know from St. John Paul II, that marriage is the key image or symbol or sacrament that God uses to reveal himself to us and our relationship with him.”
Archbishop Cordileone said the whole Bible is really the story of marriage, starting with Adam and Eve, who were created different but complementary. After the fall, “God intervenes with the plan of salvation to restore us back” to His original vision: happiness with him forever. “He does that by making a covenant with the people of Israel…He is their bridegroom, they are his bride.”
In Ephesians 5, he noted, we see the unfolding of this, in hearing of the two becoming one flesh, which was a “prophecy between Christ and the Church.” This was fulfilled, he added, “with the wedding feast of the lamb in heaven in the Book of Revelation.”
Archbishop Cordileone explained that when Christ dies on the cross, water and blood flow from His side, and he proclaims, “It is finished,” or, in Latin, “Consummatum Est.” “It is consummated, brought to fulfillment,” he explained. “As a marriage is consummated, so everything in our religious tradition is riding on the correct understanding of marriage.”
“What a tremendous blessing God has given us,” he said, “the marital embrace to be the sign of God’s covenant with his people. How profound that is…our very ability to evangelize, to help people understand the truth and beauty of God’s revelation, is at stake when we speak about building a marriage culture.”
It is through marriage, he added, that we can “open up minds and hearts to the beauty of God’s truth, and turn hearts toward God, giving our lives over to him, so all can pursue their vocation.”
I was happy to be part of the evening; to meet the archbishop, who has stood for truth even in light of opposing forces, and remains steadfast in his commitment to lovingly approach marriage, not as a weapon to bang over anyone’s head, but as a reality to be explained and understood, particularly through the eyes of the youngest among us — our children. And each, like we do, has a mother and father, and deserves — has a right in fact — to be united to them in a irreplaceable circle of love known as marriage.
I have been part of this movement in a small way, and was blessed in Philadelphia to help celebrate its launch. It’s a movement that I believe is life-giving, and filled with love. I will be praying for its success.
And I will be praying for Archbishop Cordileone as he adds his insight to the synod in these next weeks.
Q4U: When did you last divert from Plan A? What issues did it cause? What fruits did it bear?