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Meeting Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, witnessing the launch of a movement

By Roxane B. Saolnen

FARGO, N.D. — While the rest of my sojourning friends from North Dakota visited the St. Katherine Drexel Shrine last week in Philadelphia, I stayed downtown Thursday evening, having been invited to the launch of the Marriage Reality Movement, with special guest Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, a living hero of mine.

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.”

Archbishop Cordileone began by thanking Bill May 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 noted, borrowing from St. Augustine’s three essential elements of marriage: 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. “The idea that the spouse can get out of (marriage) 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 — 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.

Further, decades now of a growing lack of regard for fidelity in marriage points to the fact that attempts to redefine marriage have been in motion for some time.

“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,” Archbishop Cordileone said, quoting St. John Paul II, who said, “as the family goes so goes society.”

“But there’s something else here,” he added, “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 explained that the entire 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 man and woman becoming one flesh, 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. “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, “that the marital embrace is to be the sign of God’s covenant with his people. How profound it is that 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 blessed to help celebrate the launch of the Marriage Reality Movement; a movement that is life-giving and filled with love. I will be praying for its success.

And I ask you to pray with me for Archbishop Cordileone as he adds his insight to the Synod of Bishops in these next weeks.

Roxane B. Salonen, a mother and writer from Fargo, N.D., has been involved in the Marriage Reality Movement as a volunteer editor.