One of the final moments of Pope Francis’s beautiful visit to Assisi yesterday was a meeting with 20,000 young people (another report says 50,000) in the piazza in front of the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels. Here’s the video of the event.
Several young men and women offered comments to the Holy Father on several important aspects of life: family, work, vocation, and mission. The first of these was offered by a young married couple, Nicola and Chiara Volpi, who stood with their new baby (they said his name is Ricardo) as they spoke of the difficulties and challenges, as well as the joys, of living married life in society today. (The photo at right is from Vatican Radio’s coverage of the event. In the video, the Volpis appear at 1:03:25.)
The Pope’s comments are not yet available in English translation on the Vatican website. Here’s my translation of his comments on marriage.
I am happy that the first question comes from a young couple. A beautiful witness! Two young people who have chosen, decided, with joy and courage, to form a family. Yes, because it takes courage to form a family! It takes courage! And your question, young spouses, is about vocation. What is marriage? It is a true and proper vocation, just as much as priesthood and the religious life. Two Christians who get married have recognized in the story of their love the call of the Lord, the vocation that these two, man and woman, form one single flesh, one single life. And the Sacrament of matrimony wraps this love in the grace of God, roots it in God himself. With this gift, with the certainty of this call, they can carry on secure, without fear of anything. They can handle everything, together!
We remember our parents, our grandparents, or great-grandparents: they were married in conditions much more difficult than ours, some in times of war or the years following war; some emigrated, like my parents. Where did they find the strength? They found it in the certainty that the Lord was with them, that the family is blessed by God with the Sacrament of matrimony, and that being blessed, its mission is to bring children into the world and educate them. With these certainties, they overcame the most difficult trials. They are simple certainties, but true ones, and they were the columns that supported their love. It was not easy, their life; there were problems, many problems. But these simple certainties helped them go forward. And they managed to form a beautiful family, to give life, to raise children.
Dear friends, this moral and spiritual foundation is necessary to build upon solidly! Today, this foundation is no longer guaranteed by families and social traditions. In fact, the society into which you were born emphasizes individual rights more than those of the family – these individual rights – emphasize the relationships that last until difficulties arise, and so sometimes speak of the couple’s relationship, of family, and of matrimony in superficial and equivocal ways. It would be enough to watch certain television programs to see these values! How many times the parish priests have heard – myself included, sometimes I heard it – from a couple who comes to be married: “But you know that marriage is for life?” “Ah, we love each other very much, but … we will stay together for as long as our love lasts. When it ends, we will go our separate ways.” It is egoism: when I no longer feel it, I cut the marriage and forget the “one flesh” that cannot be separated. It is risky to get married. It is risky! It is that egoism that threatens us, because within all of us is the possibility of a double personality: that which says, “I freely choose this …” and the other which says, “I, me, with me, for me…” The egoism always, it returns and refuses to open itself to others. The other difficulty is this culture of the temporary: it seems that nothing is definitive. Everything is temporary. As I said before: Ah, love, as long as it lasts. One time I heard a seminarian – great – who said, “I want to become a priest, but for ten years. After that, I will rethink it.” It is the culture of the temporary, and Jesus did not save us temporarily: he saved us definitively!
But the Holy Spirit always brings about new answers to new problems! And so in the Church we’ve developed different paths for couples, programs of preparing for marriage, groups of young couples in parishes, movements for families…. There is an immense richness! They are points of reference for all: young people searching, couples in crisis, parents in difficulties with children and vice-versa. They help all of us! And then there are the different forms of welcome: foster care, adoption, case families of various types… The dream – permit me to use the word – the dream of the Holy Spirit is infinite, but it is also very concrete! So I would like to say to you not to be afraid of making a definitive decision: don’t be afraid of doing it. How many times I have heard mothers say to me: “Father, I have a son who is 30 years old and he’s not married: I don’t know what to do! He has a beautiful girlfriend, but they haven’t decided.” But, ma’am, stop ironing his shirts! Okay. Don’t be afraid of making definitive decisions, like marriage: deepen your love, respect the timing and expressions, pray, prepare well, but then have trust that the Lord does not leave you alone. Let him come into your home as one of the family. He will always sustain you.
On a different topic, also from yesterday, see Fr. Imbelli’s comments and translation here.