Pope St. John Paul II said, As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live. This means that the state of marriage and family life is a good indicator of the state our society is in. But with high divorce rates and young people foregoing marriage altogether, now is the time to emphasize that marriage matters, even in the 21st century.
Recently on A Closer Look™ Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco stopped by to discuss what marriage is, the role it plays in our society, and what we can do to strengthen the institution of marriage.
“Marriage is something in nature, it is not something that society creates. Just by nature, a child comes from a father and a mother,” Cordileone said. “The question is, does society need an institution that connects the child to the man and the woman who brought them into the world, or not? If we need that institution, that institution is marriage.”
But in our society today, marriage can take a variety of forms. Archbishop Cordileone explained the natural view of marriage and why the state should take an interest in this particular relationship.
“Marriage is the union of the two, the nurturing of new life, and the connecting of the child with the mother and the father,” he said. “A society that flourishes recognizes that and puts conditions in place that safeguard the child being able to grow up with a mother and a father.”
But despite the fact that a primary purpose of marriage is the nurturing and protection of children, in today’s society children are seen as merely an option, or a personal choice.
“This has been going on for a very long time, not just the last 10 years,” Cordileone said. “The shift has focused to the adults. It is now seen as an adult-centered institution, rather than an institution that is designed for children to be connected to their mothers and fathers. So if it is just an adult institution, the whole reason for marriage having a place in the law evaporates.”
So if marriage is crucial to a flourishing society, and our current culture has a distorted view of marriage, what can we do to get back on track? Cordileone recognized that it will not be easy, because vocations are not easy.
“This all has to do with helping people develop virtue in their life, so that they can make a commitment and follow through on their commitment,” he said. “We hear a lot about how young people today are afraid of commitment, they don’t want to make a commitment to something that is going to last for their entire lives. And it does take a lot of inner strength to be able to do that.”
He suggested that we emphasize that living out marriage (or any vocation) is difficult, but it is always worth it.
“Anyone in any vocation – marriage, the priesthood, consecrated life – whatever your vocation is, you’re going to go through times when you think you should have read the fine print on your vocation. You weren’t anticipating this,” he said. “But that’s exactly how God gets us to a deeper level of happiness that He wants us to have. He creates within us a capacity for happiness because it is a greater capacity to love – that is, to give of oneself and to bear with those sufferings.”
“Whether they are big or small, whether they are inconveniences and annoyances or the greater sufferings everyone goes through in life, that’s how God creates in us a deeper capacity for love, and therefore, of happiness,” he continued. “Happiness with Him now and forever is what He wants for us. That’s why He gives us a vocation. That’s why it’s important we persevere in our vocation to the end of our life.”
Though it will be difficult, and often thankless, it is our duty as Catholics to proclaim the truth of marriage, family, and vocation to our society in order that we may lead others to virtue, happiness, and eternity with the Lord.
“It’s difficult to get this message across, with all the cultural filters in the media, entertainment, law, education, and all this,” Cordileone affirmed. “It’s hard to get that word through, but we just need to keep proclaiming the goodness of marriage, and keeping it focused on doing what we can for children in the concrete circumstances that they’re living in.”
Listen to the full conversation below:
A Closer Look airs weekdays at 6:00 p.m. Eastern/3:00 p.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio.