Reaffirming Marriage and Family through Pope’s Visit to Philly

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17 Sep Reaffirming Marriage and Family through Pope’s Visit to Philly

Thirty-two years ago, on Sept. 17, we were married in the Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. What a momentous gift that next week we will get to experience Pope Francis celebrating Mass at the same exact location. In fact, we were also both present along the Parkway in 1979 when Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass there, although at that point we had not yet met.

This place of serenity on Logan Square has become a special one in our marriage and our lives that we now get to share with the world.

Ours is a Catholic marriage and one that thrives at a time when the subjects of religion and marriage dominate much of our public discussion. It is exactly this base of faith that has made our marriage so strong and allowed it to endure for 32 years.

Many might think it has been a road paved with only happy times in order to still be flourishing. Not so. While we certainly have experienced many joyful times, we’ve also had a good deal of challenges as well. We’ve faced these trials only by virtue of our faith and a commitment to God’s mission of love – and to our marriage, which serves as a reflection of that. It has given us the strength to believe in our union and continue forward. And it’s for this very reason that we are grateful that Pope Francis is coming here for the World Meeting of Families to remind our city and our world that strong marriage and family life are indeed possible.

In his inaugural Mass, in March 2013, Pope Francis commented on the role of Joseph, the protector of Mary, Jesus, and the church. When we took our own vows, we dedicated ourselves to become one in God and, like Joseph, to be protectors of marriage, our future family, our faith, and our church. Of course we hoped for fruitfulness, good times, health, the best life had to offer, and for a long life together. Yet it really was a leap of faith, as we did not know what the future would bring.

As Pope Francis has said about those embarking on their newly formed oneness, “The couple does not know what joys and pains await them. They are setting out, like Abraham, on a journey together. That is what marriage is: setting out and walking together, hand in hand, putting yourselves in the Lord’s powerful hands.” And that we did.

Pope Francis calls for every married person (and every person) to be “constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence, and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own.”

When our first child, our daughter Ariella, was stillborn after a full pregnancy, it was tough to see anything positive in the world, let alone see God’s presence. We felt as though we had been abandoned and almost lost our faith. How could something so precious be given so freely and then suddenly, harshly taken away? Yet we worked through this with the help of our Catholic faith, and although many couples break apart after just such an event, we stayed together. We were subsequently blessed with two more gifts, our daughter Gianna and our son, Vincenzo. Today we consider ourselves a family of five with one angel in heaven and two on earth.
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Ada and Giuliano Spigonardo