This weekend, hundreds of thousands of faithful from across the globe came to gave witness to the joy of Christian life during the Pilgrimage of Families for the Year of Faith. Among the touching moments of the event were the experiences of couples, both married and engaged, who gave witness to not only the joys, but also the difficulties that Christian families go through in their everyday lives.
Noemi Addestri, a young woman from Rome, gave her experience along with her fiance, Emiliano Salamone. Relating a problem faced by many young couples in Europe, Noemi and Emiliano told the Holy Father that despite facing financial difficulties, they have chosen to entrust themselves to God and marry next spring. Pope Francis, who on many occasions has spoken on the difficulties of unemployment faced by many youth, congratulated them and commended them on their courage.
Addestri spoke with ZENIT on her experience and the importance of this Pilgrimage of the Families for her own life as a Christian and in her future marriage.
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ZENIT: Can you introduce yourself?
Addestri: My name is Noemi Addestri, I am 27 and live in Rome. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Literature and have been working for two years at the Family Associations Forum.
I am the third of seven children, and I grew up in a Christian family. This has been instrumental in my life, first of all because if my parents had not known the love of God, I wouldn’t have been born, and then because through them I was also able to have a serious experience of the love of God in my life.
Four years ago I was engaged to Emiliano and , little by little, the Lord created a most beautiful story with us, which first lead us to get to know one another profoundly, and then to love one another in truth, always seeking to base our relationship on Jesus Christ. In fact we realized that human love, although important, is not enough to guarantee the happiness of a marriage, because our differences very often led us to clashes with one another. From this was born the awareness that we could only truly give ourselves to one another by asking this of the Lord, through prayer and the sacraments. This led us to have at heart the desire to be married in Church.
ZENIT: How was it that you and your fiancé were chosen to give your testimony to the Holy Father?
Addestri: We were chosen to give our testimony before the Pope because we made the decision to get married at a time of great economic crisis, which has robbed hope and trust in the future from so many young people. Being unable to trust in steady job, in the possibility of having a home, makes one very scared; so this can lead many young people to think that in this precariousness it isn’t possible to build a future or to have a family. Therefore, to marry today means to go against the current and, in a certain sense, to be revolutionaries. Emiliano and I, in a small way, feel called to take part in this revolution. We in fact don’t even have a house; I have a job that I would describe as precarious, and Emiliano does not work. However, all our securities are in the Lord, because we have lived concrete events which made us experience that his love for us is “forever,” and so he never abandons us. If the Lord is with us, what should we be afraid of?
ZENIT: What did you say in your testimony on Saturday?
Addestri: Having only a short time to speak, we were able to say in a few words that we don’t have steady job or material certainty. We don’t even know how we’ll pay our rent. However, by praying together and entrusting ourselves to the Lord, we decided to get married in the spring.
ZENIT: After you spoke, both you and your fiance greeted Pope Franics. What did you tell him?
Addestri: We were very moved, myself especially, so we didn’t say a lot. No sooner he saw us, he shook our hands with affection and, smiling, told us that we were courageous. We asked him to bless us and to pray for us. And he answered, “Pray for me as well.”
ZENIT: What are your thoughts on the Pilgrimage of the Families? Why is this event important for you and for the Church?
Addestri: This pilgrimage intended to be a celebration dedicated to all families, and an occasion of encounter and communion between the families of the world and the Holy Father. Therefore, it was also a moment of encouragement for all those engaged couples who felt awakened in them the desire to get married, because the family is born from marriage, which sinks its roots in the betrothal. We are in need of the Holy Father giving us words of hope, because the “makeshift culture” as Pope Francis has called it,” cuts our life into pieces” and makes us believe that nothing can last forever. How do two young people decided to create a family if everything goes against this choice? It is difficult to find work that gives a guarantee, and there are no policies that help families, much less for those that are numerous. This can easily lead to giving up on marriage, on having children, and taking root. However, Pope Francis’ words on this were of great help. “To find work today requires so much effort. But what weighs most in life is not this: what weighs most of all these things is the lack of love.” The real impediment in a marriage isn’t the lack of money but not giving oneself completely to the other, not forgiving one another every day. But this can only be done if we know that it is God first of all who gives us that love, which otherwise we wouldn’t have within us. God alone enables us to make a promise founded on eternity; on my own I wouldn’t be able to give any guarantee. Because of this, the Holy Father spoke of the sacrament of marriage, of which spouses are in need because through it they receive the grace “to be united between themselves and to fulfill the mission of parents.”
Thus,this celebration was an occasion to be witnesses of the beauty of the family and of the joy that comes from living the faith in the family, in marriage and in the engagement. We are truly grateful to Pope Francis for his closeness, for having given us words of encouragement that will always support us in our path.