By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, July 27, 2015


Grip. Alignment. Stance. Posture. G.A.S.P.

I’m just back from some holidays with family in Nova Scotia. This gave me a chance for some golf with my brother and nephews. Great to be with them, but my game was awful. Nothing was working right at all and I could not figure out what I was doing wrong. Rather than wallow in the misery, I decided to check in with a teaching pro. I expected him to do the usual: look at my swing and tell me what I need to correct. The approach with this teacher was different. He simply took me back to the basics and reviewed the fundamentals: grip of the club, stance vis-à-vis the ball, alignment of feet, shoulders and hips to the target line, and posture of the body. It has made a difference … sort of.
What I need to do is always to remember the fundamentals and practice them until they come naturally. This will take a while.

There is a broader lesson here. Remembering and practicing the fundamentals of the Christian life keeps us in the proper “swing” and prevents the “wayward shots” that get us into a lot of trouble. Likewise, returning to the fundamentals is necessary when life feels like nothing is working and we are not sure what has gone wrong. Perhaps the acronym GASP can help us in this respect also.

Grip. We need a proper grip on reality. It is important to see things as they are, not as we wish or will them to be. The correct grip recognizes the truth of our human nature and lives within this truth. We are created by God for a life of eternal communion with him, made possible by the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. We are weak and vulnerable and, therefore, dependent upon God and one another. At the same time, God has made us His beloved children, and calls upon us to turn to Him as our loving and merciful Father, who will not fail to provide for our every need. We lose this grip and enter into the world of illusion (with its accompanying confusion, heartache and anxiety) when we turn from God’s wisdom and providence, depend solely upon ourselves, and refuse to live within the limits established by nature.

Alignment. The follower of Jesus will strive to ensure, with the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit, that thought and behaviour patterns are in alignment with the Gospel.

Stance. What is my stance as a Christian in the face of the issues and challenges that confront us daily? What informs that stance? Here we need to understand well the central role of a properly formed conscience. Fundamental to the Christian life is understanding what conscience is, informing it prayerfully by reference to the teachings of Christ and his Church, and following its dictates. Necessary also is a daily examination of conscience so that I can repent of any wrongdoing.

Posture. Faith in Christ enables us to stand upright. Stress and the wide variety of life’s challenges can weigh upon us, guilt can burden us, fear can paralyze and cripple us. Jesus can turn all things to the good and wills to do so if we but ask. When we turn to him in faith, he enables us to stand upright with joy and confidence.

Let’s not forget the fundamentals. They need to be practiced daily.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Family Life Conference - Twenty Years and Counting!

This past Saturday I had the great joy of joining with three thousand people gathered at Lac Ste. Anne to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Family Life Conference. This wonderful event is the initiative of our local Catholic Family Ministries. It was pleasure to be with them and to experience the contagion of their happiness.

As I reflected upon this event, it occurred to me that the Holy Father's recent encyclical on the global environment offers important insight into the local environment we call the family.

The Pope teaches that neglecting to respect the nature of things in the environment stems from a deeper failure to honour the nature of the human person as created by God. We are, first of all, creatures, not Creator, and therefore dependent, called to trust not in our own abilities but in the wisdom and providence of God. We are created in God's image and likeness, which means we are created with a capacity for covenant love with God and neighbour. We are created to be gift, to give of ourselves to others. The structure of our nature conveys the divine purpose: created male and female, drawn to one another by complementary difference, to be a communion of life and love reflective of the inner Trinitarian life. When this nature is not respected, self-gift is replaced with self-absorption, and not only the physical environment but also other human persons become objects to be manipulated for the satisfaction of personal desires. The result is devastation not only of natural ecology but also, and worse, of human ecology, witnessed most dramatically in the various crises currently besetting marriage and family life.

Catholic Family Ministries has been observing this for quite some time. While the focus of many has been on climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions, this ministry to marriage and family has taken note of changes in family climate caused by a host of toxins in our atmosphere, such as individualism, relativism, and hedonism. We all understand the necessity of preserving the beauty of our natural environment. CFM has long seen very clearly the need to recover and uphold the beauty of marriage and family, which is the true natural environment for the preservation and flourishing of our species. Therefore, twenty years ago the Family Life Conference was initiated. As we celebrate this anniversary and give thanks to God for his blessings throughout these past twenty years, let's pray that the Conference's joyful witness to the truth and beauty of marriage and family as designed by God will serve for years to come as a beacon of hope and direction to the all-too-many families that suffer confusion, hardship and breakdown.

(Speaking of family, I leave this week for some vacation time with my own family in Nova Scotia. My next post to this blog site will be July 27th.)