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

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.)