I was going to write a column about family when I read the most recent issue of Catholic Life and Family, a publication of Priests for Life, Canada. Fr. Jim Whalen, PFL Canada’s president, put into words much better than I what I wanted to say, so I received his permission to reprint his column here in The Interim.
Becoming a pro-life family: Love and friendship
By Fr. Jim Whalen
The pro-life family must become a crucial force shaping the identity of the individual person, community, society and culture today. It is in the family that individuals discover their uniqueness, who they are, and what they are becoming. It is in the family home that they are loved because of who they are rather than for what they do.
Family life is changing largely due to present prevalent priorities that place pleasure before person, self before other, and man before God. Education of children as a primary right of parents is no longer recognized by society and is delegated more and more to huge impersonal institutions controlled by government agencies, whose fiscal policies largely determine the content and values to be taught and learned. Traditional values and heritage, social life and leisure activities are now primarily media-controlled or subject to social agencies. Marriage and family have been deprived of their former meanings: stability in community life, financial advantages, social status and lasting relationships. Divorce rates have risen to over 50 per cent of all marriages. The very foundational institution of the sacrament of marriage is being threatened by advocates of marriage between same-sex partners, who are demanding the same rights as traditional married couples.
The pro-life family is the family of the future. The practical relativism that has infected our society can be overcome. Practical atheism that is the norm in our culture today must be overcome. Archbishop Marcel Gervais of Ottawa recently expressed his view at a gathering of pro-life parish representatives at Mass: Many people live today as if God does not exist. This is practical atheism not theoretic ttheism. There is good news, however. I see a change happening in our young people. They are coming together from universities from all over, getting together to make sure things change for the better. They are our hope for the future.” (Jan. 7, 2002, paraphrased)
The future of the pro-life family will not be found by consulting sociologists, psychologists, statisticians or the media. Pro-life families that focus on serving God and neighbour, who form pro-life communities by living by the commandments of life and love, by caring and sharing for each other and by respecting life at all stages represent the pro-life vision, which our young concerned people can follow. It is total Christianity, which means not only defending life from the attacks of the enemy, but also seeking to convert the enemy by love and friendship, whenever the opportunity presents itself: at home, in the family and at work in the marketplace, bringing Christ, sharing the message of Christ with all who are open to receive it. To be a pro-life family, a pro-life community, means that each person leads another to a deeper relationship with Christ as the heart and centre of the home, the source of the family and community relationships of life, love and growth. It is through the marriage covenant that the Catholic family, the Christian family, witnesses to the presence of Christ and His community of believers.
There is great joy in doing things for others, in doing things with others, and in being together for others. Love grows when it is shared, when it involves giving oneself to God and to others. People become a pro-life family, houses become pro-life homes, communities become pro-life communities when there is a life-giving awareness, a love-giving openness and response to Christ and one another. Pro-life friendship grows from the day-to-day relationships with parents, brothers, sisters and others who have the same shared joys and pains, successes and failures of the unfolding of the pro-life vision that we are all called to acclaim, proclaim and celebrate. All human life is sacred, from conception to natural death.