The family is the basic cell of society and how the family goes, so goes society.
Catholics in the Edmonton Archdiocese will have a full week of activities enabling them to participate in the first Week for Life and Family.
While those activities are important, Archbishop Richard Smith says, "The cornerstone of all this is prayer. Prayer has to be the foundation of everything."
In that light, Masses across the archdiocese on the May 5 and May 12 weekends will focus on human life and the family.
The archdiocesan celebrations May 4 to 12 are part of the national Week for Life and Family initiated by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, but will be held a week earlier to avoid conflicting with the annual archdiocesan priests' assembly.
The week begins with a vigil for life at St. Joseph's Basilica on Saturday, May 4 at 7 p.m. Smith will be the catechist at the vigil.
Eight talks are planned through the week covering topics such as building strong step-families, protecting children from pornography, overcoming sex addictions, reaching out to new moms, giving children good values and other topics.
While most sessions will be held at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, the majority will also be livestreamed via the Internet.
The archbishop will also celebrate the annual Mass for Life Thursday, May 9 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Joseph's Basilica.
In an interview, Smith said the Canadian bishops want to provide support to families by facing the reality of the family today rather than holding up an idealistic image of what the family ought to be.
The family is the basic cell of society and how the family goes, so goes society, he said. "The family is uniquely situated to be a school of life and love."
Yet in today's society, Christians can find themselves feeling powerless because of the "juggernaut" in favour of abortion and actions "that are taking family life in a direction quite different from God's design."
Our faith and prayer, Smith said, provide a context "for us to place our powerlessness up against the unlimited power of God and to entrust this more and more and more into his hands."
The focus of the Week for Life and Family is to support human life and the family, which are both precious and under threat, he said. There is no way to measure success.
"Success is a difficult term to use within the Christian context. The issue for us is to be faithful," he said.
"The success of these things is all in the hands of God. Grace is what carries these things forward."
When asked about society's increasing emphasis on family diversity, Smith said, "There's an important distinction between family situations that happen because of circumstances and that which unfolds because of one's choice."
When people are in a different family situation because of divorce or other causes, the Church wants to draw closer to people in their pain, he said.
"But there is only one legitimate choice which is made in accord with God's design for families, which is the loving perpetual union of husband and wife which is open to life. That is the one choice that is in accord with God's design."
Smith said the Week for Life and Family is one aspect of the Canadian bishops' Elements for a National Plan for Life and Family. Each diocese will design its own program.