Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 9, 2002
Parents as revolutionaries
Family Life Conference speakers urge radical lifestyle
By LASHA MORNINGSTAR
WCR News Editor
Lac Ste. Anne
Attentive parents listened as they were old, "MTV is the modern culture and we are the radical revolutionaries. We are the lights in the world."
The man telling them this was Patrick Madrid, Catholic author, publisher and father of 11 children.
Madrid was a featured speaker at the seventh annual Catholic Family Life Conference at Lac Ste. Anne. Sixteen hundred people gathered to celebrate their faith Aug. 22-25, especially as it is lived out in a family environment. Many were also searching for a road map, support, validation, and strategy to stay on their faith track.
"We must raise saints," Madrid told them. "What parents model imprints on the child."
A cradle Catholic, Madrid told stories of how many young Catholics lose their faith when they move onto college and university and are confronted by the evangelization of Mormons and evangelical Christians.
Parents can keep this from happening to their youngsters by inculcating them with the tenets of the faith during their childhood.
"Take them to Mass, teach them to pray, say the rosary," said Madrid. Spend time with your children. "There are no re-runs."
And mom and dad must study Scripture so they can discuss it with their children, said Madrid. "Dig for answers. Do your homework. If they are well formed in Scripture, they can defend their faith."
He also suggested the families cleanse their lives by seeing how much television, food and/or alcohol abuse and Internet pornography impact their lives.
Do you have a real prayer life? challenged Madrid. Get a Bible you can highlight, write in with a pen, said the speaker as he showed pages from his own ink-marked, written-in Bible.
The father of 11 implored the assembled parents to "pray for each child each day. Present each child to God in a specific way. Spend a few moments completely with that child. Speak his name to the Lord."
Madrid presented four talks to the audience that were faith-filled and backed up with practical applications. He was also disarmingly pragmatic.
For example, he told of the usual gasps of amazement his large family gets when they go out in public. And in turn, he told the large families in the audience, "You are on display." People judge, so don't present a haggard women with unkempt children image to the public. A woman who might be considering having a large family could be turned right off, said Madrid.
Local parents John and Tracy Connelly echoed much of Madrid's attitude to parenthood in both of their talks. John is a lay teacher at John Paul II Bible School in Radway, lay preacher and musician. Tracy homeschools and hosts a women's Creative Breakfast to draw women closer to the heart of Jesus. The Connellys are expecting their fifth child.
While firmly couched in Catholic teaching, the Connellys' counsel was pragmatic.
"Each family must have a vision statement," said John. Write down where you are going, what you are doing and adapt it as the years go by.
God has a plan, he assured, and the family is the womb of the future of the Church and the world.
Given this crucial importance, the creation of an authentic Catholic family is a sacred trust for parents to honour.
"Parents model life and love to their children by the way they treat each other," said John.
The couple also told of studying parenting techniques and incorporating such strategies as teaching their children to listen and respond.
John asked the fathers in the audience about the effect television has on their family saying, "Be a man and kick it out of your house."
Cultivate a deep prayer life with your family, said John. Let the children develop a personal loving relationship with their loving God and develop a love for Mass and Confession.
Tracy encouraged parents to incorporate God into everyday life. She told how she read about the saints at breakfast and used spiritually-based games at birthday parties.
By imbuing the children with the right values, they can make the right choices, said the expectant mother and former youth minister.
People came from as far away as the Northwest Territories, Manitoba and British Columbia to listen to this guidance. Twelve priests spent hours listening to their Confessions. There was also Benediction, an extensive youth program and a concert by Janelle Reinhart.
Babies were everywhere - peeking out of snugglies, stretched out in strollers, crawling through the grass, tucked in the womb under their mothers' heart.
Corrine Keller soaked it in.
"My husband and I are here to get a stronger foundation so we can be better Catholic parents." The local mother of two, Keller said the sight of large families encouraged her in her desire to have a large family.
She also said the abundance of practical applications and injection of spiritual motivation lets her practise her faith "beyond the Mass."
Jeff Evans enjoyed the boost of faith but also celebrated the sense of sanctuary he felt that lets one "bring your struggles and sins."
A large number of delegates - 265 - were young people. Brian Layng was part of a group who had come from Calgary. Saying he was trying to discern where God wants him to be, the 27-year-old cook said he would try and start a Catholic fraternity when he returned home.
World Youth Day pilgrim Cheryl Croteau journeyed from Calgary to reinforce the spiritual changes she went through in Toronto.
The University of Calgary student said the changes in her life may seem small, but they are changes. "I like punk music. But now I am searching for Christian punk."
And Jeremy Fraser's story underlines just how crucial conferences such as this can be. Now 16, Fraser journeyed with his family from DeWinton five years ago to take in his first Family Life Conference.
"I can still remember the music, the Mass and the Benediction."
He's made the trip each year and finds the infusion of faith "refreshing."
But this year, Fraser came from Mission B.C., to attend the spiritual meetings. You see, Fraser is attending the Seminary of Christ the King and is going to become a priest.