Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 25, 2003
Couple call for forgiveness, love
Families urged to stand against culture of death
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Lac St. Anne
Young people today are being told it is cool to be disconnected instead of being connected to God. Even adults are encouraged to do that.
This is just one manifestation of the culture of death promoted by today's secular world.
A couple from Nashville, Tenn., who spoke at the eighth annual Family Life Conference, told this to more than 2,000 people Aug. 16.
Through songs and inspirational speeches, Marie and Bill Bellet encouraged people attending the Aug. 15-17 conference to accept the radical message of sacrificial love and forgiveness.
For them sacrificial love and forgiveness keep the family connected with each other and with God.
"We want (the people) to take a healthy suspicion of a lot of what they hear from our culture like how they should hate family responsibilities," Marie told the WCR after one of their talks.
"The family should be a sanctuary of kindness and forgiveness. It's not necessarily about doing everything right, having a formula, being perfect because we're not," said the musician mother of eight.
"If you take that radical message of sacrificial love and forgive your husband or wife, that is a beautiful model for your children to learn."
Bill, a psychologist, believes psychology does not have all the answers to people's problems.
He said many people go immediately to a psychologist to ask for help when their relationships are not working, when they are having problems with their children or problems from work.
Why would somebody go to a psychologist, who possibly is divorced or from a broken family? Parents have been raising children for a long time, he said.
"At the very core of all that, is doing effective battle with oneself," he said. "Our culture is telling us, if you don't like it, throw it away. Quit that job. Divorce that woman."
More than anything else the Bellets want to convey that they struggle too.
"We don't have perfect kids. We get irritated like crazy by each other. But it's the battle with the self, not changing the other person, that transforms the heart, that helps us forgive."
To forgive is hard. It's not natural. So it's battling with ourselves effectively and learning self-mastery that can really help, explained Bill.
With activities for every member of the family, the conference featured speakers like Mariette Ulrich, John Connelly, Father Peter Nygren, Father Paul Moret, and Father John Adamyk, among others.
Talks on practical and simple directions for spouses, parents and children on how to rebuild their families and how to spot relationship danger signals were among the highlights.
In order to fight the culture of death, Marie Bellet suggests families should strive for "the serenity and happiness that comes with examining oneself and being in the state of grace."
"These transform family," she assured.
"The example of sacrificial love and a joyful family is very powerful. I think the holy father is asking the families to do that, because if you're not going to find that in the family, where are you going to find it?"
Bill added, "Where are (the children) going to find it, if they don't find it with their parents? How are they ever going to fight the culture of death if they don't see the joy and the serenity of their parents, who really love each other, apologize to each other publicly when they offend each other."
Mac Macdonell, one of the organizers, was ecstatic about this year's conference. "This year the weather has been fantastic and people are really responding to the invitation to come."
His hopes for the family are those of the holy father's - "to see the family grow holier in the Lord."
"We pray that more and more families will come to see this as a starting point in building their families."
Families who attended the conference came from across Western Canada with some coming from Ontario.
Toronto's Mary Catherine O'Leary attended with her brother and his family from Calgary.
"All of the priests who gave talks have been inspirational. Marie and Bill make their talks entertaining and yet very inspirational, motivating and informative," O'Leary said.
She attended last year's conference, but this year she was more focused and treated the weekend like a retreat.
"I really enjoyed it . . . going to the chapel for perpetual adoration, the Stations of the Cross."
Because this was a family event, there was something for everyone. They have one program for youth, two for children and one for toddlers.
Benedictine Father Peter Nygren has been a conference speaker for four years.
In one of his talks for the youth, he gave a presentation on the philosophical and life issues of the Matrix movies.
The Matrix and Matrix Reloaded are science-fiction movies that present the struggle of some people living in an illusory world to get back to the real world. Both movies starring Keanu Reeves contain a strong influence from the writings of the Greek philosopher Plato.
"It's a very philosophically based movie. It poses questions that . . . for the majority of people will be nothing but confusion," Nygren said in an interview.
"It has confusion in the areas where we should not be confused in our life, the way we perceive realities, the way we take responsibilities, our sense of purpose, our sense of meaning. And the questions are posed in such a way that they will cast a lot of doubts for a lot of people."
Whenever Nygren attends the conference, he brings some seminarians from Mission, B.C.
They always take responsibility for at least one of the liturgies.
One seminarian leads in a liturgy similar to what they have at the abbey. They do this to give the people an experience of a different style of music and chants.
While Nygren hears confessions and gives spiritual direction, the seminarians promote the seminary.