JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The third national Family Honor Conference provided a “great service to church and society, individuals and families” by focusing on the theology of the body and the mercy of God, according to Cardinal Francis Arinze, the conference’s keynote speaker.
The prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments described God’s love in terms of infinite mercy to the more than 600 participants attending the July 21-22 conference. Family Honor, based in South Carolina, was founded in 1987 to help parents and children connect on important values, especially chastity.
“The Holy Eucharist, being a special manifestation of Christ’s love for us … calls on us to love God and our neighbor,” Cardinal Arinze said. He explained that original sin damaged but did not destroy our capacity “to see religious truth in all its splendor, to love God with all our heart, to distinguish between moral right and moral wrong.”
“God made me to know him, to love him, to serve him in this world so I will be happy with him in the next. Anything that leads me to that is all right. Anything that does not lead to that is all wrong,” Cardinal Arinze said.
He said that the human vocation to love can be realized both in marriage and in virginity.
“Marriage comes from the creating hands of God,” the cardinal said. “It is not something which human society invented. It is not a convention which cultures or opinion polls or television controllers can redefine. It is not like the rules of a tennis club which you can change.”
He described virginity and celibacy as the sacrifice of human sexuality, renounced for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.
Whether a person is married or celibate, the virtue of chastity applies because it is the means of accepting God’s plan for love.
Rev. Richard Hogan spoke on “The John Paul II Revolution” and talked about Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body. He emphasized its revolutionary approach to teaching about love by putting faith in a language that people can understand.
Author and speaker Christopher West used his personal experience to illustrate the difficulties of living out the theology of the body and the need to accept God’s mercy.
“I am Christopher West. I have heard every lecture I have ever given and still I failed to live it,” he said.
He compared himself to Peter in being zealous in his efforts; he tried, failed, but was willing to repent and not give up — unlike Judas, who rejected God’s mercy and despaired.
Marriage is a dangerous proposition, according to West, because “two fallen people are expected to live in the same house, until death do you part.”
“Without God’s mercy and forgiveness, marriage is doomed,” West said.
Sister Renee Mirkes, another conference speaker, used analogies from Edith Stein in describing women as pillars to which others can fasten themselves, and spores that supply “healthy energy” to others.
Because of their special gifts — for example, the ability to put others first — women have the tools to live out their vocations.
Living out one’s vocation can be a challenge, according to Sister Renee, but she suggests that women ask God, “Lord, what do you want of me?”
In a personal testimony, speaker Lisa Militello showed how her life has been a story of forgiveness and God’s mercy. After her parents’ divorce, an abortion, and her own divorce, she found God’s forgiveness and mercy. She admitted that she had a wrong perception of God. She thought he was punishing her when she was told she would never have children, but that was not true and she has three beautiful children today.
Submitted by Kathy Schmugge, diocesan family life coordinator.