Check in: Kathy Schmugge finds inspiration in workshops focusing on the witness of family

PHILADELPHIA—By Wednesday, Sept. 23, we were already having long, but wonderful, days and nights.

We went to morning Mass celebrated by Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria. His homily was a reminder of God’s mercy and the fact that we are instruments in the hands of God. He urged us to do our part and to remain humble, trusting in God to provide.

Following the Mass, was the keynote address from Cardinal Robert Sarah who spoke on “The Light in the Family in a Dark World”.

Using the theme of how we are made in the divine image and likeness, he explained how sin caused the human person, from Adam and Eve to us today, to  struggle to be the light in the darkness. Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command by believing the evil one who said, ‘God wants to limit you.’ He doesn’t want to see your fulfill your life. Why put limits on your life? Cardinal Sarah pointed out that such an attitude only brings pain and suffering, “Sin generates death,  not only physical death but ontological death.”  He said that we can overcome the darkness with love.

The family becomes the place where selfishness becomes healed. The world today needs saints with heroic witness. When the Holy Spirit is living within us, families can allow goodness to enter the world, the cardinal said.

There was time for lunch and we had to stand in line for the tickets for the papal events. It was a relief to have the tickets in our hands. Then everyone had to choose from wonderful workshops. I went to Dr. John Grabowski’s talk, “The Other Side of Mount Sinai: Growing in Future”.

He first explained how the family can fit the priest, prophet and king roles in the Christian life.  As priest when they participate in the sacramental life and pray both a home and at church together. As prophet, they choose to marry and resist the temptation to be caught up in consumerism, not serving false gods of money, power and pleasure. The family acts as king by serving, caring and loving. “Daily life and work of the household is the medium for the expression of self-gift,” he said.

Dr. Helen Alvare gave the afternoon keynote, “Creating the Future: Fertility of Christian Love”.  This talk was filled with personal and real life examples.  Alvare said that family love gets us to a wider circle. You end up serving the stranger in need with your only link is humanity. When you practice it first at home you find yourself by losing yourself to loving.

“Family life is not all hearts and flowers, it is hard to resist the ‘Gospel of me,’” she said.  She explained that fertility is seen as a disease and couples fears bringing new life into the world.  We need to overcome the myth that women lose by devoting their lives to their children, the elderly and disabled.  She said that separating love and life leads to other social ills.

The afternoon workshops were inspiring. “Family and Demographic Dynamics in the World” was presented by Dr. Andres Slazar, Dr. Villamor Vital and Gerard-Francois Dumont. The presenters illustrated how many of the current trends of living together, divorce, couples choosing not to have children, has had devastating outcomes. They gave data to prove that a nuclear family remains the situation that is best for children and their parents.

Kathy Schmugge is the director of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Charleston.