Church has role to play in healing wounds of the family – Prendergast

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast

November 7, 2011

OTTAWA – Though mortality was a "key aspect of family life" in the last century, today's wounds are deeper and the need for healing even greater, Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast said Oct. 26.

"There have always been loss and mourning in family life, which used to lead to a form of stoicism," Prendergast told the Archbishop's Benefit Dinner. "However, today's experiences of loss and abandonment, through abortion, separation, and absent parents, are mostly willful."

The banquet raised more than $60,000 for three organizations that help families.

Prendergast credited his own stable, affirming family life with giving him the courage and confidence to leave Montreal as a shy 17-year-old, travel to Toronto and enter the Society of Jesus 50 years ago.

But his own parents had both survived major losses in their lives: his father's mother died while giving birth to him; his mother's father died in the 1918-19 Spanish influenza outbreak.

"I admire my parents' strength in the face of these losses," he said. His extended family, though spread out across the continent, helped anchor his sense of identity and gave him an awareness of his genetics.


Today, reproductive technologies, single parenthood and blended families "are immense pastoral challenges," he said.

"But the Church will not shirk her responsibility to proclaim the truth, offer reconciliation and love in Christ's name."

The archbishop outlined Church teaching on the family, which Blessed John Paul II called "the cradle of life and love." The late pope spoke about how husbands and wives are to love each other and their children in a way that "imitates Christ's sacrificial love for all humanity."


Prendergast spoke of how John Paul's theology of the body contains "insights into marriage, sexuality and procreation that are so radical as to be almost shocking."

In the theology of the body, "married love is a reflection of the love that is the inner life of the Trinity."

"Pope John Paul II calls married love an act of worship spoken with the language of the body," he said.

"Couples committing to marrying and raising a family today are entering on a bold adventure and bowing out of our society's 'me-first' mind set," he said.