Love is the most fundamental ache that humans have, and the family is the most important calling God has for his people, speakers at the May 18 Living in Love conference told an audience of 270 people.

“The Trinity is a family of life and love,” keynote speaker Heather Khym said at St. Matthew’s Church in Surrey.

But because we are flawed human beings, our relationships do not reflect the reciprocal love of the Trinity, she said.

We can only get so far on our own, she said, which is why God’s love is poured into us through the sacraments.

“Open wide your heart to God, who is full of love and compassion,” Khym said. “It will change you.”

Khym’s husband, Jake, is a counsellor and also a keynote speaker the conference. He said there are three “brain breakthroughs” that can help people cultivate healthy relationships.

The first is to know that our brains are magnets for love, with science reinforcing the fact that the strongest desire of human nature is for relationship.

The second is to be aware of the relational switch, which he described as an on/off switch in people’s heads that determines if they are willing and ready to connect with others.

Lastly, brains develop stories from events, and people need to be careful with the stories they tell themselves, Jake explained. These stories can sometimes reinforce fears or cause anxiety if they are not true.

Both Heather and Jake told the audience that as broken people, everyone needs the healing that only God can offer.

“God’s love satisfies every ache we have,” Heather said. 

Children play at the Living in Love family conference.

Meanwhile, Brett and Andrea Powell offered tips for parents to intentionally lead their children in faith.

It is a parent’s responsibility to evangelize their children, Brett said during a breakout session at the conference.

The couple laid out a few methods, beginning with prayer; pray for a child’s conversion and pray they will experience God.

Being a living example of faith is another important way parents can evangelize their children, the Powells said.

“It doesn’t mean we have to be perfect,” Brett said, and failure can be a learning opportunity for Catholic children, since the way we reconcile with someone when we have hurt them can teach children to do the same.

How parents use words is an important way to encourage children in the faith, the couple said.

“Bring Jesus into the conversation,” Brett said. He noted some parents may be tempted to wait until their children are old enough to fully understand, but kids can understand friendship with God at a young age.

“As kids get older their relationship to Jesus is more up to them,” Brett said.

The couple also advised parents not to shirk challenging conversations with their children, especially during the teen years.

Kids should also be made to see how their story is part of the bigger picture rather than be made to feel the world revolves around them.

Andrea offered some practical ideas for parents looking to evangelize their children including vacation Bible school participation, taking them to Christian concerts and events, and incorporating the liturgical calendar in the family’s life.

Archbishop Miller, flanked by priests and deacons, celebrates Mass at St. Matthew's Church.

Breakout session presenter Kate Ayre laid out some ways that single parents can help guide their children in love.

“Whatever the reason … single parenting by yourself is sad,” she said, “So you are going to have your own wounds to heal while you are helping them with their wounds.

Ayre said single parents need to stop being concerned about what other people think or say about their situation. “Just be as authentic to your kids and yourself as you possibly can.”

She also said single parents need to be honest with themselves that the parenting job was meant to be done by two, not by one. She likened it to a donkey pulling a cart.

“If you are pulling by yourself but the cart has a double yoke there is an empty space there, so you are now off-centre. Not only are you having to pull forward, you are also compensating constantly for what is not there,” she said, adding single parents need to take extra time for self-care and to gather around them those who will affirm and help them.

The conference included Mass celebrated by Archbishop J. Michael Miller and wrapped up with a family-friendly dinner.