Wow! I can't believe the amount of positive responses I received about my last post. It really made me realize how frustrated so many people my age are about the lack of proper catechesis we received back in the day when we were busy listening to Duran Duran and wearing leg warmers. In fact, just the other day in public I overheard a complete stranger about my age who was lamenting the very same thing and I had to smile. Coincidence? I don't think so! Not that it's something to smile at, really, but because it was further validation that what I was saying and feeling was true. I guess misery loves company...?!
No, not really, but it does cement the fact that this is a widespread problem, wider than I even realized, and we are all feeling its effects.
But there is hope! I spent the past couple of weekends at Catholic men's conferences and my spirits were uplifted to see how many men are so charged up about the Faith, and are hungry for the true teachings of Catholicism. In Lansing, MI I was privileged to meet young priests and seminarians who exuded such joy about their vocations, as well as men in various stages of life who came out of that conference on fire for Catholicism, ready to bring what they had learned into their day-to-day lives.
This past weekend, in Fort Wayne, IN, I talked with fathers, young and old, who were so excited to see modern-day Catholic fiction available for their children, and I can't blame them, because I am a parent, too. They thanked me for being there, and told me to "keep it up." There are some days that it just ain't easy keeping it up, but my faith keeps me going, and my desire from the Holy Spirit to evangelize gives me strength, especially as I recall those "interesting" days of craft-project, silly-song catechesis of the 1970s and 1980s.
As I stared out at almost 1,300 men yesterday gathered for the Sunday vigil Holy Mass, I felt happy that these guys had taken many hours out of their precious weekend free time to come to this conference to learn how to be better Catholic men. They were young and old, married and single, priests, and students. Some wore hearing aids and some wore hoodies. Some, like the Franciscan priests in their brown habits, went barefoot, a living example of their life of penance and service to Christ, sitting cross-legged as they prayed in the curtained-off Adoration chapel. Some priests wore long black cassocks, clutching purple stoles as they headed to the large confessional area.
"Thank you for being here all day, Father," one man said to a priest who was leaving toward the end of the day so he could be back for his parish 5:00 Mass.
"I had a funeral this morning, but I was glad to be here," the tired priest responded. He knew how important it was for him to be available for these men, some who may have not had the Sacrament of Reconciliation in decades, some who were in tears of joy as they received Our Lord's forgiveness, compassion, and mercy.
Some of the attendees wore shirts with Our Lady of Guadalupe printed on them, other young men had on their high-school letter jackets, while other men wore cashmere sweaters and Dockers. One of the conference speakers donned a black sport coat, another wore camouflage pants and a military t-shirt. All walks of life, all ages, all there for one reason: to learn and teach how to live out their Catholic Faith proudly and generously. Similar things are happening at Catholic women's conferences across the country as well, and it always amazes me to witness the the joy and hope these people receive there.
In his homily, the bishop mentioned that we should not be discouraged by our secular society and all of the evil things within it. It's easy to want to wring our hands in despair. But after having witnessed over the last two weeks these couple thousand men just on fire for God and Catholicism, like Blessed John Paul 2 told us, we have nothing to fear!