2014 Catholic Answers National Conference – Day 3

Christopher Check in action!

Christopher Check in action!

Today was very much a history-focused day. It started off bright and early with a dynamic talk from Christopher Check entitled “Modern Martyrdom: Can It Happen Here?” which recounted the story of the Cristeros in great detail.  Normally history tales don’t engage me that much, however Mr. Check’s telling of the plight of the Catholic resistance to the socialist government was very interesting, and I was unaware of how the persecution continued much further into the last century than I had known before.  The most engaging part of the speech came in the retelling of the story of Blessed José Sánchez del Río, a young boy who begged to join the Cristeros and ended up paying the ultimate price for his unwavering faith.  This earned José the nickname of “Mexico’s Tarcisius”… the retelling of this story compelled people in the audience to yell out “Viva Cristo Rey!” – the battle cry of the Cristeros.

Karl Keating, telling us of the plight of the Japanese martyrs

Karl Keating

After a short break, it was time for Catholic Answers‘ president, Karl Keating, to take the stage.  Karl’s presentation was entitled “Fidelity Under Fire”, where he recounted an interesting story that I had never heard before… the plight of the Catholic faithful in Japan.  Mr. Keating’s speaking style is very ambient… carefully weaving a dramatic narrative that painted a very clear picture of the terrors that certain priests and clergymen were subjected to in “the pit”… they were bound with rags and lowered headfirst into a hole filled with sewage.  Some apostatized in hours, some weeks, and many died.  The story continued that after near total eradication of the Japanese Catholic culture, the Western Catholic clergy that arrived hundreds of years later found that some faithful remained entirely in secret and practiced without any clergy present waiting for someone to come that was safe to trust in.

For lunch, I had my first ever In-N-Out Burger while I got to know Trent Horn, his lovely wife Laura, her family and a few other new friends.  For more information about Trent’s talk, check out my coverage from yesterday and his new book, Persuasive Pro Life.  I plan on reviewing Persuasive Pro Life as soon as I can get through it, so stay tuned for that.

The Q&A Panel of Catholic Answers apologists

Q&A Panel

After lunch, the panel of apologists took the stage for a Q&A Panel.  The questions were too numerous to recount here, but they covered a great deal of apologetics topics, material, citations, and jokes in the 75 minute panel.  They took a round-robin approach where the question was assigned to an apologist and after they had completed their short and concise answer, the others could add to the answer to round it out a bit more.  This allowed each question to get a buffet-style response… you see a bit of this on the Catholic Answers Live radio program, but it was multiplied by several times with a stage full of apologists. Like last year, this was a high point in the day and showed the great rapport that the staff apologists have with one another.

Holy Mass with Archbishop Sample

Holy Mass with Archbishop Sample

There was a short break before Holy Mass with Archbishop Alexander Sample presiding and Father Vincent Serpa providing the homily.  Mass feels different when you are in the midst of several hundred devout, on-fire Catholics.  Hymns were booming.  Loud prayers rang out to the ceiling of the ballroom.  Archbishop Sample celebrates the Holy Sacrifice in such a beautiful way, using the traditional Latin prayers and responses and taking special care to display the utmost reverence in his actions and body postures.  Father Serpa’s homily was very moving… he recounted the reasons for our faith and how we must sometimes carry the cross, even when the burdens don’t make sense to us.  He recounted the story of a teenager that wrote him with same-sex attraction and how they were struggling to make sense of why God would create them with such an inclination.  His response showed how suffering can be an act of love, and how we can reciprocate his suffering love for us and how carrying such a cross can be a beautiful thing.  I located the question and answer, so you can read it for yourself.

Banquet and Keynote by Archbishop Sample

Banquet and Keynote

The banquet dinner was held on the marina-facing lawn, and after the food had arrived it was time for our keynote address from Archbishop Sample.  The archbishop spoke about how we must banish a lukewarm attitude and become on-fire in the faith, and how we must grow to know the faith, speak the faith, and live the faith.  He recounted his experiences in reading Francis Caravajal’s book “Lukewarmness: The Devil in Disguise” wherein he learns (and re-learns) to force the temptation to tepidity out of his life.  In the practice of the faith, he called on us to ask ourselves “where is the love, the joy, the devotion?” and challenged us to contemplate the face of Christ, learn to love him, and then do naturally what you do when you love someone – learn everything you can about him, give him 100% of yourself, and become on fire disciples.  We were outside, just off of a somewhat busy road and I often heard cars passing by, and the archbishop’s commanding voice reverberating over the marina.  I was reminded at once of two things: the commanding presence of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and the verse from Scripture, Isaiah 55:12:

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

I challenge any Catholic to come to this conference, hear these presentations, answers, and words from the bishop and not be set on fire.  Archbishop Sample mused in his speech about how the Church’s work tends to be done by around 7% of the population… imagine what it would be like if we doubled that to 14%?  If we could all learn to transmit our faith as effectively as these men did this weekend, I suspect we would be headed for a change the likes of which the world has not seen for hundreds of years.

This conference was a tremendous experience.  The quality of apologetics is some of the best in the world, and the sense of community was palpable… people were excited to get the opportunity to get to know one another, to share and hear about each other’s struggles, and to learn to transmit the faith more effectively.  The biggest thing that I can take away from the conference is this: I don’t feel alone when it’s over.  This was as much of a retreat as it was a conference, and I feel rejuvenated now that it is through.  I have made many friends this weekend and with luck we can continue to work together to be the leaven for this world.

You can find the rest of my coverage of this year’s conference here.


2014 Catholic Answers National Conference – Day 2


Jimmy Akin, and his epic cowboy hat

The speakers got underway quickly, after a big continental breakfast provided by the Sheraton.  The day started off with Jimmy Akin‘s talk entitled “Pope Francis: The Man, the Myth, and the Media”, where he began by making an astonishing connection that only fellow nerds and Catholics would be capable of making… that the world reacts to changing of the Holy Father in the same way they respond to a change in the doctor from Dr. Who.  It struck me quickly that a game of Dungeons and Dragons would be very interesting with Jimmy Akin involved… but back to his talk.  Jimmy continued to discuss the way that Catholics understand this change and how we often make bonds with a certain Holy Father, but we must take caution not to factionalize this and take it too far.  He also spoke of the honeymoon period that all pontiffs experience, and how that can quickly wear off and the fervor and scrutiny of their words fades somewhat.  He also spoke of how important it is to view differing papal styles in the same hermeneutic of continuity that Pope Benedict XVI often spoke of.  Jimmy’s time went by far too quickly, and before long it was time for a break.

This year, they built in a longer break between speakers which is both good and bad… it is good because one needs a few minutes to process all of the received content.  It is also good because it gives far more time for mixing and chatting with the apologists.  The bad part is that has caused a continuous stream of money to fly out of my pocket as I keep finding more good things to buy.  It doesn’t help that they are offering their lowest prices of the year  right now… it’s a perfect storm of reckoning for my debit card.

Tim Staples

Tim Staples

Next, it was time for the indomitable Tim Staples with his presentation “What Our Lady Reveals To Us – About Ourselves”.  Tim began by providing an overview of his background, and how along the way he encountered the work of the evangelical Walter Martin.  Martin, as many evangelicals and Protestants do, rejected the teaching that Mary is the Mother of God.  Tim continued to examine Martin’s claims and found that if you claim to deny that Mary is the Mother of God… then who was she mother of?  And quickly, with a few steps of logic down that road you lose both Christ’s Divinity or his human nature, and if you lose Christ’s Divinity then you also lose the notion of the Father along with it.  Please understand here that I am doing a shockingly poor effort at recreating Staples’ argument, but suffice it to say the logic was very sound and the discussion compelling.  If you’re interesting in learning more, Tim has a new book coming out entitled “Behold Your Mother: A Biblical and Historical Defense of Marian Doctrines” which he describes as a comprehensive attempt to outline Marian doctrines and how they are both Biblical and defensible and necessary for our adherence as Catholics.  For those of you that have never experienced Tim Staples’ presentation style… someone once described it as “Holy Spirit Power” and that’s the truth… I challenge any Christian to listen to him and not leave completely fired up.

Another break after Tim’s talk, luckily this time I succeeded in keeping my debit card in my pocket.

Trent Horn

Trent Horn

The last speaker of the day was Trent Horn, who helped us understand “How To Talk About Same Sex ‘Marriage'”.  Trent is a uniquely different sort of apologist from Staples and Akin, however he presented an equally densely-packed presentation about the common ineffective arguments against same sex marriage, common arguments for same-sex marriage and how we might refute them, and some more effective strategies to defend marriage.  The thing I appreciate most about Trent Horn is his practical advice for entering into dialogue about difficult topics.  I have heard him on the radio use pure logic to walk someone to a conclusion that a few minutes prior they never would have considered, and it is impressive.  He also had a few of the most genuinely funny jokes of the day, but I won’t spoil that for you… you’ll have to wait and buy the talks to enjoy those.

The last main break of the day caused another minor hemorrhage of cash, followed by the live broadcast of the Catholic Answers Live radio program.  The crowd participation was infectious and the guest, Archbishop Sample of Portland, was fantastic.  I don’t know if this is a charism shared by all bishops, but Archbishop Sample’s kind, direct, and charitable answers to difficult questions was just a marvel to behold.  The podcast should be up in a couple of days at the Catholic Answers radio archives, so check it out.

Catholic Answers Live, with Patrick Coffin and Archbishop Sample

Catholic Answers Live, with Patrick Coffin and Archbishop Sample

And thus, the conference adjourned for the night.  Thank Heavens the Sheraton offers free wi-fi in the lounge so I could use my laptop to hammer all this out… doing so on my phone like last night would have been pretty challenging.  More tomorrow!




2014 Catholic Answers National Conference – Day 1

IMG_3315.JPGI touched down to beautiful weather in San Diego, and a quick shuttle ride later I was at the conference! Things were moved to a new hotel this year and wow, what an upgrade… my room is beautiful with a view of the marina and the layout of the conference is dramatically improved over last year.

They had registration tables which took mere seconds to get me signed in. They gave away a convention bag with a Fathers of the Church calendar, Catholic Answers magnet, and a nicely produced program. I also noticed that there were signs to a Sales Room, which opened up alongside the main ballroom that would be hosting the speakers.

Inside, there were six sprawling tables loaded with Catholic Answers materials with most specially discounted for the event. Ringed around this were tables from other vendors, with a particularly interesting booth with a live demo of Verbum Bible Software.

After putting my credit card through some exercise, it was time for the Welcome Reception on the marina-facing lawn. What a gorgeous setting! It was a great mixer, with finger food and a number of the Catholic Answers speakers and staff present. I struck up some conversations with several other convention-goers, and was lucky to meet and greet Trent Horn, Karl Keating, Jimmy Akin, and Father Vincent Serpa.

Soon, it was time for the opening of the convention. After a few words from Karl Keating and Christopher Check, Hector Molina took the stage and delivered a high-octane talk entitled “Evangelization: Not Just For Protestants Anymore”. It focused on our necessary work as Catholics to spread the Good News and many of the common objections that keep people from going boldly forth to speak with others about the faith. I had not been exposed to Hector’s talks before, and was impressed by his enthusiasm and high energy delivery. It was a great way to start the conference… If this set the tone for the weekend it is going to be fantastic!

To find out more, check out the following links:
2014 Catholic Answers National Conference
Hector Molina
My coverage of last year’s conference


Heading to the 2014 Catholic Answers National Conference!

Catholic Answers ConferenceAs I write this, I am here at my gate at Denver International Airport on the way to attend the 2014 Catholic Answers National Conference in San Diego.  I have been looking forward to attending this conference all year long.

Someone recently asked me why I would travel to attend something like this.  Obviously, the top notch array of speakers is the primary draw… you just can’t find such consistent Catholic apologetics all in one place like this… but that wasn’t all.  The thing that I found most invigorating is the community aspect of the conference.  I was surrounded with Catholics that were passionate about their faith… that wanted to learn it, defend it, and live it.  To me, this just reinforces that the Church is alive and well… despite common claims of the secular media.

My parish in Westminster enjoys some great, passionate men and women.  The trouble is that only a few dozen of them are compelled to participate in events, to meet and discuss the faith, and to evangelize.  At the conference, I am surrounded by hundreds of people and you can feel the energy and enthusiasm all around you.

The other primary benefit is getting to hear an extended speech from an archbishop.  Last year, it was Bishop Conley of the Lincoln diocese.  This year, it is going to be Archbishop Sample of the Portland archdiocese.  The few times that I have gotten to hear an archbishop speak it has been very impactful, and the opportunity to discuss the faith directly with them and hear them speak at length on a topic is worth the price of admission.  I recounted that last year, Bishop Conley’s speech was so engaging and rich that it bordered on mystifying.  He spoke about the importance of beauty in evangelization and I still think about that speech today.

This year I thought ahead and I brought my laptop along.  This means that I will be able to do a much better job of covering this year’s conference, so stay tuned for more.  If you are interested in reading my coverage from last year, you can find it here.