The beauty of a retreat…

Sacred Heart Retreat House

Sacred Heart Retreat House

I spent the weekend at the lovely Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House in Sedalia, CO for our annual Knights of Columbus retreat.  Until this point, I hadn’t been on a retreat since I was 16 (almost 20 years ago!) so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

This particular retreat house is situated on 280 acres outside the small town of Sedalia, over an hour drive from where I live.  On the way down, I was thinking about my last retreat experience and how this might measure up.  I arrived to the beautiful grounds and immediately understood that this was going to be a peaceful, relaxing place oriented towards true reflection.

The two day program was divided up around the primary principles of the Knights of Columbus: charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism.  Father Ed Kinerk was our spiritual director for the weekend and provided us several presentations to move us toward prayer and contemplation of each of these themes.  Father Ed presented some very complicated theological concepts in an approachable way… I especially found the discussion on charity, love, and forgiveness the most inspiring.  He spoke at length about the importance of love in the practice of our faith, and that we could not continue to true charity and unity without focusing on loving like God first.

Christ by the waterfall

Christ by the waterfall

Most of the time in between presentations was spent in silence, to allow us to truly pray in an introspective manner.  Father Ed counseled us regarding how best to image Christ as we prayed, so we could make a more conversational and real connection.  He encouraged us to speak to Christ as if we were speaking to a friend, but not to apologize as we did this.  It was an interesting challenge for me, because I didn’t realize how much my inner prayer life was based on apology for my inadequacies.  You can read more about this philosophy of prayer in Father Ed’s article “Meeting God for Lunch“.

A beautiful tree along the trail

A beautiful tree along the trail

After the first afternoon of presentations, I ventured out onto the 30 acre area that had paved pathways.  The views of the fall colors and the prayer areas were astounding.  It was inspiring to look around and see other men in silence, many with rosaries in their hand or sat in quiet reflection.  We were welcome to talk during our lunch and dinners, pray on our own, go to Confession, or just continue to explore the grounds.  After Mass, we returned to silence and I once again made it out onto the trails praying on my own and listening to the nighttime sounds.  I had brought a few books with me on the trip, so I closed the evening by reading “Lukewarmness: The Devil in Disguise” by Francis Carvajal by the fireplace.  Sleep came easily after that, and was very restful thanks to the silence in the building.

Saint Jude at night

Saint Jude at night

We concluded the retreat with two more sessions, closing with a special session to take these lessons and apply them to our daily life.  This was followed by Mass and then some social time, however I left quickly after Mass so I could be with my family for the remainder of the day.

I took away some practical advice from this weekend.  First, silence is important in prayer.  Second, trying to understand God’s love as it relates to charity and forgiveness is a lesson that I will be thinking about for quite some time.  Third, learning to image Christ as I pray in more real terms really helps to deepen the experience of prayer.  It becomes less of recitation and petition and more conversing with a friend that goes far beyond any other friend we can have in this life. Last, and most important: I’m not going to let it be another two decades before I go on a retreat again.  The amount of spiritual benefit that was had in two days was far worth the time spent away from my family and the small amount of money that was charged.  I returned to the “real world” feeling very recharged this afternoon, and I look forward to carrying that feeling into the work week with me.


Palm Sunday Reflections…

Today I would like to offer a brief but interesting reflection on Palm Sunday, courtesy of my dear friend Mark Tarrant.  He shared with me this very unique poem by G.K. Chesterton, which brings a new perspective to Palm Sunday.

Christ on the donkey

The Donkey
by G.K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me, I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

To me, this poem outlines how flawed the donkey’s perspective is and underscores the grace that can be given by walking with Christ.  The donkey underscores his own perspective of his station as an undesirable, unpleasant creature but in the end has his own last laugh.  A few weeks ago, my wife participated in the Stations of the Cross from Mary’s perspective.  While it was a wholly different presentation and situation, I find the shifted or different perspective can offer a greater opportunity for thought, prayer, and reflection.

Our priest encouraged everyone to take time this week to reflect on why Christ made this ultimate sacrifice for us.  We have the opportunity daily to reflect on the Way of the Cross this week and incorporate this opportunity for salvation into our lives.


Born Lucky Blessed…

Rocking the Isolette

Rocking the Isolette!

I am fortunate enough to share my birthday with the feast day for one of the most recognizable saints in the Church Triumphant – Saint Patrick.  That means my birthday often finds parades and parties, with many remarking how lucky I am to have such a great birthday.

Even more great is the fact that I am still here, writing this post… I was born very premature, with my weight getting down to around 1 lb 9 3/4 oz before I started packing on the ounces and pounds.  The picture to the left is my mother talking to me through the isolette shortly after my arrival.  I am grateful for the fact that I don’t have any significant physical or mental disability.    I am thankful every day for my parents, that they are there for me.  I am thankful for every day of my 34 years.

I always bristle whenever people say that I am lucky.  I don’t believe in luck.  I think about the other children in the NICU with me during that time, many of which never left intensive care.  I’m not more lucky than them, it just wasn’t my time yet.  I like to think that I have some sort of purpose left to fulfill in God’s plan for salvation.

I believe in the power of prayer, and I believe that is a large part of why I am still here now.  Every year about this time, my grandparents, parents, and aunts call and often they remind me of how scared and how much they prayed for me when I was born early and fighting for my life.  Thanks to good doctors, these prayers, and the grace I received at my Baptism – I am still here.

The world contains too much pain, suffering, and uncertainty in the world and there are also too few helpers.  Just this week I have seen several friends of mine very ill, impoverished, depressed, and at their wits end.  What I really want for my birthday this year is more helpers.  The emotional toll of working in the homebound ministry can sometimes be very challenging.

So here’s what you can do for me: pray.  Pray for me, pray for my ailing and homebound friends, pray for those you know that are sick and in distress. Pray for radical conversions in the hearts of your friends and family.  You can do this even if you do it every day, or if you haven’t done it in awhile.  It doesn’t cost a thing and it helps more than you know.  Share this request around… the more prayers the better.

Second, if you can… help.  Surely you know of someone sick or homebound that would appreciate a phone call or a nice card.  If you know someone that is struggling with money and you can afford it, help them.  If you know someone spiritually poor, reach out to them.  Over the past few years, I have learned to appreciate how much small actions mean to people that are struggling.  I would appreciate it very much if you remembered my birthday by helping someone in this way… but I would appreciate it even more if you made a habit of it.

Thanks to everyone that has made my life great up to this point.  Hopefully, I’m just getting started.


Docility and Prudence: The Forgotten Virtues


We live in a sound-byte world, a quick culture that often doesn’t stop and think.  American culture is particularly bad about this, and often fails to dive any deeper than the news headlines or the context that they gained from the last person they spoke to.  This has been seen with practically anything Pope Francis says, or anything that doesn’t fit within the media’s agenda of normalizing sin.  Over the holidays, as I watched the media fury surround Phil Robertson for expressing his views on homosexuality I began to think about how our culture lacks the virtues of prudence and docility.

The word docility has roots in the Latin word docere which means “to teach”.  It’s where we get the word doctor (teacher) and doctrine (teachings).  Docility is the virtue of obedience and openness in those who are taught.  Saint Thomas Aquinas related this closely with the cardinal virtue of prudence: applying earned wisdom to real life situations.  Academically, the formula is essentially to be open to gaining new, sound, truthful knowledge and then applying it correctly in the real world.

But our society generally scuttles that whole discussion.  Instead of asking if something is right or wrong, we are told subjectively “what is right for you is fine.”  Instead of understanding the teachings of Christ in a full, real, and coherent way we are reduced to memes and cherry-picked gospel quotes to justify a myriad of sinful behavior.  Someone suggested to me once that we all cherry-pick what parts of religion to follow.  This may be true to a point… some teachings are easier for us to hear and respond to than others.  This should not be where we stop!  We should be striving to always grow in our faith and be docile and teachable wherever Truth (note the capital) is found.  It’s not subjective… what is true is true.  Similarly, if we then use that earned knowledge to act prudently we can become a living example for others instead of just an academic argument found in a comment-box.

When attempting to discuss the virtues of a teaching – or sometimes, simply stating them out loud – people respond with the glib old diatribe “have an open mind!”  It is very easy to hide behind the auspices of having an open mind.  Also, it is easy to take the hard-headed and prideful approach and think that you know everything.  (Most of these people use Facebook, I have discovered.)  I am reminded of a very good quote by G.K. Chesterton:

Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.

For me, the key has been disposing of preconception and emotion and intellectually processing both sides of the argument.  This is extremely difficult to do when approaching “hot button” topics where emotions run wild… but some mileage can be had from simply explaining your viewpoint, your argument from truth, and listening to the objections.  From there, you can respond to those objections as long as the opposing party will respectfully engage.  The Thomastic philosophy is particularly good at this and can be used with a little practice.

The best we can hope for is to first learn truth for ourselves, apply it correctly to our lives, and then transmit it to others.  And to paraphrase a quote often attributed to St. Francis… if necessary, use words.


2014: The Year of Beauty

SunriseThis is the time of year when many people set forth resolutions.  Sometimes these mission statements are over before they start, and it seems like a few make any lasting changes.  I have had a checkered past with making successful resolutions, and I want 2014 to be a year to remember.

My thoughts kept coming back to the address given by Bishop James Conley at the Catholic Answers Apologetics Conference. He spoke about the role of beauty in restoring the Catholic Church.  He then suggested that beauty can evangelize in many ways: via the liturgy, an appreciation of ancient Christian culture, and an openness to beauty of all forms.

In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the universal human response to beauty as “something bigger, something that speaks, capable touching the heart, of communicating a message, of elevating the soul. How many times, then, can artistic expressions be occasions to remind us of God, to help our prayer or the conversion of the heart.”

I thought about the beautiful things that go under-appreciated in my own home.  I thought about how the din of our modern world steals experiential beauty from us.  Art and music, travel, family time, adoration… of these things that I express a desire to do but lack in time and attention.  I thought about some of my own simple pleasures.  My woodworking hobby and the childlike fascination I feel when I look at a figured piece of curly maple wood.  The joy of dancing around the kitchen with my daughter to a song on the radio.  The meaningful connection felt when having a real conversation with my beautiful wife.  I wished there could be less noise and more of these experiences.

A few days later, I was thinking about the Year of Faith and how Pope Benedict gave the world this wonderful gift and I wondered if Pope Francis would declare another type of focus for the coming year.  It dawned on me that I didn’t have to wait and see… what Pope Benedict did for the Church, I can do within my own home.   I had my resolution:

I resolve to make 2014 the Year of Beauty.  I will appreciate simple experiential beauty in any way possible: art, music, sculpture, travel, silence, prayer, meaningful conversation, and family.  The goal is to elevate my soul to God, the source of all beauty.

I want to spend more time in January getting reconnected with music, and I would also like to experience a Latin Mass for the first time.  Have you ever been touched by a beautiful experience in your life in the way that Pope Emeritus Benedict describes above?  If so, share with the class.

For those interested: The National Catholic Register covered Bishop Conley’s address here and it is now available from Catholic Answers in both digital edition and in a CD collection.  Check it out for some great inspiration!

Won’t you join me in ushering in a beautiful 2014?


Celebrating Advent

Gaudete-Sunday5Five years ago, I moved from Central Illinois to Denver for my job.  This means that each year I look forward to travel around Christmastime, in order to allow me to spend the holidays with my extended family.  This means we get to live with my parents for a few weeks, and that can makes it challenging to have our own family traditions.

Last year, we discussed some things we might be able to do for Advent.

The biggest thing that we did was to celebrate St. Nicholas‘s feast day.  On the eve of the feast day, we said some special prayers, put a small statue of the bishop Saint Nicholas on our family altar, and read my daughter (who is two and a half) a children’s story about the bishop of Myra.  We also had our daughter put out her shoe, she was happy to receive a small gift on his feast day.

On Saint Nicholas’s actual feast day, we had a leisurely evening together as a family and said some prayers for Saint Nicholas’s intercession.  We also had an extended family meal and made some special punch for the occasion, which our daughter loved.

We also added the Magnificat Advent Companion to our prayer rotation and a small, portable Advent wreath so we could count the weeks until we celebrate Christ’s birth.  We also spent much of the month of December with friends and family, focusing on having a relaxing, enjoyable and festive season.  There are plenty of other websites that have provided a myriad of Advent observances, these are just the ones that worked best for our family this year.

If you have a special Advent observance, share it in the comment box.  We’d love to hear what other families do to celebrate this very special time of year.


The Year of Faith is over, but I’m just getting started!

christ-king3Today was the Feast of Christ the King, which marks the end of the Year of Faith.  When I started this site over a year ago, I was aiming for at least one post a week during this special year so I could participate in a small way in Pope Emeritus Benedict’s call for a New Evangelization.

This seems like a great day to take stock.  First, some stats:  I ended up writing 66 posts and 4 pages which totaled up to 41,850 words.  I know of a few short spans where posts lapsed for longer than my desired weekly basis, but it appears that I have made it up in numbers.

Beyond the sheer mechanics, we covered a lot of ground this year.  I received some positive feedback on my Five Facts series, but I enjoy writing the reflections much more.  I also truly enjoyed the (partial) refutation of the pamphlet that was left on my car last summer, made even sweeter by the new knowledge that this was how one of my apologetics heroes Karl Keating got started.  I enjoyed participating (and covering) the first annual Catholic Answers Apologetics Conference.

I have received feedback from some that have said that they discovered something new or learned a new aspect of Catholicism, and I would count the entire effort as ‘worth it’ for that fact alone.  Beyond this, the thing I enjoy the most is the personal connections that I have made throughout the year.  I have met some great people, Catholics and non-Catholics, that each offer a new and valuable perspective and I hope these friendships continue.

What’s Next

I have a long list of topics that I haven’t gotten the opportunity to discuss in detail yet.  I also want to finish the refutation of that pamphlet.  I have learned that apologetics articles (especially ones with sources cited) take awhile to write, and I’m not natural at it.  Yet.  So I’ll keep soldiering ahead.  Ultimately, I want to write about things that you all find interesting.  The only way I can know those topics is if you tell me.

Finally, I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone that has contributed, shared your thoughts, asked questions, linked the site, or otherwise lent their support over the last year.  Your support has been a great encouragement.  I pray that the Holy Spirit continue to grant me enough grace to continue, and that this effort brings even more people to Christ.


A Year Without Jude

jesuswithbabyLast year on this day, my wife and I went through one of the hardest days of our married life: we lost a baby due to ectopic pregnancy.  I don’t have much recollection of the nearly two weeks leading up to her emergency surgery, most of it presents as a hazy blur of stress, emotions, doctor visits, and worry.

We had exhausted every option and waited longer than the doctors would have preferred in hopes of a miracle or a natural miscarriage, but in the end we had to exercise the Principle of Double Effect and my wife had surgery to remove her damaged Fallopian tube which resulted in the loss of our child.

A year later, I feel like I have some further perspective and I’d like to share a few thoughts today.

Understanding Suffering

The hardest thing in the world is to watch your spouse’s heart break and there is nothing you can do about it.  This is made even harder when your own heart is breaking at the same time.  Going through this pain together has brought us closer as a couple.  We both talk about the emotional pain that we feel even though the physical wounds of the surgery have long healed.

Before this all happened, I would read reflections or passages from Scripture regarding mourning and suffering in a somewhat academic way.  I had lost relatives that were close to me, however I had never gone through something that razed my emotions so deeply.  The absolute worst part was the pain of losing the baby, and the realization that I came very close to losing my wife too.  Then to experience firsthand the pain that she went through was a wholly different experience.

A year later, I understand better what it means to cooperate with the grace that comes from suffering.  I know that people have it far worse.  Some people have experience this sort of emotional pain through numerous miscarriages, stillbirth, or the loss of a young child and I am far more sympathetic to that type of pain now.  I also understand that I only have a partial perspective on this, because the emotional suffering that my wife went through (and to a degree, still does) was much worse.

Walking in faith and not by sight

In hard times like this, we were often counseled to trust in God… to heed Christ’s mandate to take up our cross and follow him.  I was helped greatly by one of our parish priests, who heard my Confession shortly after the surgery where I admitted being angry at God that my family had to go through this.  He told me that I took the hard but correct road and that I was a great friend of Jesus, and to know that He is there with me to make good come out of this.

After some reflection and discussion, my wife and I realized that God had willed this and we could assist in seeing that some good came from this experience.  We were already advocates of the pro-life movement, and this redoubled my resolve to participate in pro-life activities.  I worked on a spaghetti dinner project to raise over $1000 for the Knights of Columbus ultrasound initiative, which purchases ultrasound machines for crisis pregnancy centers to enable women to choose life.  It was, after all, an ultrasound machine that detected this situation and potentially saved my wife.  We continue to pray for the unborn, including our baby Jude.  We continue to have faith that Christ will work through us to bring good out of this loss.

Hope for an intercessor

Shortly after the counsel that I received from my priest, I had a discussion with an 87-year-old friend of mine from the parish.  He had lost a two children of his own, and we talked about the hopes and prayers that our children were with Christ now and enjoying their eternal reward.

The reality hit me in that special way that gave me goosebumps all over: my baby Jude could be in Heaven interceding for us here on Earth.  I take great comfort in the idea that my child is with the Lord now praying for us and watching his big sister build blocks with Daddy.  I explained this notion to my elderly friend, and found it comforting as well.  While we don’t claim to know God’s Will for anyone, we can trust in his great mercy and the hope that our departed loved ones are with the Lord, praying and interceding for those of us they left behind.

Remembering is important

Many people have told me to just get over it, or that I’m making too big of a deal out of this situation.  I usually counter with the argument that if this child had been born, nobody would dare to make such an argument.  I take great comfort in praying for him by name and remembering that little life.  I am also deeply thankful for the support of our family, friends, and parish who stood by us during this difficult time and continue to strengthen us today.

I ask that all who read this stop and say a prayer for my baby, Jude Michael, and for our family’s continued healing.  Pray for all that have been stricken by the pain of miscarriage and stillbirth that they might be strengthened by Christ, and pray for an end to abortion and for the souls of all of the unborn.

If you have a few extra minutes, you can also read the rest of Jude’s Story including the prayer that I wrote for his baptism.

We miss you and love you, Jude.  Pray for us!

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:14)




I was having a quiet conversation with my Mom last week, explaining to her all of the different activities that has been keeping me busy over the last month.  I talked about my Knights of Columbus activities, some of the homebound visits, and all of the good things that had happened recently.

I told one story of how I spoke to advertise our recent Knights of Columbus spaghetti dinner during the Mass announcements.  A woman approached me excitedly after Mass to offer some help, she volunteered at a local crisis pregnancy center and wanted to assist us since we were raising money for the national ultrasound initiative.  It was one of those “something’s happening here” moments and it showed me how something so little as a few words after Mass can make something very big happen.

At this point, my mother stopped me.  She asked whether or not my friends had distanced themselves at all as I became more involved in my faith and my Church activities.  I quickly answered, “Yes, and it is very lonely.”

Our conversation ended shortly thereafter, but that question continued to make me think.  (It is funny how often Mom Questions can do this.)  I recounted the conversation to my wife later, and she said that it was true that many of our friends have stepped back for various reasons but we’ve also made new friends.  This is true, and a huge blessing.

This type of distance is a gift, in many ways.  It gives time to reflect, and in this case it makes me realize that the narrow road to the small gate can be a lonely one but it’s a path worth traveling.  I view this to be a cross that is worth bearing, but I am not sad.  This has presented me a truly rewarding opportunity to do good work in the community.  The Knights, my parish, and my loyal family and friends are with me and understand what it means to do something for the greater glory of God.

If anything I have done allows one baby to not be aborted or brings one person back to God, what choice do I have but to pursue those goals?  Furthermore, is a someone really a friend that would walk away from me if they knew this was my goal?

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16 (NRSVCE)


Catholic Answers National Apologetics Conference: Day 2

I am relieved to finally be back at my laptop after a long day of traveling, so here is a recap of the second day of the Catholic Answers National Apologetics Conference.  Before I begin, let me just say that I will not be able to do this conference justice in a short (or even a long) article.  I will do my best to provide a general recap of each talk with a few of my own thoughts.

The Speakers

The day started with Tim Staples’ talk entitled “Black and White in a Gray America”.  Tim was a great speaker to lead off the day with… his enthusiastic speaking style was energizing.  The speech examined the condition of American culture as it relates to moral issues, and laid out a compelling argument for why apologetics is so important.  It provided a good framework for the other presentations of the day, and provided some lucid insights on common moral objections brought forth from our secular society.  Going in, I already understood the many reasons that apologetics is important but this talk provided the proverbial “shot in the arm” that makes me want to dig deeper and learn more.

After a short break, it was time for Trent Horn’s presentation “Science: Necessary but Not Sufficient”.  This was a very broad topic, and Trent provided an articulate, well-defined effort to carefully define some of the terms commonly used by atheists and agnostics to parse out their true points of contention.  He also went on to examine the common arguments for atheism and presented some useful ways we can navigate these seemingly tough questions.  Horn has recently released his new book and DVD entitled Answering Atheism, which provides a much deeper treatment of these topics.  I know these are definitely going on my to-watch/read list.

The highlight of the day was Jimmy Akin‘s talk “The Greatest Scandal of All” which dealt with the important topic of evil and suffering.  Akin explained that the problem of evil in our world is the greatest scandal of all, because of the voracity that it causes doubt in an all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful God.  He defined evil as both moral evil, and physical evil (such as suffering).  Jimmy went on to provide six examples of things not to say to someone that is dealing with evil (moral or physical) and then three ways that you can actually comfort and support someone in the same condition.  This talk truly resonated with me, so much that I immediately thought of several people that would benefit from hearing his words even while the presentation was still going on.

After lunch, our speaker was Matt Fradd who discussed gender and sexual roles in his talk “Sex-less America”.  Matt presented several cases of an escalating cultural phenomenon of embracing a denial of one’s gender (in some cases even rejecting it).  He cited medical research that explained the physiological differences between the two sexes and outlined some ways to enter a discussion on this topic using a physiological approach and a pastoral approach.  Thankfully, Matt was kind enough to take notes for us and post it up on his own blog for everyone to enjoy.  I haven’t really encountered this sort of discussion yet in my own attempts at evangelization or apologetics, but it certainly was one to file away.

The final speaker of the afternoon was Catholic Answers founder and president Karl Keating.  His speech entitled “Closing Time for Western Civ?” was delivered in a beautiful, traditional oratory way.  Karl took us through around 1600 years worth of history starting with a beautiful imagining of the completion of St. Augustine’s “City of God” and took us to the present time, noting the variety of cultural shifts that took place along the way.  He outlined the need to restore a culture based on truly Christian values, but noted the difficultly presented by the way that cultures can be replaced.  This outlined the true need for well formed consciences and strong apologetics, so that the culture that inevitably replaces ours is better than the one it left behind.  The content was information-packed and very interesting, but I was more enthralled by Mr. Keating’s construction and delivery of the talk itself.  It is definitely one that I must digest further to fully appreciate.

After the scheduled speeches, there was a Q&A panel with the apologists.  Conferees were told to submit questions on 3×5 cards throughout the course of the day, and the panel took turns answering those that fit best into their specialities.  This was a very fun and informative portion of the event, so much so that I wish they would repeat this sort of forum on their radio broadcasts.

The Fellowship

One other major benefit to the conference was the fellowship with other conference-goers.  This event brought together many people cut from the same cloth, and for me it was very much like a retreat in that regard.  You didn’t have to worry about speaking aloud your Catholic faith because you were among people that understand the same as you.  During the reception on Friday night, I got into several great discussions with absolute strangers and I even met a couple that happened to be from a parish right up the road from where I live here in Colorado.  At lunch on Saturday, I met a wonderful couple and we talked about apologetics, youth education, and our own experiences while we sat on a bench on the waterfront.  Just before dinner on Saturday night, I met some wonderful men from St. Paul Street Evangelization (one of which I know has found the blog) and was excited to hear about their ministry and experiences.  I think I met more truly faithful Catholics in one day than I have met in the previous year combined.  I pray that some of these connections continue into friendships.

The Mass

The conference hit a crescendo with the Holy Mass given by Bishop James Conley with a homily by Father Vincent Serpa, the chaplain from Catholic Answers.  There was beautiful singing courtesy of members of Catholic Answers staff, and it was truly awesome to hear a room with 400 Catholics singing Salve Regina together.  I have always enjoyed Bishop Conley’s reverence of the Holy Eucharist.  Father Serpa’s homily was insightful and drew forth from the gospel contemporary examples of serving the poor and the poor in spirit, primarily from Mother Teresa’s life.  The whole Mass was truly gorgeous.

The Dinner and Conclusion

After Mass, I struck up the aforementioned lively conversation with some fellow conference-goers that continued right into dinner.  The discussion was so enthralling I was almost annoyed when the presentation began again, but I was quickly quieted by Bishop Conley’s keynote address entitled “Ever Ancient, Ever New: The Role of Beauty in the Restoration of the Catholic Church”.

I’m not even sure I can adequately describe the breadth of this address.  Bishop Conley took us through his conversion experience, his education in the Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas, and how this exposed to him the importance of beauty in life.  Further, he explained how this cultivated for him the ability to appreciate beautiful things ranging from calligraphy to architecture to fine music and that this resulted in many conversions to the Catholic Faith.  He said that the focus must return to this beauty in our culture and our practice of the faith, and that this can rebuild the world.  I sincerely hope this address is made available in some form so it can be heard by others, because the world desperately needs it.

I can say that this short conference was certainly worth the time and money.  I can also say with certainty that the full effect has not yet sunk in, and this experience has given me much to think about.  As always, I thank God for Catholic Answers and the fine work they do, for the friendships gained, and for the beauty that is our Catholic Faith.

I believe that Catholic Answers is going to make some of the conference speeches available in the future.  I strongly recommend you check them out, and plan to attend this conference next year.