I am home! After sitting on a bus through Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, I am finally home from FOCUS Conference 2010. It was a really great experience and God really moved me. I learned so much and took so much with me that it will be impossible to share all that I learned here, but I will give it a try.
There were so many good speakers with great messages. One of them was Stephanie Weinert. Her talk was about dating and romance, and though I’m not so sure that that is God’s plan for my life, I decided to take notes, just in case. Besides, some of the tips she gave were still very helpful for discernment. The first is that we need to include family in our relationship. Not only do I need to invite my own family into my relationship with God by telling them what God is doing in my life, but I need to be close to God’s family, that is Saints who have gone before me, and those of us in the Body of Christ who are still working towards our eternal reward. I need to rely on the intercession of my brothers and sisters in heaven, look to how their relationships with my God worked, and mimic them. I need to rely on the physical presence of the Body of Christ on earth to strengthen me and aid me. Second, I need to not rush it. I’ve done pretty good with this one. I’ve been taking discernment slow, just trying to see patterns that God has put into my life. Third, I need to keep God at the center. My relationship with God is not about what I can give to God, or what I can get from him. It’s about knowing who he is and obeying him so that others may come to know and love Christ.
Another great speaker I heard was Jeff Cavins, who actually used to be an Assemblies of God pastor and is the Formation Director of St. Paul’s Church in Ham Lake, MN, which isn’t too far from where I live. He talked about being thankful to God no matter what the circumstances in our life are, and that is something that I think I especially needed to hear.
I heard from Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Archdiocese of Denver. He talked about the importance of Catholics getting involved in politics, because if we don’t someone else will and their views, no matter how corrupt will become the norm in America. He also stated the obvious, that our faith, values, and morals cannot be separated from us in the voting booth, that those who ask us to deny the deepest and most fundamental part of ourselves when we elect politicians, are insane. I have just as much right and duty to vote for good Catholic politicians as the atheist does in voting for people like Obama.
Another speaker I heard from was a man named Kevin Cotter who works with FOCUS and he talked about evangelism. Some practical advice he gave for converting our families is to remember that it is all God, but that there are things we can do. We need to pray, fast, and give alms. And so one of the things I have decided to do for this year is to give up all alcohol (excepting the Blessed Sacrament) as Penance for my family, to show God how seriously I want them to know the truth. So no long island iced teas for me until 2011. There were a few others, including Chris Stefanick who talked about the obvious failings of moral relativism, and Fr. Benedict Groeschel. All the speakers gave me such hope in God, new vision for following him, and renewed love for the Sacraments.
Of all the things on my mind when I came to Orlando, the priesthood, my family, and my Bible Study were on my mind the greatest. I’d like to say that all of these things have not been put at ease, but that would be a lie. I have gained a greater respect for the priesthood, as well as a deeper understanding of what it means to be a priest from Fulton Sheen’s, The Priest is Not His Own, and surprisingly, it is drawing me towards it, even though, it has greatly intensified it for me. In addition, I have greater hope for my family because I know the power of the Truth, that is Christ, and his ability to pull people into the Truth. The Truth is captivating and I know that if they just soften their hearts, my family could find so much joy in it. And as far as my Bible Study goes, I had been questioning God, “why me?” Of all the people in that study, why did God choose me? I haven’t been Catholic more than a year. Most of those guys have been Catholic all their lives. Surely one of them would be better suited for it than I. But that’s not what God always calls us to. Remember Moses? Yeah, I do. He was not the most fit for leading God’s people, yet he is who God chose. It doesn’t really matter why God chose me, but he did, and I must obey him and do all I can to stretch my skills to the max to make this Bible Study all that it can be, by the graces and power of God, the Holy Spirit.
The greatest moment I experienced during conference was during Eucharistic Adoration. We were all Adoring together, and I honestly wasn’t feeling much, sensing much, so I left. But I came back later, just as they were doing the benediction. They then proceeded to carry Christ from the ballroom back to the Adoration Chapel. They ring a bell as they process down the hall and everyone kneels before Christ. As he passed me I stood up and followed the priest, as well as few others, and I just couldn’t take my eyes off of Christ. I realized that this is truly my king. I watched as thousands of students, even a few hotel staff members, fell to their knees as Christ passed. I truly believe that the Eucharist is Christ. I believe the Bible, I believe the Apostles, I believe that Christ gives himself to us for all eternally to become one with him body and soul, just as a husband and wife become one not just in spirit but also in body. We are the bride of Christ and we become one with him, not only in Spirit, but in Body every time we go to Mass. Yes the Eucharist is my loving King, God, Savior, Friend, Messiah, Counselor, Comforter, Lamb, and everything else. And as I looked to him, I prayed, “Jesus, you are my King, and I will follow you no matter what the cost, no matter how far.” And if they would have turned and walked out the hotel doors, I would have followed him, no matter where, without questioning where he was taking me. I’ve learned to trust Christ because he has never failed me before, and I know now more than ever, that he never will fail me. EVER.
FOCUS Conference 2010, was awesome. I’m glad to be home, and I’m glad to be going back to school on Friday, and I am ready to stop hiding my faith when its uncomfortable, because Christ didn’t hide from the cross though it was uncomfortable.