Thursday, December 29, 2016

Thoughts on the Men's Conference

The Salem Men's Conference exceeded expectations and had a massive turn-out despite the threat of icy roads.  I was impressed by how many young men were there--men in their 20s and 30s--and the average age of the participants was a full 10-15 years younger than past conferences I've attended.  The men were also more masculine and rugged (and that's a good thing!) than you find in the urban centers, and they represent the future of the Church in the fading West.  These men are blessed with a masculine bishop, Archbishop Sample, who actually stayed for the conference after offering the morning mass.  As the well-traveled Fr. Donald Calloway MIC remarked to a few of us, "Most bishops just take off after giving their remarks.  You've got a rare one here."  Amen!  Archbishop Sample takes great pleasure in being around faithful, orthodox men; he is at home with us, and we are at home with him.  May God give the Church many more shepherds like him!

The most remarkable thing about the conference was how many fascinating men were in attendance.  Since Chris, Felix and I had our "Street Evangelization" table, I was able to sit back and meet and listen to the stories of many good Catholic men.  It also helped that our table was right next to Fr. Calloway who always invites a long line of greeters and book-buyers.  I met a burly, Hispanic retired police officer (a friend of Jesse Romero) who shared his tales of evangelization while on duty. He was a remarkable man, intrepid and creative in sharing the faith, and with a heart fashioned by Christ.  I met Richard, a Vietnam vet whose experiences in the war led him to be a street evangelist and a protestant pastor.  He entered the Church a couple years ago, and would make a great addition to our "team" if he ever drives up here from Cottage Grove.  I had a faith-filled chat with this fascinating young man, who renewed his marriage and life after re-discovering the faith "once-delivered".  Finally, I met a widely-read gentleman who had a special devotion to our patron, Blessed Charles de Foucauld.  In fact, as I queued up to communion, I noticed the man kneeling in prayer, and a gentle burst of divine love came from my chest, where my relic of Blessed Charles rested.  Blessed Charles has a pure, heavenly love for the man, interceding for him before the good God.  If only we knew how great and busy the saints are on our behalf!  We develop an idle interest in a saint, feel a little kinship, and meanwhile the saint burns with heavenly love on our behalf.  It boggles the mind!

Chris and I were operating on very little sleep at the conference, and Chris admitted that he would probably sleep through half the talks.  But that was before Fr. Calloway, Jesse Romero and Deacon Sivers got going.  Then Chris was held in rapt attention, and I kept teasing him, "You're not asleep yet?"  No one sleeps during those talks.  We hope to attend next year's conference, slated for October.

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