Congratulations on choosing to attend this monumental Catholic event. Over the next few days you will be steeped in the best that Catholic culture has to offer you in America. There are no better organizations than FOCUS to show you the true face of the missionary Catholic Church. Prepare to be amazed—and prepare to be moved outside your comfort zone.
Your experience at SEEK will be positive, there is no doubt. But let’s face it. You are there to be transformed whether you realize it or not. People don’t go to religious conferences (Catholic or otherwise) to “just watch” like a zombie with no actual intention behind the “watching.” That’s what you go to hockey games for. You go because you hope it will do something for you. Well SEEK will do something for you but only if you let it; only if you let God. And God has a favorite way of transforming us into happy, holy people (otherwise known as saints). He often moves us outside of our comfort zone to do so. Thus your transformation this week will depend on one thing: Whether you allow yourself to move beyond your fears into the places where God is leading you—wherever that may be.
Here are three things that may scare you over your time at SEEK.
1. Raising your hands during Praise & Worship.
Perhaps you are at a place right now where you think this looks ridiculous. Maybe you can’t help but stare at those “radicals” that surround you. Maybe you didn’t know Catholics do this sort of thing (isn’t it an Evangelical practice?).
But here’s the thing: it IS a Catholic thing. It’s a Christian thing. It is a sign of surrender. It is a way for you to pray with your body, along with your mind and your voice. Lifting or opening your arms wide to the Lord is a way to say “Jesus, you are the Boss. Give me what I need. I trust in You.” Intimidating prayer, I know. But there are truly no better words a human could utter. You are made to worship.
Mark my words: This practice will be much “cooler” by the end of the conference. Be a leader, not a follower (although being a follower in this case is much better than being a “rejecter”). Don’t be afraid to raise your arms to the Lord before raising your arms to the Lord is cool. If the Holy Spirit is moving you—be not afraid.
2. Speaking to priests, religious sisters, etc.
You may not fall into this category but if you are like I once was you may be afraid to speak with the priests, deacons, sisters, etc, out of fear that you may feel compelled afterward to pursue that “dreaded” vocation to the Religious Life. (You may also still just be processing the fact that you have never seen so many “robed and collared” men and women in one place in your life. That’s OK. Just soak it in. It is one of the most beautiful sights one can behold. Just wait, you’ll see it.) And don’t worry men—although I’m usually lousy at discerning God’s will in matters like this I am confident that God is not calling you to be a religious sister.
Two more things about this:
First. Remember—God is the boss. He may, in fact, want you to give your entire self to Him in this unique and blessed way. God has only your joy in mind. If he wants you to enter the Religious Life it is because that is where you will thrive. You will never meet more joyful people in your life than ones such as these who have given themselves so completely to Jesus. They are blessed beyond comprehension by God. The great priest, St. John Vianney, said that if we truly knew the dignity of priests, we would die not out of fear but out of love. Ponder on that one for a while.
Second, the honest and open investigation of the Religious Life will only move you closer to your married vocation if that is your calling. I can also say this out of experience. God is moving in your life to show you where He wants you to go. He wants to lead you into a fullness of life and love that exceeds all your finest expectations. He is your loving Father and will be for all eternity. Trust Him.
3. The Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Maybe its been years. Maybe decades. No matter. Let today be your return to this powerful sacrament. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT.
I have never met anybody who regretted their choice to go to confession. Never. There is nothing more liberating and life-giving on the face of the earth than this. It is a real encounter with Christ. Let me say this again. It is a real encounter with Christ.
Just like a pen is an instrument through which an author writes a story, a priest is God’s instrument through which He gives grace, a free gift of Life which is His own. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation you become more like God. A pretty good deal, eh?
Make a good and honest confession. Be simple but thorough. Don’t hold back. Confess all of your sins (even the most embarassing or shameful ones). You will not tell God anything He does not already know. And the priest will not judge you. Trust me, he would tell you that you are not all that original. We are all sinners. Big time. But we are working on it as we walk the path to sainthood (even the Saints we know and love were sinners by the way—they were extraordinarily holy but they were not God).
Most importantly, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the portal to Holy Communion with Jesus Christ. It predisposes you to receive Christ evermore fully in the Eucharist. Cardinal Dolan has called confession the Sacrament of the New Evangelization.
One more thing about confession. You don’t have to wait until the scheduled times and places. If you feel an impulse to confess your sins NOW and you see a priest nearby, ask him if he would hear your confession. The Holy Spirit is at work in you, moving you. Remember: he has only your joy in mind.
Now that the serious stuff is out of the way I have one last word of advice for you. Have fun! (cliche, I know).
Enjoy each other. You can really become intoxicated by the love that exudes from one another at these conferences. It is a sort of Catholic “utopia.” But take that home with you and let it overflow into your daily life—that’s evangelization.
Finally, consider this: the sea of Catholic love that you will swim in over the next few days might be seen as a kind of foreshadowing of the Place we all long for. It might be seen as a type of heaven on earth. But even more profoundly (and if you only remember one thing let it be this) it becomes an actual participation in that Place, where heaven really does kiss the earth, during the main event of the weekend — you guessed it — the Holy Mass. You are part of something big. Don’t waste a single minute. Let’s set the world ablaze.
Your brother in Christ,
What is SEEK? Click here to see.
To learn about the Canadian version of this conference click here.