Friday, October 22, 2010

"Christ Our Life", a weekend Catholic conference to enrich their “searching souls.”

Conference calls Catholics to have Christ-centered lives

Thousands flocked to Des Moines to attend Christ Our Life, a weekend Catholic conference to enrich their “searching souls.”

The conference theme, From Doubt to Faith, asked Catholics to put Christ in the center of their lives. It was held Oct. 16-17 in the Wells Fargo Arena.

One of the main speakers was Cardinal Francis Arinze, who was the first African to be considered for papacy in 1,000 years.

“Christ is the center of our lives – individual life, family life, society life,” he said. “The conference proposes to us the ideal. Every one of us will try to live that ideal individually and in our families.”

Cardinal Arinze was also the celebrant for the Masses held during the conference. Concelebrating were Bishop Emeritus Joseph L. Charron [formerly Auxiliary Bishop of St Paul-Minneapolis 1989-93] and Bishop Richard E. Pates [formerly Auxiliary Bishop in St. Paul-Minneapolis, 2000-08] of the Diocese of Des Moines, Bishop R. Walker Nickless of the Diocese of Sioux City, Bishop John Quinn of the Diocese of Winona, Minn. and at least 20 priests.

Matthew Kelly, an international Catholic speaker and author, also spoke at the conference, telling fellow Catholics the church is “a sleeping giant.”

“We’ve forgotten our story,” he said. “The early Christians lived differently, loved differently and worked differently. As modern Catholics, we seem to blend in.”

Kelly said Catholics today appear to be lost and compared the Catholic faith to a treasure map.

“I think we’re failing to demonstrate the relevance of Catholicism in our modern life,” he said. “I think Catholicism is being rejected a lot because it’s old. It is old, but it’s like an old treasure map. A treasure map is valuable if it leads to treasure. If you find a treasure map, you don’t throw it away because it’s old.”

Marino Restrepo, another speaker, told the audience faith is more than just believing in a religion.

“Our homework is to learn how to love, how to forgive and giving our possessions,” he said. “Our heart will go where the treasure is. We need to be sure the real treasure is the Lord and our priorities are not earthly but heavenly.”

Restrepo is a Columbian who was raised Catholic but fell away from the church. He said his experience with being kidnapped by Columbian rebels turned him back to the faith.

“I was only interested in money, fame, pleasure and living in the fast lane,” said Restrepo. “I thought I was a good guy because I was involved in charities but I was committing a mortal sin because I was living away from God.”

In one of his talks, Kelly mentioned 10 percent of Catholics consider themselves prayerful and only one percent read a Catholic book.

“We have a lot of Catholic schools but most people after they leave don’t necessarily continue to educate themselves around their faith,” he said. “People are just not continuously in frame when it comes to faith and we have to get them there. If we don’t, the American church is in trouble.”

Cardinal Arinze pointed out most Catholics “have remained babies or dwarves in matters of religious knowledge,” yet are experts in society.

“They can navigate expertly on the internet, but they are unfamiliar with the contours of the Catholic faith,” he said. “Many young Catholics, and some not so young, can name all the footballers in the different leagues together with their coaches. But they have quite a problem naming the 12 apostles.”

One book Cardinal Arinze suggests in particular is the Catholic Catechism of the Catholic Church, which he considers a great guidebook for parents to teach their children about the faith.

“This document helps parents develop self-confidence in sharing the faith with their children,” he said. “The parents do not have to study for the doctorate in theology in the Catholic University of America before they can articulate our Catholic faith to their children. They have a readable book which guides them.”

Cardinal Arinze also said time should be set aside for prayer because it helps with spiritual warfare.

“In the battle field that is our earthly pilgrimage, we need prayer in order to continue to win victory over the devil and our weaknesses,” he said.

Kelly said having a daily spiritual routine can help Catholics become the “best versions of ourselves.”

“I essentially don’t believe the Christian life is sustainable without prayer,” he said. “I think it’s too hard to become a Christian in the world if you’re not plugging into the power source on a daily basis.”

Cardinal Arinze said attending Sunday Mass and receiving the Eucharist was also a strong weapon for faith.

“The holy Eucharist is Christ himself, not only the grace of Christ but it is Christ himself really present—God and man,” he said. “He is really more powerful than the devil. He is more powerful than our weaknesses. So if we have Christ at the center of our lives, especially if we pray, if we go to confession and if we take part at Mass and receive Holy Communion, Christ will give us strength, energy, a sense of direction and also interior peace which only God can give.”

Other speakers at the event included Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, founder of Mary’s Meals and has been selected as one of CNN’s Heroes of 2010, Renee Bondi, a Christian music singer who became quadriplegic at 29 and Father Rick Wendell who became a priest after being pronounced dead after a work-related accident. Sioux City Catholic Globe

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