Monday, July 24, 2006

I'm Back!

Thank you for your prayers. My trip to Atlanta was wonderful!!

It was such a joy and privilege to see so many people who love the Lord and desire to follow Him daily. Each of the speakers called us to remember Whose we are, the vocation we are called to, and the great graces available to us in the sacraments. Each of the speakers had such different personalities, but all of them shared what had sustained them: daily Mass (or as often as possible)... frequent Confession... family Rosaries and family altars... daily Scripture and spiritual reading... constant prayer... etc. God lavishes such great graces on us all -- why don't we avail ourselves to them as often as possible?

I couldn't possibly do their talks justice, but to summarize:

Mrs. Cay Gibson (author of Catholic Mosaic) asked us to remember our earliest memory of sitting in the lap of our mom or dad, snuggling in to their necks as they read to us. She asked us to consider that it was really Jesus that was loving us through them... and that we are called to do the same for our children. She has put together a wonderful book that takes us through the Liturgical Year with illustrated children's books. What greater privilege do we have than to teach our children the Faith?

Mrs. Mary Kay Clark (well-known in Catholic homeschooling cirles!) was a great encouragement to us as an older woman who has successfully raised seven sons. She stressed the need for presenting ourselves to the Lord each day and the need for His grace to succeed in the vocation He has called us to.

Ms. Janet Smith (well-known for her work with NFP) presented the Church's teachings on the sacredness and dignity of all human life, and why artificial birth control is completely at odds with that, with Church teaching, and with natural law.

Mr. Ken Henderson talked about the ultimate role of fathers in the educational, financial, and spiritual needs of their families. [he gave the frightening statistic that without a strong input from their fathers, only 20% of children will continue with their faith; with their fathers' strong input, 80% of children will continue with their faith]. He called for fathers in particular to live a sacramental and prayer-filled life through daily Mass, frequent Confession, daily Scripture reading, and by making their houses truly "houses of prayer." He cautioned fathers strongly on the dangers of pornography and what steps should be taken to avoid all near occasions of sin.

Fr. Joseph Peek (priest from Mary Our Queen Parish) stressed the importance of bringing our children to Mass, whiny or not. At their baptisms we promised that we would raise them in the Faith, and the only way they will learn it is from their parents (in the domestic church) and at Mass. He asked what was more important: a little embarrassment and hit to our pride when our children "act up" at Mass, or their eternal souls? He also stressed the need for giving our children blessings, and for them to see the Lordship of Jesus through the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart, family altars, frequent Confession, daily Mass, and parents praying nightly on their knees.

Mrs. Rita Munn (from Catholic Heritage Curricula) gave a spectacular talk on refueling the peace in our homes and in wives being the keepers of the keys. As she played on the various meanings of "keep," (such as the safest part of a castle or the deepest, most intimate part of our souls) she encouraged moms to pray daily for each of their children. She reminded us all of St. Monica, and her life-long prayers for her son. While it seemed as if nothing were happening in response to her prayers, each one of them provided grace inside her son's "keep." She encouraged us all to keep praying, no matter what, and to see it as adding supplies to our children's "keep." When the bottom drops out in their lives and they are forced to retreat into their keep, they will find stockpiles of supplies, left there by our prayers. She also could not stress enough the absolute necessity of availing ourselves of all the graces available to us, through daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, frequent Confession, and praying the Rosary nightly at the family altar.

Fr. Jack Durkin spoke on embracing our God-given authority as parents. We are called to be LOVING, not legalistic. He reminded us all that God is working out our salvation through our vocation -- through the children He has given us. He sends them to us to make us enter into the Cross, and to see our need for Him. He said that no one "deserves" or is "worthy enough" of the children He sends our way... and reminded us that He entrusted the Blessed Mother and Our Savior to one fallible man -- St. Joseph. He gave him His most precious "possessions" to guard and to guide. He also asked us to look again at the sayings of Our Lord ("when I was hungry you fed me... when I was sick you cared for me... when I was imprisoned you visited me [and took me out of my crib!]... etc..) and see that it is in FAMILY LIFE that these are best lived out. Truly, whatsoever we do to our children, we do to Him.

[everybody sing! "whatsoever you do, to the least of my brothers, that you do unto Me..."]

We finished up with Fr. Joseph Fessio (founder of Ignatius Press!) talking about the importance of a liberal arts education, and the liturgical vision of Pope Benedict XVI. After his talk he celebrated a Latin Mass that just blew me away. The awesomeness and majesty of it all was amazing. I didn't have any "warm fuzzies" or anything like that -- instead, I was hit with the "rightness" of it all... hard to explain, but it was truly amazing.

So, there you have my "conference in a nutshell"! I know I didn't begin to do it justice, but I needed to get some of my thoughts down anyway.

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