Letters From a Young Catholic

My reflections as a Catholic young adult passionate about the Faith, seeking to grow in knowledge and understanding of God and discerning the will of the Lord in my life.

Monday, January 02, 2006

"The Catholic Difference" - George Weigel

I just returned yesterday from a conference run by Catholic Christian Outreach, which does Catholic evangelization and campus ministry on university campuses across Canada. The theme of the conference was "the Cry of the Gospel" and we had some amazing speakers, including George Weigel, Fr. Tom Rosica, and Fr. Raymond Desouza, Msgr. Gregory Smith, Fr. Scott McCaig (Companions of the Cross), etc... the list really could go on and on... but anyways, I don't have time to post on every talk I went to but I'll try and pull out some of the highlights for you. I'm sorry if the posts are a little rough, they're taken from the notes I took during the various talks.

The first night we had George Weigel speak to us and the topic of his talk was "The Catholic Difference." He spoke mostly on the lessons we can learn from Pope John Paul II's discipleship. Weigel began by pointing out that Pope John Paul II did not simply leave an imprint on history, but rather he was history; wherever he went, history went with him and the course of history was changed. The late Holy Father's impact on history was a byproduct of his Faith and the result of his discipleship. Weigel spoke of four lessons we can learn from our beloved Pope John Paul II.

The first lesson he mentioned was with regards to JPII's emphasize on the universality of vocation, that vocation does not merely refer to priestly or religious vocation but rather that every baptized person has a vocation; each one of us is an actor in a drama with eternal consequences. In our vocation, whatever it may be, we may be called to be a sign of contradiction in our society and will have to speak truth to others who do not want to hear it and face the consequences. He urged us not to think of our lives simply as careers, but the totality of our life in the framework of vocation. We were reminded that none of us is an accident and each one of us is an idea in the mind of God that is singular and irreplacable.

Secondly, we can learn from JPII about life as a drama. According to the late Holy Father we live lives that are structured like a drama (Cf. "The Acting Person"). We often live in a gap between the person we are today and the person we ought to be. Think of the reminder of the London tube to "mind the gap." We must always be conscious of that gap and seeking to close that gap in cooperation with God's graces in the sacraments. Weigel quoted JPII as saing "in the designs of providence there are no mere coincidences." Everything and everyone counts; every situation in which we find ourselves is an encouter or scene in the human drama and thus we must live our lives intentionally and mindfully.

Thirdly, in looking to the life of Pope John Paul II we can learn the lesson that there are no ordinary people. There is much to be learned especially from the last years of his life through his example. The Pope treated his illnesses and sufferings with humour, always communicating the joy of Christ. In a culture that tempts us to think of people as disposable, John Paul II provided testimony through the example of his own life that humans are not problems to be solved. Every human life means somethingand has infinite falue. JPII returned insult with affection and love and was a firm believer that even the most hate filled people have the capacity to become people of love and descency. Through his example we see that every human life is by definition an extraordinary life. George Weigel insisted that we are people called to remind the 21st century of the true story, the true story, a story which has often been replaced by a false or incomplete story. The true story of the world history is that of the creation, fall, promise, prophesy, incarnation, redemption, sanctification and Kingdom of God. We are called to tell this story at all times through our example.

George Weigel then went on to complete his talk by speaking about Pope John Paul II's relationship with the young. He reminded us of the communion of saints here and now. He recognized that young people wanted to be summoned to leading lives of heroic virtue. According to Weigel young people were compelled by JPII for many reasons, although he pointed out two in particular. First of all, young people recognize hipocracy and in the late Holy Father they saw a man of sincerity and integrity; this integrity was a magnetic force attracting the young. Secondly, young people often rebel and counter cultural. Pope John Paul II was one of the greatest rebels against popular culture, he was profoundly counter cultural. He did not pamper the young people but rather set the bar of expectation high.