Roses, Oranges, Fiestas. Sugar and Cotton. The first week of January in America is all about college football, crowning champions, and dishing out glory. And while there is nothing wrong with a perishable crown here or there, we know that Christians seek something different: a crown that will last forever. Earlier this month, I spent the first week of January seeking just that.
Every few years, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (also known as FOCUS) puts on a national conference where students from all over the country gather to grow in knowledge, virtue, friendship, and holiness. This year, we descended on a hotel in Orlando, Florida, for the SEEK 2013 Conference. With over 6,000 college students and innumerable religious and missionaries, we were kind of a big deal.
I was there with Fr. Jim Gallagher, C.S.C., and Chase Pepper, C.S.C., working at our vocations booth next to the Fathers of Mercy from Kentucky. I also got to spend plenty of time with the other 25 or so Notre Dame students who came as well. While the talks and experiences of the conference are life-changing and spiritually energizing for many, those sorts of stories are better told in person than in digital print.
What I’d like to communicate here is something more general and universal, more of an observation than an experience. It is this: Blessed John Paul II was right. “God is preparing a great springtime for Christianity, and we can already see its first signs” (Redemptoris missio).
Those signs were everywhere at the SEEK Conference. Religious sisters, brothers, and priests were ubiquitous. Habits here, cassocks there, and even the occasional wimple. Excited students, zealous students poured over vocations booths and volunteered for service trips. They chatted about the talks, mingled with leaders from other schools, and learned from people they didn’t expect to meet. The presenters were well-received, the venue was well-used, and springtime was welling up in all of us.
But, one guest stole the show; he outperformed and outstripped everyone in attendance. This Man, of course, is also God. He is the Word-Made-Flesh, and His incarnation was very real at this conference. In the reading of His Word. In Adoration. In the sacraments. In just one January night, 6,000 people adored Him and 5,000 received His mercy in confessions that ran ceaselessly from dusk, to nightfall, to the early hours of the morning.
In an America like the one we have, it’s sometimes hard to be optimistic, let alone hopeful. We might doubt. Will the Church survive? Does anyone still believe? Are there saints among us? Is God relevant? Allow me to answer.
Yes! I saw it in Florida. And it was better than oranges or roses, sugar or cotton, or any fiesta on earth. God is preparing a great springtime for Christianity, and I could already see its first signs.
Mr. Stephen Barany is a Postulant at Moreau Seminary. He and other seminarians at Moreau post twice each month for the Spes Unica Blog, sharing on their life and formation at Moreau. Meet our other men in formation, and learn more about seminary life in Holy Cross, and specifically about the Postulant Program at Moreau Seminary, which constitutes the first year of religious and priestly formation in Holy Cross for college graduates.