“Just another guy with a blog.  No big whoop.”

August 6, 2010

Catholic apologists gathered in Steubenville over the weekend. Look what happened:

Participating in the annual "Defending the Faith" conference as a speaker, as I have for more than a decade now, is truly one of the high points of my year. I absolutely soak up all the energy and fellowship and palpable Catholic piety that pervades the 1400 or so who attend. It's always a great opportunity to see and catch up with old friends, to make new ones, and to recharge my spiritual and intellectual batteries by immersing myself in the sheer delectation of Catholic apologetics in the company of those who are enthusiastically committed to explaining, defending, and sharing the Catholic Faith.

Some folks might wonder if we Catholic "apologists" are in constant communication with each other, meeting regularly to coordinate (some might say, "plot") our stratagems for conquering the world. Not so. Everyone is so busy that we're lucky to see each other once a year at an event like this one. It's great. And I'd like to take this opportunity to invite all of you to attend "Defending the Faith." If you love Catholic apologetics, you won't be sorry! I hope to see you there next year.

STEUBENVILLE, OH—"When friends and colleagues find out we're Catholic and ask us, 'Do you really believe all that?' and we respond, 'Yes, I do,' a new moment begins," said Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia. "Our yes inherits all the grace of every yes uttered throughout salvation history. Our 'yes' is an echo of the fidelity of faithful men and women in every time and place."

Nearly 1300 conferees packed Finnegan Fieldhouse at Franciscan University of Steubenville's 20th annual Defending the Faith Conference "Be Transformed By the Renewal of Your Mind," July 30-August 1.

Co-hosted by Franciscan University theology professors Dr. Alan Schreck, founder of the conference, and Dr. Scott Hahn, founder of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, the conference attracted people from 39 states and 8 foreign countries, including India, South Africa, and Portugal. Participants were drawn by a unique opportunity to sit at the feet of some of the greatest apologists laboring in the world today.

Speakers were clear eyed about the challenges facing the Church.

"We simply cannot confine ourselves to strategies of neutrality," said Cardinal Rigali, who opened the conference with a keynote address titled "His Name Is Jesus. "The skepticism of today arises out of a lost sense of meaning. Our friends and family are told the undeniable yearning in the human heart is only a superficial emotional affect."

"The skepticism we face is not merely resistant to Christians, it is hostile to Christians. It seeks to relegate Christians to the corners of society," said Cardinal Rigali, former papal chamberlain to Pope Paul VI.

"Over time, unaddressed, this skepticism erodes the foundations of faith and results in a practical atheism. The subtle atheism of today seeks to divert, misdirect, and deny the deep longing for God that slumbers in every human heart. "The theme of this year's conference is an urgent call, dear friends, to embrace the fundamental calling of each human person."

To share that call to Christ with others, we need to prepare to answer opponents to the faith, said Patrick Madrid, editor of Envoy magazine, in his keynote address, “The Godless Delusion: A Catholic Challenge to Modern Atheism.”

"We have to be willing to engage in these discussions, even with atheists," said Madrid. "If we don't, many more people will be lost." He read aloud a sample of the atheistic reaction to The Godless Delusion, his recently published argument that atheism is false. "'There is no Christian,'" Madrid quoted, "'as obnoxious, as smug, as conceited, as vain, as dense, as repellent, as chillingly impervious to reality, as oppressive, as mean, as cruel, as unethical as a Catholic.'"

"You can see what we're up against," Madrid concluded. "I believe that we're heading into a storm, probably very soon. If this storm breaks on us, people may break from Christ."

Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR, expressed a similar concern in his Holy Hour homily on Saturday night. "We may be in the middle of something more dangerous to faith than persecution: indifference, being cold, not being Catholic at all," said Father Groeschel, author of In the Presence of Our Lord.

But he offered a remedy. "Never allow anything else in your life to come before the Eucharist," he exhorted. "Let's return home with a fervent Catholic Eucharistic belief and hope, because Christ is with us, and he calls us to be with him." (continue reading)