COLUMBIA—The future of the Church depends on people willing to learn their faith and share it with others, speakers told participants at the recent On Fire with Faith conference.
Author and columnist Father Ronald Rolheiser of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate was the opening speaker at the Sept. 20-21 event held at Our Lady of the Hills Church in Columbia. He said the Eucharist is the Church’s greatest act of fidelity to God.
“There is no one theology of the Eucharist, because the Eucharist is like a finely cut diamond in the sunlight showing many dimensions,” Father Rolheiser said. “It is God’s physical embrace, a meal, a sacrifice and a prayer for the world. Things happen in the Eucharist that go beyond words. Christ physically touches you.”
Father Rolheiser described the sacrament as not a personal, self-centered experience, but a way for the celebrant and the faithful to actively take a role in Christ’s message of salvation for the world.
“Through the Eucharist, Christ’s resurrection, death and Pentecost somehow happens again and we’re part of it,” he said. “We’re praying with the Church, through Christ, for the world. The Church doesn’t exist for the Church, but it exists as an instrument to try to save the world. The Eucharist always calls us back because it is the one great act that saves us.”
Father Teofilo Trujillo, vicar of Hispanic ministry, was the keynoter on Sept. 21. He said true Catholic spirituality demands that newcomers, such as Hispanics, are welcomed into communities in order to build a stronger church for Christ.
“Our response to God is revealed moment by moment in our lives,” he said. “We need to ask how do I respond to God by welcoming people different than I am? … If God’s spirit lives in me, then it also lives in others. I cannot have a healthy relationship with God if I ignore those around me.”
Workshops featured discussions on Hispanic ministry, the Catechism, effective discipleship, using prayer to deal with chronic illness and other crises, and the challenges and joys of marriage.
Father Rolheiser presented a workshop on holy longing, the daily battle Christians experience as they search for God in their lives. He said there are two dangers in spiritual life: petrification through bitterness and becoming stuck in our ways, and dissipation, which comes from lack of focus on God and forgetting the central truths of the Gospel.
“Your soul needs to both keep you on fire and keep you glued together,” he said. “You can run the risk of cutting yourself too much slack or too little. … Ask God for help, seek spiritual direction. Knowing how to surrender and give in to God is the greatest thing you can do.”
Sister Mary Alice Piil, a Sister of St. Joseph, and director of the Office of Faith Formation in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, focused on how to make the Liturgy of the Word come alive for children. She said Scripture brings people closer to Christ, and it is vital for lectors to present the readings in an effective way and for the faithful to learn how to listen.
“The Word of God needs to take root in the listener, and each individual needs to hear the Word in such a way that their lives are transformed,”
Author and speaker Chris Stefanick said we are waging a battle against relativism, which maintains that all truths are equally valid.
Stefanick, whose main ministry is geared toward youth and young adults, said relativism is one of the greatest dangers that the Church faces. Too many young people, he said, are influenced by a cultural value system that denies both moral absolutes and the real truth of the Gospel message.
“Relativism doesn’t work with who you are, it doesn’t work in real life because values have a place in society, and there are evil and wrong actions,” he said. “Not having belief in real truth kills faith.”
Nearly 300 people from the Southeast attended the conference, which is sponsored by the Diocese of Charleston’s Office of Catechesis and Christian Initiation.
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