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Cardinal Rigali, Apologists Equip the Faithful
Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Patrick Madrid, Marcus Grodi, Dr. Scott Hahn, Kimberly Hahn, Jeff Cavins, others speak at Defending the Faith Conference
Posted: Friday, August 6, 2010
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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."
Knowing this should lead us to, as Jeff Cavins put it, "Walk With Eternity on Your Mind."
"Modern man is prevented from discovering permanent values," said Cavins, author of Walking With God. "As we search for a better world through technology, we don't have a corresponding spiritual advancement. The answer, he said, is to be transformed by the renewal of our minds so that we put on the mind of Christ.
Kimberly Hahn, author of Chosen and Cherished, assured participants that this was an achievable goal. "The message of St. Paul and the other authors of Scripture is, 'You don't have to do this on your own power.' Christ is the faithful one."
She challenged participants to allow their minds to be transformed by Christ, especially in the area of sexual morality. "Impure actions begin with thoughts," Hahn explained. "We are to take every thought captive to Christ. "God wants all of your mind, all of your heart, all of your strength, and all of your body as well. We are called to imitate our Lord in total self-giving love."
Participants received a large dose of good news about those following Christ, no matter the personal cost. Marcus Grodi, president of the Coming Home Network, announced that "over 900 Protestant pastors have made the journey [into the Catholic Church] and over 800 are on the journey now."
"One of the phenomena we're seeing…with so many young converts to the Catholic faith," said Dr. Hahn, "is academics, scholars who're seeking the beauty of the faith and coming into the Church."
One such convert, Dr. Francis Beckwith, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society and author of Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air, presented a workshop at the conference, alongside such leading lights as Dr. Alan Schreck, author of Catholic and Christian: An Explanation of Commonly Misunderstood Catholic Beliefs; Tom Peterson, founder of CatholicsComeHome.org; Dr. Patrick Lee, author of Abortion and Unborn Human Life; Curtis Martin, founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS); Franciscan University theology professor Dr. Regis Martin, author of What is the Church?; and Father Paul Schenck, founding director of the National Pro-Life Action Center in Washington, D.C.
"I feel like we've offered you an embarrassment of riches," joked Dr. Hahn.
Some conferees came early to experience the Applied Biblical Studies Conference, held during the preceding week on Franciscan University's campus, which examined the Apocalypse of St. John. Throughout both conferences, participants had regular opportunities for confession, daily Mass, praise and worship, and eucharistic adoration.
Catholic apologist Gary Michuta, author of How to Wolf-Proof Your Kids, attended the conference as a participant. "I've been going since the second conference," said Michuta, author of Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger. "Nowhere else can you find this caliber of talks and this caliber of audience than at the Defending the Faith Conference. I think [Franciscan] University of Steubenville is America's best kept secret."
For more information on the Defending the Faith Conference, including a complete list of conferences for adults and youth, go to franciscanconferences.com. For audio recordings of the main talks by conference speakers, go to franciscan.edu/bookstore and click on the "Conferences" tab at the top of the homepage.