What do you seek?
I heard this question time and time again last week. I felt like I was preparing, again, for my first profession. For a Dominican, the response to this question is, "God's mercy and yours." We say it shortly before making our profession. But at SEEK 2015, the FOCUS conference recently held in Nashville, this was the driving question for four days of prayer, praise, fellowship, and everything Catholic for nearly 10,000 college-aged Catholics.
For many, including me, SEEK represented a mountaintop experience of Christ's gratuitous love and grace. I had the privilege of having innumerable conversations with so many zealous and vibrant young Catholics. I was constantly reminded how unworthy I am to be called to this Dominican vocation, yet how God has called me to serve His Church and His people as a Friar Preacher.
We started the weekend with a trip to the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, the Nashville Dominicans, for Mass to celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. After Mass we met with young people from all over the country who were interested in a Dominican vocation. Then we headed to the zoo that was to be our home for the next four days, the Opryland Hotel.
I could write a great deal about what I took away from SEEK, but I will keep it to one: the great thirst of young people for the Truth and Beauty of the Catholic Church. In a time when when we hear, sadly, about the unprecedented growth of people who identify with no religion, nearly 10,000 vibrant, zealous, and happy young people gathered to give glory to God and learn more about their Catholic faith.
There is, unfortunately, a great deal of zeal in our secular, relativistic society to encourage and enable young people to drift away from organized religion or anything resembling objective standards or truth. However, the good people of FOCUS are taking to heart the words often attributed to our Holy Father Saint Dominic, "Zeal must be met by zeal, humility by humility, false sanctity by real sanctity, preaching falsehood by preaching truth.” And the young people are responding en masse.
These young Catholics are embracing even the most challenging aspects of the faith. Over the course of the weekend in Nashville, there were speakers promoting and defending chastity, a lifestyle essential to authentic Christian discipleship that is all too often dismissed as irrelevant today. These talks were met not with derision and protest, but awe and zeal. Something truly counter-cultural.
Of special note for me, I had the chance to meet Matt Fradd, an apologist and speaker. Matt is also a zealous warrior against the porn industry and has made it his life's work to help men and women overcome porn habits and addictions. (I highly recommend going to his website on this issue, theporneffect.com and reading his book on overcoming porn addiction, Delivered.) In a culture where porn is becoming increasingly normative, one only needs to attend one of Matt's talks or visit his website to see the utter destruction porn leaves in its wake for everyone involved. Pray for him and his efforts.
After four action-packed days of meeting young Catholics, attending talks, and praying for the continued conversion of college-aged men and women, I left thoroughly impressed with the work of FOCUS and its mission to evangelize university students. There is lots of work left to do, but it is clear when the Church's liturgy is done beautifully and reverently, when the Church's teachings are presented fully, honestly, and lovingly, and when the Church's ministers are zealous for the Truth and salvation of souls, young people respond and the faith, which many claim to be moribund, shines like a beacon in the darkness.
Seek the Truth.