Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Vocational training

Among the many highlights of my tour of Ireland and England was the John Paul II Centre's Theology of the Body conference, held last weekend at the Avila Carmelite Centre in Dublin. My duties included moderating two panels — one of men, the other of women — on living out the vocation of chastity. Above is the men's panel, consisting of (from second left) a married man, Fergal McDonnagh; a single man, Damian Polly of Pure in Heart (a group that does chastity presentations in Irish schools), and Father Fergal L.C. (I didn't get Father Fergal's last name.)

Nearly 100 people attended the conference, the vast majority of them young adults. It's very exciting to see what is happening in Ireland right now. To many onlookers, things probably look pretty dismal, as Catholic church attendance has been down for some time and there has been a corresponding decline in religious knowledge. But this conference and the Legion of Mary's one last June suggested for me what I suspect the state of the Church was like in America during the early 1990s, at the dawn of the New Orthodoxy. After decades where the social gospel took precedence, young people are hungering for a greater experience of holiness.

In 1919, before his conversion to Catholicism, G.K. Chesterton wrote regarding the faith of the Irish, "The Protestant generally says, 'I am a good Protestant,' while the Catholic always says, 'I am a bad Catholic.'" I really loved being surrounded by fellow "bad Catholics" at the theology of the body conference, all of them so interested in learning what it takes to be a good Catholic.