Laity Called to Change the World at Christendom College's Summer InstituteJuly 16, 2008
“Now is the time for a dramatic infusion of strategically placed competent pro-life people of faith in government,” said Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) at Christendom College’s 19th annual Summer Institute held July 12 at the college’s Front Royal, Va., campus.
Focusing on the role of the laity in the Catholic Church the institute welcomed attendees from across the country to hear not only from Smith, but film producer Steve McEveety, medical doctor John Bruchalski, Rev. Thomas Dubay, journalist Colleen Carroll Campbell, and Christendom College president Dr. Timothy O’Donnell.
In his talk entitled Bearing Witness to the Truth in the Political Sphere, Smith spoke of the human rights that governments and international organizations attempt to enumerate and declare.
“Such fundamental rights do not come from the U.N. or from sovereign governments,” he said. “If they did then governments and international organizations would not only have the power but the legitimate authority to rescind what had previously been conferred. If our fundamental rights are truly rights and not mere privileges, then they must be derived from a source that precedes and transcends any earthly political power, indeed they must come from God.”
The congressman declared that what the U.S. government needs is “an army of Thomas Mores.” Now is the time for a dramatic infusion of strategically placed competent pro-life people of faith in government, he said.
He believes that congress has a duty to protect everyone at risk not just the planned, the privileged, and the perfect. Unborn children have inherent worth, value, and dignity, given to them by God, not by politicians. The unborn are not disposable commodities or junk, they are children, he said.
“I believe that anyone who is willing to learn with due diligence can master the art of policy making. It’s not rocket science. The ministry of politics begs and it beckons. And if enough people answer the call, the world will be made much safer for the family, including its smallest and most vulnerable members unborn children,” he said.
“This [Christendom College] is truly a remarkable place that is having such an impact on so many lives—men and women who will then go out into the world and bring the great news of Christ and His justice to the world,” he concluded.
Steve McEveety, executive producer of films such asWe Were Soldiers andBraveheart, spoke candidly about his work on The Passion of the Christ in an address entitled Faith in Film.
“The devil masqueraded himself quite well for me in my life, always with beauty and good things—like he usually tempts you—but that wasn’t working on this,” McEveety said. “So strange things would happen, which I won’t get into, but I’ll tell you a few great things that counteracted those strange things that happened.”
He shared one remarkable story of a crewmember that was struck by lightening twice and survived unscathed. This crewmember, which McEveety referred to as “lightening boy,” was the first child baptized by John Paul II. It was also this crewmember that eventually led to their ability to screen the film for John Paul II, who famously said that the film “is as it was.”
McEveety closed his address by announcing that he has begun pre-production work on a film based on the book Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darknessby Christendom College’s Founding President Dr. Warren Carroll.
Presidential speechwriter and journalist Colleen Carroll Campbell filled the attendees with hope with her talk Catholic Journalism and the New Faithful. Campbell presented many statistics and personal testimonies, revealing that the new faithful of this generation have the potential to reshape American Christianity in the next century.
“The new faithful,” Campbell said, “belong to the new generation raised in the wake of the sexual revolution and no-fault divorce. While this generation was never urged to seek Jesus or avoid sin or carry the cross, they were simply told to be nice to each other, believe what suited them, and never commit the cardinal sin of intolerance.”
This lack of formation, according to Campbell, left many young adults adrift confused and estranged from the Church, but this childhood without God has often lead these young adults to an intense spiritual search that culminated in conversion.
“This generation is turning back to traditional sacramental forms of worship. Eucharistic devotion, praying of the rosary, the liturgy of the hours, and the Latin Mass have become more popular. There is a counter-sexual revolution going on as well in the world of fashion and courtship mores,” she said.
“As one seminarian put it,” she said, “‘we’re rebelling against the rebellion. We want tradition.’”
Campbell noted that despite the fact that the new faithful are a minority in their generation, their zeal for cultural engagement and their commitment to proclaiming the faith suggests that their impact may far exceed their numbers.
“These young believers may be the early adopters of a larger trend with the potential to renew the Church and transform the culture in the years to come,” she concluded.
“I thank you so much for this invitation,” Dr. John Bruchalski said at the beginning of his talk, The Healing Presence of Christ in the Practice of Medicine. “I congratulate [Christendom College] on 30 years here. Dr. Carroll—I can’t thank him enough for what he has done to start this place.”
In his talk Bruchalski read a letter he had been given from a father to a son that demanded that he abort his third child for financial reasons. The letter was harsh and cruel and revealed the would-be-grandfather’s blindness to the life of the unborn child. He also related a recent story of the illegally signing of a waiver for a 16-year-old Guatemalan girl to have an abortion by the Richmond Diocese Catholic Charities.
“This is my life as an OB/GYN in America today,” Bruchalski said. “I don’t really have a funny story to tell because it is indeed not very funny.”
He described the confusion that he experienced as a layman before he had a re-conversion. He would distribute Communion at Mass and then distribute the contraceptives at work. His education had told him that this was the right thing to do. He thought he could change the Church.
He said that the current moral confusion has resulted in a crisis in medicine today. “Medicine has done tremendously good things,” he said, “but science can only bring progress – it cannot bring redemption. And yet, in our life we are faced with this paradox, great health care, but God forbid we take the holistic approach—addressing the body, soul, and spirit of the patient.”
In closing, Brulchalski admonished the audience to do three things: to trust in Jesus, to acknowledge the fact that we are the Body of Christ, and to be ready to suffer.
Christendom College president Dr. Timothy O’Donnell spoke of the lay charism and Catholic education.
“There can be no intelligent understanding of the role of the laity in the Church’s apostolate without a precise understanding of the Church herself,” he began. “All members are called to contribute to Her growth. The laity is called to exercise their apostolate as a leaven in the world.”
O’Donnell reminded listeners that they are involved in a war. The Church on earth is the Church Militant or the Church Fighting against what he called “the grand alliance”: the world, the flesh, and the devil.
He expressed the need for laity to not be fearless in the witnessing of the Faith, even though it seems like the battle against the culture of death is being lost on all fronts.
“The world has always awaited and proclaimed the death of the Church, but death could not hold Christ our Divine Head and it certainty will not be able to hold the divinized members working in the world as lay members of the Church Militant. For certainly, if we apply the words of that great soldier, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and pray as if everything depended on God and act as if everything depended on ourselves, the Divine Mercy will certainly not be found wanting,” he concluded.
Mass was concelebrated by renowned theologian Rev. Thomas Dubay who delivered a homily on man’s universal call to holiness. Dubay told a story of a group of prisoners who began a prayer group that sought to live as contemplatives amongst prison life.
“Each one of us is called to a profound intimacy with the Trinity,” he said. “If these men, in their circumstances, which are very painful, even in a modern prison, can get to heroic virtue and a profound intimacy with the Trinity, you and I have no excuse whatsoever of failing to reach heroic virtue and deep intimacy with the Trinity.”
All of the above talks can be ordered by contacting National Media Services at 540-635-4181. Next summer’s institute is planned for June 26-27, 2009, and will focus onSt. Paul: His Spiritual and Scriptural Contributions to the Church. Invited speakers include Dr. Scott Hahn, Dr. Tim Gray, and Archbishop Charles Chaput. Look to this website for more information in the future.
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