This year, while many in America traveled to the sunny beaches of the coast to celebrate Independence Day weekend, over 250 faithful and devoted Christendom College Summer Institute participants spent their holiday weekend in the splendor of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah River, learning how to Build the Civilization of Love.
Christendom College’s Fourteenth Annual Summer Institute, “Building the Civilization of Love,” was held in its St. Louis the Crusader Gymnasium on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, July 5-7, 2002, and featured renowned speakers Scott Hahn, Jeff Cavins, Timothy O’Donnell, Tim Gray, John Janaro, and Curtis Martin.
“The Civilization of Love” refers to a culture that, according to Pope John Paul II writing in Evangelium Vitae, has as its basis a correct scale of values: the primacy of being over having, of the person over things. Such a civilization answers the spiritual and moral needs of the human person and promotes his fulfillment. It represents the goal of the Church’s social teaching, the task given to mankind to be carried out with the help of divine grace.
On Friday night, Jeff Cavins, host of EWTN’s Life on the Rock, spoke on the topic of the family and its prophetic voice. He explained that the family today has a prophetic voice which can change society and that marriages should reflect the love of the Trinity.
“The role of the family today can take on prophetic dimensions as we challenge people to be obedient to Church teachings,” he said. “A married couple can be a witness of God’s love and faithfulness. Marriage should not be seen as simply a symbol of Christ’s love for the Church, rather it is a participation in it: a participation in the love of the Trinity. Is the world a different place because of you, your family, and your children? I pray so,” he concluded.
Saturday morning began early with a presentation by the Dean of the Summer Institute, and noted Scripture scholar, Professor Tim Gray. Gray spoke on the proper understanding of freedom in building the civilization of love. Today, many people have a false understanding of what freedom really is all about, he explained. When freedom is detached from truth and reality, it tends to lead to self-love and contempt of God.
“Catholicism is not opposed to freedom,” said Gray. “We must properly understand true freedom. Many false senses of freedom arise from a skewed idea of God and a skewed idea of reality. Many believe that freedom is simply freedom to choose whatever one wants instead of the freedom to choose the good, as St. Thomas Aquinas defines it. There is no freedom apart from God because all freedom must be ordered to truth, and God is Truth.”
The Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino, Bishop of the diocese of Helena, MT, celebrated Mass in Christendom’s Chapel of Christ the King. Following Mass, lunch, and a booksigning, Dr. Scott Hahn, noted author, Scripture scholar, and former Protestant minister, delighted the conference participants with a presentation on the family as the blueprint for the civilization of love.
He began by explaining that many people have different concepts of the term family. But in order to best understand the real meaning of family, Sacred Scripture must be consulted. According to the Bible, the notion of family is a little different than what we ordinarily think. The family, according to Scripture, was comprised of all the descendants of a Patriarch, which included many tribes; even distant cousins were considered siblings.
“The family was a religious community above all else,” said Hahn. “Religion was generally a regional or family phenomenon. To marry into a family meant to accept the religious ideas and duties of that family. The entire family was in a sacred bond with the past and future members of that extended family or trustee family.”
Hahn continued to explain that as large as these tribal trustee families might have been, God always intended to have an even larger, unlimited, universal family. “The problem with the ancient tribal families was that they were too small. God only wants one family and that family is the Catholic Church.”
Dr. Timothy O’Donnell, President of Christendom College, gave an insightful talk on the kingship of Christ. O’Donnell began by stating that in 1899, Pope Leo XIII wrote that the entire human family needed to be consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and that the entire human race owes allegiance to Christ, Who reigns over all Catholic nations, all Christians, and all deprived of the faith.
He continued by explaining that in 1925, Pope Pius IX instituted the Feast of Christ the King in order to counteract the many evils of secularism that were prevalent in that day. If this feast was necessary in 1925, so much more today, we need to acknowledge the Kingship of Christ. Peace will come when the empire of Christ is acknowledged by the whole world. The public acknowledgment of the Reign of Christ can happen, but only if we evangelize people about this, said O’Donnell.
“Let us stand with our crucified king and not be ashamed of being Catholic. Stand with the Pope. Defend the dignity of the person, the dignity of marriage and the family. Pledge loyalty to Christ our King and then, and only then, can we say that we have tried to build the Civilization of Love.”
Curtis Martin’s Saturday evening presentation stressed the importance of evangelization in today’s world, especially on college campuses. Martin is the founder of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) and author of several books.
“It is important that each of us becomes committed to the New Evangelization that the Holy Father has called for. College campuses are important places of formation for today’s youth,” said Martin. “They can either grow in the faith, or oftentimes, lose the faith. When young people fall away from the faith today, there’s no indication that they are ever coming back! Young people need to be taught the Truth, as happens here at Christendom College. If Jesus Christ were the center of their lives, decisions would be much different. We have to win the hearts and minds of young people in order to build the civilization.”
He talked about how, when he was in college, he left the Church because he didn’t know how to defend nor explain the “hard” teachings of the faith. He gave the conference participants some pointers on how to evangelize. “Impart not only the Gospel, but your lives as well,” he said. “Invest your lives in them. Win people to Jesus, build them up in their Faith, and send them out.”
Following Martin’s talk, Bishop Robert Morlino led an outside candlelight Eucharistic Procession, starting at the Gymnasium and ending in the Chapel with Benediction.
After morning Mass on Sunday, celebrated once again by Bishop Morlino, Christendom’s Chairman of the Theology Department, Professor John Janaro, spoke on the role of the Holy Spirit in renewing the civilization of love. He began by saying that the personal character of the Holy Spirit is love and that this love is at the core of any civilization of love.
He explained that if everyone endeavored to love one another with the true love of the Holy Spirit, society and civilization would be affected. Cooperating with the actions of the Holy Spirit in the life of this world is how the civilization of love will be built up, said Janaro.
The Holy Spirit has been raising up new ecclesial movements and groups today, continued Janaro. Each of these apostolates has a charism, a special grace of the Holy Spirit that embodies a certain style or manner of living. They are all marked by a zealous love and obedience for the Holy Father. They desire to bring people into a real relationship with Jesus. Because of these charisms and apostolates, there is a real hope that the civilization of love will be restored and that a new Christendom will be created.
“In building the civilization of love, Christians must take the lead. They must work to bring all people to Christ and teach the Gospel,” concluded Janaro.
The conference concluded on Sunday afternoon with a question and answer period and a final wrap up by Dr. Timothy O’Donnell. Next year’s conference is planned for the weekend of July 11, 12, and 13, 2003. Audio tapes of the conference may be obtained through Christendom Press (www.christendompress.com or 1-800-698-6649).