Wednesday, March 23, 2011

MY TRIP TO THE RELIGIOUS EDUCATION CONGRESS IN ANAHEIM

ARENA, ANAHEIM CONVENTION CENTER,
ANNUAL RELIGIOUS EDUCATION CONFERENCE

Last weekend I attended the annual, huge, Religious Education Congress in Anaheim (California). I’m such an introvert that even to drive to the Anaheim Convention Center and stand outside would have been a stretch. But I gamely made my way through the crowd and marched inside to meet a dear, kind editor friend who’d arranged several meetings with potential publishers.

The throng at this thing can top out at 45,000 and the hall was enormous. Booths and booths of candles, rosaries, vestments, and, mainly, mostly, books. Monastic wisdom, catechetical instruction, breviaries, Bibles. Books on prayer, healing, grace, vocation, forgiveness, action and contemplation.

Toward the end of the day, I was invited to participate in a Mass that another of the priests there held in his hotel room. We were twelve or so, standing, sitting on the bed, propped up on the floor. Very simple. Very short. The reading was Matthew 5: 20-26, which begins: “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.’”

The priest gave a very short homily. “The true follower of Christ,” he said, “is never defined by his or her stance on an issue. The test is never ‘I’m against abortion and therefore I’m a Christian.’ It’s never ‘I’m for peace and therefore I’m a Christian.’ The litmus test of a follower of Christ is whether you love your enemy and forgive the murderer.”

Love your enemy and forgive the murderer. All the books, all the rosaries, all the Masses, all the lectures: Love your enemy and forgive the murderer. So simple and so deeply, subversively radical. So simple and so infinitely, paradoxically complex. So simple and so seemingly impossible. 


HIBISCUS BEHIND MY CAR IN THE PARKING LOT OF
THE GREAT WESTERN RAFFLES
VERBENA, GAMELY STRUGGLING BY A GAS STATION/CONVENIENCE STORE
LONE LILY, SIDEWALK NEAR THE RED LION HOTEL
ROSEMARY, HARBOR BOULEVARD
NEAR ONE OF MANY GIGANTIC PARKING LOTS FOR DISNEYLAND
"WON'T YOU PLEASE TAKE ME HOME TO PAIR WITH A NICE LAMB ROAST?"
I THINK I HEARD IT WHISPERING...

3 comments:

  1. So very cool that you got to hear Fr. Barron! I really enjoy his videos and his books.

    The end of your post washed over me deeply. It's something I've been struggling a lot with lately, to love and to forgive those who've hurt me. So hard -- and yet, we are forgiven only to the degree that we ourselves forgive...

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  2. Hey Jason, thank you so much--the great thing is that Fr. Barron even made time for me afterward and we got to sit down and have a nice chat...he's not only SUPER smart, but funny, and obviously kind...hope all's well in Cambridge and wishing you a blessed Lent...

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  3. :) Thanks, Heather! A blessed Lent to you, also.

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