Tuesday, March 27, 2012

REPORT FROM ANAHEIM: "THE CONGRESS" 2012

THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD...
HELP!!!
Welp, I have survived--even thrived at!--the humongous Religious Ed. Congress in Anaheim that takes place at the Convention Center each year. My adventure began with driving 90-plus miles through hideous rush hour traffic last Friday morning, praying I'd arrive on time for my 10 a.m. appointment. I was neatly packed, fairly organized, congratulating myself and thanking God as I pulled into the gargantuan parking structure (Lot 4) when suddenly my tongue moved down to my lower jaw and I realized I had left my fake (temporary) tooth by the sink back home. So I met with publishers for two days with a hole in my lower mouth. I tried (with very little success) not to laugh too hard or open my mouth too wide. And then I just pretended nothing was wrong and thus nothing was.

I met Robert Ellsberg, editor-in-chief of Orbis Books, who edited both the journals and letters of Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day. I met with Paul Pennick of 23rd Publications, and with Tom Grady and Bob Hamma of Ave Maria.  I stopped in at the Magnificat booth and said hey to Paul Snatchko
I of course stopped in at the Paraclete booth, where I was proud to see displayed a big ole poster of my very own Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lisieux. I spotted Fr. Vince from St. Francis of Assisi, my neighborhood church back in L.A. Fr. Vince!" I brayed, barreling through the crowd, but--this could be due to the fact that he's heard some of my confessions--Fr. Vince not seem quite as thrilled to see me as I was to see him.

Mostly, though, I met with the truly delightful and hospitable folks from Franciscan Media. I met with John Feister, who edits the magazine St. Anthony Messenger, and very generously gave me a radio interview on the spot. I met Judy Zarick, who produces their radio show "Living Faith" and got her to sign her book of interviews (I'm in it!): Moved by Faith: Stories from American Catholic Radio.

I met--over lunch and dinner--with old friend Alicia von Stamwitz, and new friends Mark Lombard, Claudia Volkman,  and Mary Carol Kendzia. At dinner, the conversation turned to housecleaning and Mark ended up giving us a fascinating ironing tutorial. His parents owned an appliance store, turns out, and were away from home a lot but supervised the two boys (there were no sisters to do the dirty work) from afar, the result being that to this day when traveling Mark looks around first thing for an ironing board and an iron, whips out his spray starch, and goes to work on his French cuffs.

As we three gals looked on, agog that such a creature even existed, he segued into a commentary on kitchen cleanup: wiping the counters, vacuuming under the refrigerator, doing the dishes.
"Back up a sec," I said. "You vacuum under the fridge?"
"Of course--don't you?"
"With what?" I asked.
"Why, a crevice tool."
"What is a crevice tool?" we all shrieked in unison.

Turns out it's this thing: you know, one of those pesky gadgets that come with the vacuum and you throw in the back of the closet with the old tennis balls and phone books and put out with the trash 15 years later.

Anyway, so that was interesting and I also learned that in addition to the Sunday exception to the Lenten fast, there is also apparently a TRAVELING EXCEPTION. "Cut it out!" I said. "Let's have some dessert then." Turns out, since I've been "traveling" (technically, as in been away from home) for a month, I could have been scarfing down sugar for weeks.  This is the kind of "faith sharing" I am ALL for.

No, seriously, we also attended a Mass one of the priests there holds each year in his hotel room. I actually sprang for parking (12 bucks per day) instead of spending an hour casing the residential streets (somewhat akin to trying to find a free parking space around LAX), parking a mile away and hossing my stuff (as I did last year), which weirdly, in a good way, made me feel "a part of."

Upwards of 40,000 people converge on this thing, which can be a little overwhelming, but I was able to look around and see, Oh, look, we're all so hungry, we all so want to connect, we're like sheep without a shepherd and how beautiful that so many people, with so many different approaches, interests, and orientations-of-heart can come together, attend lectures, talks, and workshops; chat and eat; look at, buy and sell books, tapes, rosaries, vestments, candles, pamphlets, and change purses embossed with the Virgin of Guadalupe, The Last Supper, and the Shroud of Turin.

CACTUS IN BACK OF THE MOTEL 6 ON BROOKHURST WHERE I STAYED
NOTE PLASTIC BAG AFFIXED AT LOWER LEFT
I have a lovely sense that good things will come out of the weekend. And it was good to be back for a vesper walk through the quiet streets of Palm Springs. Home to L.A. Friday, so I am savoring my last days here--and my last nights.


5 comments:

  1. way to spring for parking!

    -rachel

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  2. Oh, you do make me laugh! That was the funniest report from a conference I've read in a long time. Your tooth, Father Vince, a picture of a vacuum cleaner attachment, your discovery about dessert and then your true observation about the what you and 40 000 others have in common. I have never, ever been among 40 000 people for a common purpose - what an experience, and I'm so glad that good things are likely to come from it. Bless you.

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  3. Aha! now I know what I've been missing all my life: a crevice tool.
    Mike D.

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  4. Why is it,that those who convert
    to Catholicism, observe more than those born into the faith?

    I confess, I don't own one of those crevicey things.

    You had a rousing good time.
    Palm Sunday, Holy Week and then Easter, which can be a new beginning.

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  5. "The gate of Heaven is very low. Only the humble can enter it."
    Saint Elizabeth Seaton

    ReplyDelete

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