This morning we were all out of the house at the insane hour of 5:30: five of us and six boxes of books in our beat-up but ever dependable van, heading for the Illinois Catholic Prayer Breakfast (just down the street at the Hilton). Since I still can't handle the boxes, I was the driver. I dropped off my fellow-sisters (is that an oxymoron?) and the books and left to park the car (down the street at Old St Mary's where it is free).
The event began at 6:15 with the Rosary (led by Sr. Helena and Sr. Irene); Cardinal George was the principal celebrant and homilist for the Mass. He spoke on the reading from the book of Wisdom, in which the "just one," for all his genuine goodness, seems only to nettle the hearts of his hearers. The cardinal then applied this to the situation in the Church, in which some who tend toward "the left" reject Church teaching and vilify the bishops, and some who tend to "the right" glory in self-righteous orthodoxy, but vilify bishops who do not do things the way they themselves would do. This reminded me of a peculiar new (old*) heresy that I just learned about this week. It seems that there are some who consider themselves extremely faithful Catholics (by that language, you know that they lean to the "right"), but they are more Catholic than the Holy Spirit, in that they look suspiciously at any Catholic who would read the Old Testament, or even parts of the New Testament (specifically, the Gospel of Mark). One of our sisters told of the whispered advice one of those "faithful Catholics" had given her, to avoid the Old Testament and that particular Gospel. Talk about an "alternative Magisterium"! No matter how "faithful" you think you are, you can go weirdly astray.
The breakfast itself was a wonderful opportunity for networking among over 500 active Catholics. Thankfully, the fellowship was great, because the breakfast was forgettable. (My sister Mary had been at the Hilton for a breakfast last week and warned me that they haven't figured out how to scramble an egg yet. A week later, and they still haven't. But the danish were great... And it's Lent, besides!)
Bishop Morlino of Madison, WI gave the principal talk. I liked that he constantly expressed the concept of "natural law" (which can easily be misunderstood) to "the common law of human reason." Then he spoke of four key principles drawn from this "common law" accessible to "human reason," showing that when Catholics are engaged in public debate, we are in no way imposing our "beliefs" or religious convictions on other citizens, but sharing a deep wisdom that is available to anyone who uses his or her mind responsibly. (This paralleled something the Cardinal had also said in his homily: that Catholics offer the world not a sectarian vision, but a universal vision, because the Catholic Church is not composed of people from one single group in society, or one single geographic region or area of common interest, but has members in every single nation on earth. When we offer our Catholic vision, it is in the service of the common good, and it comes from a vast store of experience.) I am not at all doing the Cardinal justice in reporting his words (I wasn't taking notes; it was Mass!); I really regret not being able to do a better job, because the insights were excellent.
There were about a dozen exhibitors (including us): the Catholic paper; the vocations office; various Newman centers, etc... Naturally, we recognized many faces! One of the main sponsors of the event was Father Robert Barron's "Word on Fire" ministry, so we got a four-minute trailer about Fr. Barron's latest project: a ten-part TV-DVD project on Catholicism (especially in terms of its history, geography and beauty). Naturally, the project needs funding. (Heck, in our community meeting yesterday we were scrambling for ideas about how to fund our tiny presence on Relevant Radio here in the Midwest, never mind a 10-part HD video program filmed all over the globe!) As wonderful as Fr. Barron's project looks, I found myself chatting with the lawyer next to me about the Theology of the Body. We agreed that plain old word of mouth about the Theology of the Body could actually do more good for the Church, society, and the world than all the high-definition video that technology and the brilliant mind of a tech-savvy, culturally literate theologian could produce.
Now we're home, and the books are back on the shelves. I have an hour of prayer now, and tomorrow, a trip with Sr. Irene to a small parish (St. Paul's) in Sandwich, IL for a St. Paul retreat day. And so ends another week!
*This is an "old" heresy because you can find it back in the 2nd century. Marcionism. Marcion was a bishop who reduced the Christian scriptures to, basically, the Gospel of Luke and some of the letters of Paul. But where do these 21st Century American Catholics get the same notion?