Thursday, July 14, 2011

Journey to the Father

This week-end marks the eleventh annual Journey to the Father Conference in Saint Raphaels, near Cornwall. This exciting adventure in the Catholic faith is modeled closely on the Franciscan University of Steubenville High School Aged Conferences. Two main differences are the nationality of the speakers – all Canadian – and smaller size (a few hundred) which creates a more intimate atmosphere. Participants come from all over Ontario, with a smattering from the Montreal area and a few from the States.

The program is a mix of dynamic talks, beautiful liturgies, great music, with enough social time and opportunity for sports to allow the youth to meet new friends and relax. Over 400 volunteers from our Diocese are involved in staging this conference. It is thanks to this support from people of all ages in our area that Journey to the Father is such a success.

The event is held next to the ruins of St. Raphaels, under a large tent. Other tents are set up nearby for meals – prepared on site – and for sleeping. Ground sheets accommodate about 400 males or females, each in their respective tents. Chaperones sleep with their groups and 24-hours security is assured in the tents. The whole site is also well supervised throughout the weekend.

The theme of this conference, inspired by this Sunday’s Mass readings, is “God is patient, merciful and kind”. Here are some excerpts of the welcoming message I wrote to the participants.

“This weekend is a great occasion for us to simply be with each other, to appreciate each other’s goodness and friendship, to become more aware of the gentleness and tenderness of our God, and to open our hearts to Jesus’ Spirit of peace, justice and joy.

“In our world, people seem to always be in a rush. They crave fast food and fast cars. They dream of a job where they can make a lot of money quickly and retire early. They want their pleasure here and now. Our world is not very patient.

“In our world, people can be unforgiving. Grudges last a long time while revenge is considered “sweet”. They want bigger prisons and longer jail sentences. They don’t let you forget your mistakes. Our world is not very merciful.

“In our world, people can be uncaring and cruel. They focus so much on their own well-being and comfort that they forget the poor and hungry around them. Their anger boils over quickly and often, their blogs are filled with rants, their talk is filled with words that curse and bully. Our world is not very kind.

“Our God, however, is patient, merciful and kind. And our God calls us to be patient, merciful and kind with others… and with ourselves, too! This weekend, let’s give God a chance to touch us with patience, mercy and kindness. Our lives, and our world, will be better for it!”

The Conference ends Sunday morning with Mass at 10:30 a.m., open to the general public. If you are in the area, please feel free to join us for this enthusiastic, joyful celebration of the Eucharist in St. Raphaels. And let us all join in prayer for the success of this wonderful event.

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