On the first night of the 2012 Canadian Catholic Youth Ministry Network Conference, a multitude of youth ministers, lay pastoral associates, archdiocesan youth directors, and university chaplains gathered in St. Patrick's Basilica in downtown Ottawa. This conference, that happens every two years, was held at the Ottawa Marriott hotel.
Nearly 300 people gathered together to listen intently to Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa as he offered words of welcome and inspiration for the weekend. The focus of his address on Friday night was Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
The Archbishop was quick to acknowledge the difficulty many of us have with “being still.” “What does it mean to be still?” he asked. “Can we unplug, and meet God?” The extent to which it seems we have become dependent on our cell phones, computers, technology in general, makes it difficult to know God, who tends to speak to us in the quiet times when our hearts and minds can be free from distractions. That isn’t to say that technology is a bad thing; on the contrary, technology, like most human discoveries and creations is very good! The question is, as Archbishop Prendergast reminded us, “to what extent does our use of and reliance on technology bring us to Christ – or does it, perhaps, drive us away from Him?”
At the heart of the address was the idea of being “Christ-centered.” That we should always focus on Christ and try to be more “Christ-like” in our daily lives is a timeless call. But the Archbishop was going deeper than that. He reminded us that our personal connections with the Lord run so deep, that we are more fully ourselves when we meet God in person. That is the essential point of “being still.” Using Eucharistic adoration as an example of a true encounter with God, we were encouraged that such practices are possible for everyone. We cannot think that staring at something and being fully absorbed into it is impossible, because, “that’s what we do with the Internet! It’s as if the Lord is preparing us for the practice of Eucharistic adoration through our highly concentrated experience with technology.”
Perhaps the most moving part of the address came at the end. I have to admit that I was expecting the Archbishop, who is also a Jesuit, to offer some nugget of wisdom from our extensive intellectual tradition to motivate us to “be still,” and “know God.” But he did more than that, saying little but offering an invitation to kneel with him in the presence and closeness of the Lord. The opening ceremony concluded with an hour of adoration.