It's been a week now since Antigonish, Nova Scotia hosted Steubenville Atlantic. I hope the memory remains fresh in the mind of the 1,100 high school aged young people who attended the event, and I pray that the spiritual high they left the conference with, will guide them to share their renewed commitment to the Catholic faith with others.
Events like this are crucial to the faithful - and especially to young people. Many of us who practice our faith tend to feel isolated; we may be surrounded by workers who are indifferent or even hostile to Catholics. Many of our friends may not practice any particular faith. Classmates may look down on our religious convictions. But one only needs to attend a Steubenville Atlantic, a World Youth Day, a Lift Jesus Higher Rally, or any kind of faith positive conference to realize that they are not alone, and that the faith is burning strong in the hearts of many people.
Having looked at the footage from the conference, I saw a lot of deeply moved young people; tears streaming down the faces of youth, a young man gasping for air, a young woman wiping her eyes (perhaps you will see the footage this fall in an upcoming episode of Catholic Focus about Steubenville Atlantic that producer Mary Rose Bacani is working on).
Why such a reaction? I think it's clear: they are feeling the love of Jesus Christ... the sacrifice on the cross He made for each one of us. There is a lot of pain in people's lives, a lot of baggage, but through Christ there is far more love than we will ever imagine. To suddenly recognize this love is overwhelming, we are stunned, we can only respond by breaking into tears as we allow this love to flood our bodies. We often forget, as Pope Benedict reminded us in his encyclical, that God is love.
That message, is not only for young people, but for people of all ages. In fact, I suspect that many of us have hardened our hearts, and turned God into a complex machine of reason, ruled by logic and justice.
But though God is just, He is also merciful, and He is above all love. He's a very real love -- just ask any of the 11-hundred high schoolers who were in Nova Scotia a week ago!
Perhaps we should let our guard down, and simply ask God to be born anew in our lives, so that we too may experience Him in the manner that the young people of Atlantic Canada felt.
No tears necessary... only open hearts.