By ERIKA ANDERSON, Special To The Bulletin | Published June 10, 2010
The future of the Catholic Church is in capable hands, if the 2010 Eucharistic Congress is any indication.
Both Friday evening’s “Revive!” young adult track on June 4 and Saturday’s Teen Track on June 5 were punctuated with praise and worship, powerful testimonies and faith-filled relationship building.
Popular Catholic recording artist Matt Maher provided the soundtrack for both sessions, playing acoustically at “Revive!” and with his full band during the Teen Track.
During “Revive!” young adults in their 20s and 30s gathered to hear Father Leo Patalinghug, who also offered wisdom to the teens and the General Track on Saturday. Father Patalinghug is the founder of Grace Before Meals, a nationwide movement that promotes the importance of family dinners by encouraging parents and children to prepare and enjoy meals together. He also has a third degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and Arnis, the Korean and Filipino martial arts forms. During his talk to the young adults, Father Patalinghug used his experience as a martial artist and a chef to draw parallels to faith. To cook a perfect steak, he said, one of the most important steps is to let the meat rest in order to seal in the juices. To grow closer to God in our busy world, resting is just as important.
“If you just keep going and going and going, eventually your juices will flow out. You’ll be dried out—burnt out,” he said. “Busybodies are people who think they have a purpose in life. But they fail to realize what that purpose is. We are busy building up our resumes, our reputations, our portfolios and our social networks. But we should be busy building up the kingdom of God.”
Busyness, Father Patalinghug said, is a tool used by Satan to convince us we do not need to take a Sabbath.
“Until we learn to rest in God, we’ll never rest in peace. You have to be rooted in prayer. Wherever you go, you have to recognize that God, the great ‘I Am,’ is with you.”
Father Patalinghug’s words resounded loudly with Michele Perrino, a young adult from the Church of St. Ann in Marietta.
“It really struck me. I think I get in a stagnant place, and I don’t recognize that I need to rest,” she said. “I think sometimes I stay busy to hide where I am. Like everyone I struggle with what God wants me to do. But I need to learn to rest so I can hear God tell me what he wants me to do.”
Tiffany Lambert, a graduate of St. Pius X High School, Atlanta, was the second speaker of “Revive!” Lambert currently works as the full-time assistant director of youth ministry at All Saints Church in Manassas, Va., and works part time at the Don Bosco Center, an afterschool program for youth at high risk for gang activity. Entering the Catholic Church as a young adult, Lambert shared her story of conversion with the audience.
Having grown up in a Protestant church, Lambert stopped attending services when she was in middle school, focusing instead on her blossoming soccer career. After graduating from St. Pius, Lambert attended Clemson University, where she concentrated on soccer and her dreams of playing in the Olympics. But when a spinal tumor threatened to end her athletic career, she began searching for faith.
“I realized I had this hole that just kept growing and growing, no matter how I tried to fill it.”
One day, after praying and talking to other Christians, Lambert said she was given the gift of faith. She became heavily involved in Campus Crusade for Christ, a Protestant student organization. But a visit to her high school alma mater changed everything.
“At the time I was trying to decide which church I should be baptized in. My thought was that the Catholic people had their chance with me. I thought I was going to see the (St. Pius) campus ministers and convert them.”
They asked her to go on a girls retreat with St. Pius students. During the retreat, she became increasingly drawn to the Eucharist. After a time of discernment, Lambert eventually joined the Catholic Church in 2000.
She concluded her talk by praying Psalm 73.
“It’s a great prayer for when you are searching or struggling with someone. It’s really helped me.”
Teens Get Greater Sense Of Catholic Family
During Saturday’s Teen Track, hundreds of teens danced and sang along to Matt Maher and his band. They cheered enthusiastically when Father Patalinghug showed them some of his award-winning break-dancing moves. And many of them were moved to tears when singer/songwriter and speaker Bob Rice shared the message of Christ’s love with them.
“So many people know Jesus more as a swear word than as a Savior. They think they know Jesus. They have all these stereotypes of him. They think he was a nice guy,” he said. “Let me tell you something. Jesus was not a nice guy. Passionate, loving—yes. Stood up for what he believed in? Absolutely. But people do not get crucified for being nice.”
After talking about Jesus’ death, Rice reminded the teens that the last thing Jesus said was “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
“Jesus is merciful. When we go to the sacrament of reconciliation, we have an encounter with Jesus Christ. And in that encounter, Jesus wants to look you in the eye, no matter what you’ve done, and tell you he loves you.”
Sin can numb a person, Rice said. But Jesus died on the cross to take that away.
“God hates sin because it destroys your life. And God loves your life. God made your life to be awesome, so that you could live life to the fullest. That’s what he wants for you,” he said. “Sin is addictive. It chains us, binds us, takes away our freedom. We don’t realize we can’t stop until we can’t stop. But Jesus’ blood takes all that away.”
“During his crucifixion, death and resurrection, Jesus was thinking of you. And right now, he’s reaching out to you, with holes in his hands and in his feet, saying, ‘I love you. Not even the cross can keep me from reaching out to you.’”
For teens like Anthony Prince from St. Jude the Apostle Church in Sandy Springs, Rice’s message was powerful.
“He got really into his talk. He was emotional. It really made me pay attention and it inspired me.”
Prince said he comes to archdiocesan events like the Eucharistic Congress to feel a greater connection to his faith.
“It’s always important to know people in our community are here for us. They don’t judge us, but they accept and love us for who we are. Whenever I feel disconnected, coming to things like this really helps.”
Allen Fadely, a teen from St. John Neumann Church in Lilburn, said the event helped him to refocus on God.
“It was one of the most fabulous things I’ve ever seen. Everyone here today is so full of love and so full of holiness. It was exactly where I needed to be,” he said.
Linda Koerner, the youth minister from St. John Neumann, said the Eucharistic Congress is a chance for her teens to experience their place in the Church.
“I love for them to come to this to realize how large the Catholic Church is, to know that they’re a part of the larger Catholic family. It really feeds their spirit.”