Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rise Up: It's Kinda Rhetorical

I just had the best New Years ever by attending CCO's Rise Up Conference, this year held in Montreal. The days from Tuesday Dec. 28th to Saturday Jan. 1st proved to be such a beautiful example of how we, the young people in the Church, are challenging ourselves. Through talks, prayer, mass, praise and worship, workshops, exploring Montreal and ushering in the new year with a banquet and dance, the 600+ young adults, CCO staff, nuns, priests and bishops in attendance came to better understand how they are meant to more fully live and spread the Catholic faith. It was such a humbling, exciting and hopeful experience.

St. Joseph's Oratory
It’s funny that I said “hopeful” experience. For the longest time, I was unsure as to whether or not I was even going to attend the conference. I woke up one morning and decided to go for it; many people from my parish were going as well, including my pastor. Even after I registered, I still did not really want to go. I always try to grow in virtue, but near the end of this past school term, I had the hardest time growing in hope: hope that my friends and I would continually become new creations in Christ, hope that God answers prayers, and hope that Jesus would return according to His plan, not mine. A part of me thought that going to Rise Up was simply trying to forget about things for a while. It seemed cowardly.

Even so, I prayed that the speakers at the conference would mention some things about hope. More importantly, I prayed that God would give me hope. And He did! Hope turned out to be such a crucial point for many of the talks during the conference! As He always does if I let Him, God chiseled away the stone of my heart to reveal flesh, this time through a song.

The crowd favourite praise and worship song was one by Chris Tomlin entitled Our God is Greater. The Bridge, in particular, is more of a battle cry than a song:

And if Our God is for us
Then who could ever stop us?
And if Our God is with us
Then what could stand against? 

This bridge is epic. Everyone loved it. Everyone sang it. Everyone yelled it.

This song was sung many times, and this, coupled with Wednesday evening's Eucharistic Adoration, allowed me to hear God saying, "Trust Me - I know what I'm doing. If only you let me in completely, I will do great things." For the rest of the conference, every thing that happened was proof that I was supposed to be there. I have to hope that God will follow through, and hope that the Gospel will be spread by us, the Church militant, in due time.

I'm not saying that the virtue of hope is now always easy to obtain and hold. It's not. I know I will still have hard days, days during which spreading the Gospel with every fiber of my being will be difficult. But I am so grateful for the grace I received; I now have a better understanding as to why I need to have so much hope.

Some of the speakers and CCO staff said that they have helped people come to the Church, some quickly, and others over a much longer period of time. But throughout all that, these modern day disciples have used hope to fuel themselves and to empower themselves with the full armour of God (see Ephesians 6:13-17). I didn’t get a chance to meet everyone; I actually got to know fewer people than I would have liked. But whenever I encounter a bleak situation and need to call upon the Holy Spirit to bestow hope upon me, I know that everyone that was at this conference will all be hoping. From Victoria to Halifax, I know that they will all be hoping. From the laity to the religious, I know that they will all be hoping. Next year’s Rise Up Conference is taking place in Vancouver, and I cannot wait to not only be a great host to any visitors, but to be able to be an instrument through which God can spread this hope.

By the time we rang in 2011 by singing praise and worship songs (what an amazing way to celebrate with such a wonderful community!), the voices of the young Church reverberated throughout the banquet hall loudly and proudly. As we sang Tomlin’s Our God is Greater, I saw and heard the answers to the questions in the bridge - questions that really are rhetorical. Rhetorical because we are the army of God’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and the Love we use as our weapon to spread hope against the darkness in this world will undoubtedly conquer.

Who can stop us?

“Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

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