Day two is the first full day of the congress. Before the talks began, we wandered around the exhibitors area to get a taste of what was there. There were big names I recognised such as Ignatius Press, Ave Maria Press, Our Sunday Visitor, Catholic Match, Word on Fire, Priests for Life, and Retrouvaille, as well as religious orders and businesses I had not heard of, selling beautiful art, catechesis materials, DVDs, childrens toys, ornaments, t-shirts. The exhibitors hall is a really cornucopia of all things Catholic and I look forward to exploring it some more!
On my way out, I spotted the host of Ave Maria Radio’s Catholic Connection, Teresa Tomeo. I said hello to her but was so star struck I forgot to ask for a photo… Fortunately I bumped into her again later in the day and Teresa had a photo opportunity with her no. 1 Irish listener!
Wednesday’s talks began with a key note address by Cardinal Robert Sarah, who spoke on The Light of the Family in a Dark World. He said the Christian family is called to testify that “love to the end is possible.”
“The world today needs saints with heroic witness to defend and nurture the family. By opening ourselves to God’s grace and his Holy Spirit living in us, our homes and families can allow goodness to enter the world.”
Following the key note, there were many break out sessions to choose from. We attended a session entitled Digging into Dignity: Promoting the Dignity of the Human Person by Prof. Teresa Stanton Collett. She described the challenging and inspiring ethic of human dignity and how it informs the entire spectrum of Catholic political engagement from support for measures to alleviate poverty and to provide decent housing, suitable education and health care, and opposition to abortion, euthanasia, torture, prostitution and human trafficking. She encourages Catholics to promote the dignity of the human person by writing letters to the editor and engaging in respectful dialogue to persuade others of the beauty and compelling attractiveness of the vision of man, the anthropology that underpins Catholic social teaching. She urged the audience not to succumb to the all too prevalent cynicism about politics and politicians.
After lunch, we attended the second key note of the day which was given by Prof. Helen Alvaré on the subject Creating the Future: The Fertility of Christian Love. She began by showing a short clip from the Humanum series from the Marriage, Culture and Civil Society film
Alvaré spoke about how movie-makers, song-writers and advertisers tap into our desire to be loved through the stories they tell, the songs they write and the way goods and services are marketed. She noted that one of the greatest punishments for man is that of solitary confinement. Yet, in contrast to this, a culture is being create where man is becoming increasingly isolated, living and working alone. She spoke of her generation as the ‘me’ generation, yet she rebelled against that. She learned from her mother and her grandmother the importance of self-sacrifice, the importance of putting others before herself and the importance of this in her own development as a person. It is in the family that one cultivates the habit of self-sacrifice- while waiting for someone in the bathroom or giving away a special possession. It is only after cultivating this sacrificial love in our families that we can be good samaritans and make a gift of ourselves to strangers.
The day ended with a second key note by Cardinal Peter Turkson. He gave a presentation on the holistic approach of Pope Francis in Laudato Si, linking the fundamental importance of protection of human ecology and protection of the earth’s ecology.