The National Catholic Review

I have surely written this before, but I love the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, and I want to thank every person who has the smallest hand in bringing this gathering into being each year. The workshops are enlightening, and alternately challenging and affirming. The liturgies and other communal gatherings are moving beyond words. Something makes me cry every year.

I love walking around the Congress and soaking in the energy of my fellow faithful. Or sitting and people watching. We Catholics are definitely not the most glamorous lot. On the other hand, neither are we pretentious. I love the many Stan Mack moments (the cartoonist whose dialogue is always “guaranteed verbatim overheard”):

“I don’t know my verses so I can never argue with those guys.”

“Bunny! How long has it been? How long, Bunny?”

“OK, but if she wants us to sing, she has to give us the words!”

“My stomach is as full as my brain.”

And from the sign carriers out front, protesting all things Catholic:” The Pope is a Satanist! Repent! Repent!!”

Random observations: There are more young people in attendance than I would have expected, which is wonderful. Everybody, no matter the age, has a cell phone and business that apparently can’t wait (although, as one presenter said, “God won’t call you when he knows you’re in a workshop.”). There are more women than men, true of most church functions. Longer lines at the women’s restrooms. Lots of habits and collars. Lots of languages. And Catholic stars mingling in, pretty much indistinguishably, with ordinary folks.

I look forward to this three-day weekend every year. Where else can you participate in a march against the death penalty on your way to lunch? Where else can you see the tabernacle of the Lord being trundled through a back hallway by t-shirted roadies with radios in their ears? Where else do crones carry backpacks? Where else can you talk theology at Starbucks? Where else are (most) men not ogling the women? Where else do people really MEAN the Sign of Peace?

This year I realized that it is not only a place where my husband and I reconnect with friends whom we only see once a year, but where the two of us also reconnect to each other. We don’t often spend three days thinking about the things of God and talking about ideas beyond next week. Congress is a gift to us on so many levels. We return home energized, fortified, inspired, fed, ready once more to advance into the trenches of God’s Will for another year.

Valerie Schultz

 

Comments

Adrienne Krock | 3/23/2010 - 12:07pm
I've been attending Congress since 1987 (when I was still in high school!) I didn't run into hardly any of my extended network of ''people I only see at Congress'' this year. But. It was one of my best Congresses ever! My mom and I got to see Fr. Jim Martin again and introduce another friend to him, so that helped. J.Glenn Murray Friday night was awesome and inspiring. And between the 2 of us, we had a very Ignatian Congress this year, what could be better?