Legates challenged to become ‘Uncomfortable Catholics’
Speakers at Legatus’ Annual Summit challenged members to become counter-cultural witnesses to the Gospel and the Truths of the Catholic faith.
Drawing on the theme “No More Comfortable Catholicism,” speakers at the three-day event at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes in Orlando, FLA., asked Legates to use their influence and resources to build a culture of life and draw souls to Christ and His Church.
CONFRONTING THE CULTURE
Opening night speaker Robert George told the 505 attendees of the Jan. 28-31 gathering that “it’s no longer easy to be a faithful Christian, a good Catholic, an authentic witness to the truths of the Gospel.”
The Princeton professor, who has been a leader in the fight for life and marriage, reminded Legates of Christ’s words: “‘If anyone wants to be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me.’ We American Catholics, having become comfortable, had forgotten, or ignored, that timeless Gospel truth. There will be no ignoring it now.”
Describing the secular, post-Christian culture that pervades the West, George said that it’s easy for Christians to become like Peter after Christ’s arrest and deny that we know Him.
Are we “prepared to give public witness to the massively politically incorrect truths of the Gospel, truths that the mandarins of an elite culture shaped by the dogmas of expressive individualism and me-generation liberalism do not wish to hear spoken?” he asked.
Other speakers — from Pastor Rick Warren and Ralph Martin to Fr. Michael Schmitz and Bill Donohue — asked Legates to step into the cultural battle.
“You can change our society,” said Donohue, president of the Catholic League. “Catholics are 25% of the population. Don’t tell me that it takes a big army to get things done. It takes leaders, and if every one of you go back to your communities and begin to change the culture, it will happen.”
AN OFFERING TO GOD
Warren, founder of Saddleback Church in Southern California, talked about his experience speaking at a Vatican conference on marriage and the World Meeting of Families last year in Philadelphia.
The best-selling author began his talk by describing Moses’ initial encounter with God when the Lord turned his staff into a snake.
“That staff was Moses’ livelihood,” he explained. “He laid it down and it became God’s staff. What are you holding onto? What’s in your hand? Lay it down and see what God will do with it.”
Father Michael Schmitz, a priest of the Diocese of Duluth, echoed those sentiments in his talk “A Theology of Work,” in which he described work as an offering to God.
“John Paul II points out that all work has dignity in and of itself,” he said, “which is why we strive for excellence in all work whether we work in the home or outside the home.”
Drawing on films — including Chariots of Fire and Steve Jobs — Fr. Schmitz said work should lead us to virtue: The habitual disposition to do good. “The point of work is, in some ways, like the point of sports,” he explained. “It’s not just to do things excellently, but to become excellent through doing those things.”
FRIENDSHIP AND FELLOWSHIP
Aside from the diverse range of excellent speakers, attendees said conversation with fellow members was a high point of the annual event.
“The fellowship aspect of the Summit was a surprise to me,” said Randy Hammond, a longtime Denver member who recently transferred to Phoenix. “I marveled at the fellowship and the connections in talking to members who are dealing with some of the same challenges we are.”
Summit chairs Ed Malk and Doug Curry saluted members of the host chapter from Lincoln, Neb.
“People told us that the Nebraska presence was felt,” Malk said, noting that 27 members of the chapter attended, plus Lincoln’s Bishop Emeritus Fabian Bruskewitz. “The camaraderie built was unbelievable. We don’t get to see each other much when we’re at home. We had four days where we were pretty close. That was a real valuable experience.”
Legatus’ conference director Laura Sacha applauded the Lincoln Chapter for their work after the Summit venue was unexpectedly changed from California to Florida last May.
“My hat’s off to them,” she said. “Their hospitality and willingness to go the extra mile really made this Summit something that people will remember for a very long time.”
Denver Legate Walt Coughlin attended his first Summit. “I’ve been inspired by the speakers. They’ve been truly amazing in terms of ideas, and I feel reenergized.”
Michael Hollern of the Grand Rapids Chapter registered late for what was also his first Summit experience.
“I called my wife and said, ‘Next year I’m not letting you off the hook. You’re joining me. I signed up late this time, but next year we’re going to plan ahead.’”
PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief
2015 AWARD WINNERS
Defender of the Faith
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone
Ambassador of the Year
National Ace of the Year
National Chaplain of the Year
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Courage in the Marketplace
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Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award
Robert P. George
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