I’ve never had the pleasure of attending the Religious Education Congress in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, but since my former shepherd Archbishop Jose Gomez was re-assigned to L.A., I’ve taken a greater interest in it. Conveniently, that was around the time that the Congress launched their livestream via YouTube. Thanks to this wonderful – and free! – gift to the Church, I’ve enjoyed watching or listening to several of the major sessions at home and at work.
This year, Pastor Rick Warren gave a talk largely based around his bestselling Purpose-Driven Life material. Obviously a natural on-stage, he also appeared comfortable with the Catholic crowd, gracefully integrating Catholic ‘lingo’ into his inspiring presentation.
I wanted to share, in particular, Rick’s last anecdote with you. He became quite emotional during this portion, and I tried my best to relay some of that emotion to you in my transcription:
One of my heroes… (pauses and looks down)
… was the great…(pauses)
…Catholic bishop…(pauses to gain composure)
… I can hardly tell this story.
He went to a leprosy colony… and um…it was over in Africa. And he went to look at the people…and to talk and minister to the people. And as he walked through the leprosy colony, there was one guy sitting on the ground in just a loincloth, and…(pauses again; looks down)
…He clearly had other skin diseases, too, besides leprosy, because they were oozing, and kind of pussy, and runny. (Pauses)
And uh…as he (the bishop) looked over, he bent down to talk to this man about, um…his…love…and as he leaned over to talk to him (the leper), the crucifix that he (the bishop) was wearing — the chain — broke. And the crucifix fell into an open sore on the man’s leg. In–into an open, pussy sore.
He said, “When I saw that, I was filled with…with…indignity.”
He said, “It was just revolting to me. The scene.”
But he said, “But then all of a sudden, I was filled… I was filled…with the Spirit of Christ.”
And he said, “I reached into the sore, and I took up the Cross.”
I heard that story when I was in college, and I remember thinking: That phrase is the finest definition of Christianity I’ve ever heard.
Because the whole business of the Church, and of Christians, of those of us who claim the name of Christ, is to go out into the sores of life, where people are hurting, and bleeding, and dying, and take up the Cross! And if we’re not doing that, I doubt our Christianity!
I’m so grateful to him for sharing this story, and for accepting the invitation to speak at the Congress. We Christians can learn so much from each other. (In case you’re wondering, it seems Rick was so overcome with emotion that he failed to mention the bishop’s name.)
I’m not sure if the RE Congress plans to keep Pastor Warren’s presentation online permanently, but for now, the video is currently located here on their YouTube channel. If you can find an hour to carve out of your week, I highly encourage you to watch and take notes.
P.S. You may have noticed that I recently published 2 pieces which have now disappeared from the blog. My St. Patrick’s Day piece will return in a few hours; Monday evening. The piece on women’s place in the Church will be published on March 22 to coincide with its print publication in Today’s Catholic newspaper. As always, thanks for contributing to the conversation here. I look forward to your comments!