Catholic Church, Chris Stefanick, college students, Conception Abbey, confession, Eucharist, Focus conference, Gaylord Opryland, Jim Gaffigan, mass, monastic life, monks, Nashville, priesthood, religious life, sacraments, SEEK, Seek 2015, Seek2015, seminarians, vocations, Year of Consecrated Life
After 5 days in Nashville, Tennessee (Jan. 1-5), Br. Maximilian and I returned to the monastery very late at night, or very early in the morning- depending upon how you look at it. It was 2:45am, so either way, we were completely exhausted and ready for sleep, but incredibly grateful for the past few days.
We departed on a bus filled with college students from Northwest Missouri State, destined for the FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) Conference, called “SEEK 2015”. Our mission was to serve as a religious presence for the NWMSU students and promote vocations to Conception Abbey to all gathered at the conference. There were approximately 9,500 college age students from all over the country. The conference was at the Gaylord Opryland hotel, a ridiculously huge place whose pathways, gardens, atriums, and long hallways took several days to learn how to navigate efficiently and better resembled a maze.
We saw many people we knew from all over the place: Men and Women religious, seminarians, and other Catholic young people we have met over the years. There were quality Catholic speakers like Chris Stefanick, Matt Fradd, Fr. Mike Schmitz, and Dr. Tim Gray, along with amazing entertainment like Matt Maher and comedian Jim Gaffigan.
The daily schedule included daily Mass with various bishops and close to 200 concelebrating priests, keynote speakers and other smaller “impact” sessions. Our group from Northwest Missouri State would sit together at the talks, which often resemble more of a rock concert before the talks began, with loud music and plenty of youthful energy.
Without going into excessive detail regarding each day, I note a few highlights. The daily Masses were definitely a powerful experience. I have never been to Mass with that many Catholics nor that many priests before. Saturday evening we had Adoration and the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Along with hundreds of priests, I heard confessions for 3 hours straight. Many young people had serious faith conversions, which affirmed that the Holy Spirit was powerfully at work. Additionally, it was simply good to catch up with old friends, finding time to chat about life, and meet new friends. The speakers were dynamic, entertaining, and a strong witness to the joy of following Christ.
Above: Archbishop Naumann (Kansas City, KS) celebrated Mass on Saturday. The perk of being a priest: I had a front row seat that day.Above: Me in front of the Grand Ole Opry (one of the few times I actually went outside- there was no need to, the hotel had everything).