The annual Chesterton conference is always a very spiritual experience for everyone involved - even when it's in someplace like Reno, Nevada, as I wrote about at length last year.
And even though we're not at the conference yet (things get going this Thursday, August 1), this year's pilgrimage has been no exception - profoundly spiritual.
On Saturday the spirituality kicked in in full force, even as Maria Romine and I performed my inter-active mystery Lifeless in Seattle at Willow Ridge Winery in beautiful Westervelt, Illinois. Doing these shows, which I love and which are a combination of vaudeville, improv, and scripted legitimate theater, always reminds me of God because there's no way anyone should have been making a living at this for 20 years as I have, unless the "hand of God" were in it.
Speaking of the "hand of God", I'll let my favorite Jesuit Fr. Marty Moleski take over from here. On Facebook Fr. Marty writes ...
Around 6:30 last evening [Sunday], I got a call from Kevin O'Brien, Lord, Master, Producer, Director, Actor, Stagehand, and Groupie of Theater of the Word and Grunky. He was wondering if I would like to go to Niagara Falls with him and his wife. It was a great adventure! Thanks to the rector and the guest master, I was also able to offer them a room for the night. I kept saying, "The hand of God is in it." Of course, that was true, too, of Jesus' death on the Cross. Not all adventures are as delightful as the Falls at night. But the good times strengthen us to endure the bad times. God's love is at Niagara, and, unlike the Falls, it will have no end.
... for the Falls will erode away, but God's love lasts forever.
And here's some of what we saw ...
Then on Monday we met with David Higbee of St. Irenaeus Ministries in Rochester, New York, whose Scripture Study podcasts keep me enthralled and educated while driving as much as I do.
David and I talked at length about the challenges facing the Church in the New Evangelization.
One of the themes on this trip has been faux religion vs. true religion - counterfeit Christ vs. the real Christ - Unreality vs. Reality. Part of what makes our Faith tricky and part of what makes many conservative Catholics angry at our amazing and holy Pope Francis is that holiness itself comes at us from surprising directions.
Today, for example, my wife and I talked at length to a student at Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts, whose continuing education classes have been a hodgepodge of liberal and heterodox theology, mixed in with some genuine Christian spirituality. But this woman, who may not have entirely the right notion on what the Church teaches, nevertheless has learned and is living the central lesson. She had had a very troubling experience in her life - a major trauma - that involved a botched medical procedure, which left her in chronic lifelong pain and with other complications, touching every part of her life. In addition, trouble with relatives who have been rather brutal to her have upset her relationship with her extended family and have caused problems on that front as well.
And yet, by means of much prayer and sincere Mass attendance every Sunday for the past ten years, this student has found the grace to forgive - to forgive the surgeon whose negligence caused so much pain, and to forgive her relatives who have been so heartless to her. A great beacon of sanctity, a beam of charity, shining in Western Massachusetts! She is much less burdened and bitter than she was when this was in full swing - and she's come to her forgiveness through the grace of God.
And here are my great-nieces and nephews, who live in West Springfield, MA ...
|My brother Alan with Aino, his grand-daughter.|
|Karen holding baby Gabriel. Gabriel looks exactly like me when I was a baby.|
|My great-nephew Julian. I saw him the day he was born when I was in New England on a Theater of the Word tour. That was four years ago!|
Pray for us as our pilgrimage continues - and join us (if you can) Aug. 1 - 3 in Worcester!