Thousands attend Midwest Catholic Family Conference


Bishop Carl A. Kemme reminded the thousands attending the final Mass at the Midwest Catholic Family Conference about the seven deadly sins: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, sloth, and greed.

“They are deadly because they have the potential, if left unchecked and unfettered, to lead one to spiritual death and eternal damnation,” he said Sunday, Aug. 4, in Century II’s Convention Hall. “It seems to me and my observance of human behavior that these sins are tragically and alarmingly alive and well in today’s culture and in our times.”

Bishop Kemme, who also delivered his homily in Spanish, focused on the sin of greed, the topic of the readings of the Mass. Greed is the desire for material wealth or gain, he said, and ignoring the realm of the spiritual.

The first reading of the day from Ecclesiastes speaks of a certain vanity, he said, not the vanity we associate with selfish love, but that of wasting time and energy. “All things, he (Qoheleth) says are vanity – emphasis on things.”

Moving to the second reading, the letter to the Colossians, Bishop Kemme quotes St. Paul: “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and the greed that is idolatry.”

To tie all the readings together, the bishop reminded the Mass-goers about the Gospel story of the man who had so much wealth he tore down his barns to build larger ones – only to be declared a fool by Jesus for that very night his life was demanded from him.

Bishop Kemme compared investment accounts, nest eggs, closets stuffed with clothes and shoes, garages filled with more than is needed, and mindless shopping sprees, to the Gospel story’s rich man and his barns and granaries.

They are securities against an unknown future, he said.

“We spend so much of our energy accumulating wealth and possessions, that we have less and less time to enjoy what truly matters and what makes us truly happy: relationships among family and friends, and most especially, the spiritual life that often gets choked to death because of our greedy hearts.”

Greed is a deadly sin because it is idolatry, Bishop Kemme said, and it puts material things and money before God. “Many today worship before these altars, which lead to death, instead of this altar which leads to eternal life.”

As St. Paul exhorted the Colossians, he said, think about what is above.

“Let us never forget the day of judgment that awaits us, that moment in which we will be held accountable for all our deeds,” Bishop Kemme said. “We will come to that moment, as we know, with nothing but our virtues, which account for true and lasting treasure.”

Let Jesus’ words “ring in our ears, minds, and hearts” and serve him with our lives as missionary disciples, he said.

“Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions. Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us from this day onward, desire, endeavor and determine to store up treasure not here on earth, but in heaven, growing rich in what matters to God.”

The liturgy was one of two Masses that weekend for the conference held Friday through Sunday, Aug. 2-4. Catholic speakers from throughout the country addressed a variety of topics for youth and adults. This year’s conference included speakers for those whose primary language is Spanish.

David Henrie

David Henrie, an actor, writer, and director, talked Friday night to a near-capacity crowd in Exhibition Hall about his return to the church in 2012, when he experienced a profound conversion after exploring Eastern mysticism and confronting his relativism.

Known for Disney’s The Wizard’s of Waverly Place and over a dozen movies, Henrie talked about how he came about to understand that there must be a creator, explaining how fine-tuned the universe is. “There is no accident. If human beings are accidents they have no inherent meaning.”

God doesn’t call us to mediocrity, he said, he calls us to sainthood.

“The world offers you comfort, but you are not made for comfort, you are made for greatness,” he said, quoting Pope Benedict XVI.

Father Dennis McManus

Father Dennis McManus, talked about the Resurrection Friday night, tying the topic to the popularity of ghost television shows and movies.

Fr. McManus, who has been teaching at Georgetown University since 1997, said our culture doesn’t like to talk about death, “but if we believe in the resurrection of the dead – our death – then, it’s very important.”

He recalled a discussion with some elderly friends of his mother who were mortified when the topic of “a happy death” came up. “That’s a contradiction of terms – a happy death,” one of the women said. He replied: “A happy death is a very Catholic thing.”

Fr. McManus said he loves dumb jokes. “You need dumb jokes when you talk about things like this,” he said after telling several jokes as adeptly as a professional standup comedian, one of which was about being invited to a Catholic undertakers convention.

One of the undertakers, Father McManus shared, said in his experience, almost 90 percent of families who have their loved ones cremated do not return to pick up their loved one’s remains. Because it was illegal for him to mail the cremated remains, the undertaker said he had had to build a large building to house the cremated remains.

Fr. McManus said he thought the families’ forgetfulness was because Catholics are separating themselves from death. He contrasted that with a proper understanding of a happy death and the practices of Masses for the dead and of visiting the gravesites of family members.

“When we die we go to Christ himself, and at that point he asks one simple question…how well do you love me?” Fr. McManus said, “If there’s more room for love – then purgatory…if there’s plenty of love and God is all that we love, then it’s off to heaven.”

If there is no love, then the soul is removed from God’s love for eternity.

Purgatory is not to be feared, he said, it’s a form of heaven. “It’s where we learn to drop off everything except for God,” he said.

Fr. McManus emphasized that our personal resurrections are not something we can put off.

“It’s not far away from us,” he said, adding that the Eucharist is resurrection food. “It’s important that we think about this and put this in our heads.”

“Death is for us eternal life,” he said, “and we must, must believe this.”

Fr. McManus closed his talk by telling a story of a rabbi friend who died and how the rabbi’s wife shared that it was Catholics who visited her husband at the end of his life.

“’You Catholics do death very well,’ the wife of rabbi told him, “And I said we do resurrection even better!”

In a Q&A session after his main presentation, Fr. McManus talked a couple who was following a Satanic cult who came to him when he was a dormitory chaplain. He said he learned they turned to a cult because they were thrown out of the family, a common reason, he said, for youth to join a cult.

“What happens when you don’t have people who love you?” he said. “You start looking around for another family, and Satanic stuff is right there to pick you up.”

He said he tries to plug them into a healthy family substitute to get them right again.

Steven Ray

Apologist Steven Ray told an overflow crowd Saturday morning in Exposition Hall that the Shroud of Turin is the most analyzed object of antiquity. “That’s the blood of Jesus, the blood of God,” he said, followed by an explanation about the understanding of blood in Jewish culture at the time.

After talking about how the Shroud was used to wrap Jesus, he discussed the travels of the Shroud, how it was damaged in a fire and its repair by nuns, before it made its way to Turin.

The Shroud is not just blood-stained, he said, it’s also made up of an image that is unexplainable. That image was enhanced after the invention of photography, Ray said, when a photographer, upon developing a negative photo image, was stunned to see a much more distinct image of Christ’s face.

He concluded by talking about the miraculous images of Jesus, about the doubt of St. Thomas, and how the images were given to us to remove our doubt. “There is such a thing as real truth. Christianity, if it’s true, then the other religions are not,” he said. “We need to call people to Christ.”

Stephanie Gray

Pro-life speaker Stephanie Gray shared her thoughts about the assisted suicide movement Saturday morning in Convention Hall, explaining that just because a person has a desire, does not mean that that desire is ordered. Just because someone has a desire to commit suicide, Gray added, doesn’t mean we should agree with their desire.

She recommended a book, “A Guide to Discussing Assisted Suicide,” by Blaise Alleyne, which asks a provocative question, “Who gets suicide assistance and who gets suicide prevention?”

After showing a short video about how a highway patrolman talked a man from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge and how they subsequently teamed up to lecture about suicide prevention, Gray talked about choice, comparing that man’s story with the situation of an elderly woman who might want to die simply because of her age.

Gray asked: Is choice the determining factor? “Then let’s go back to the young man on the bridge, would you support him because of his desire? If you give an 80-year-old woman suicide assistance, then you should give it to the young man.”

The difference is that suicide is not about choice, she said. “Who are you and I to decide that that is not a life worth saving?”

Tim Staples

Apologist Tim Staples, director of Apologetics and Evangelization for Catholic Answers, Saturday afternoon talked about whether or not Jesus had a beatific vision from his conception.

“Did Jesus Christ in his human nature possess God from the moment of conception?” he asked. “The short answer is yes.”

Staples, who has been a speaker at nearly every conference, quoted a scholar who told him that if you deny that premise, you make “mincemeat” of Christology and soteriology (the study of salvation).

Many in our culture believe in a Jesus just like us, he said, “but it’s only the real Jesus who has the power to save us.”

“He knew and loved us from the womb,” he said, explaining how much Jesus gave up to condescend to be born of woman.

The beatific vision is the essence of what heaven is,” he said. “The possession of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – not with his eyeballs…with his intellect.”

Dr. Ray Guarendi

Catholic psychologist Dr. Ray Guarendi talked about how marriages often fall prey to social entropy. “We get lazy with manners, with please, with thank yous, with compliments…we get lazy. We do this not out of malice, we get sloppy.”

“Who are you your best with?” he asked, adding that the answer should be your spouse and then your kids. “You want to say that the person I’m married to gets my best stuff.”

What is your personal apology percentage? Guarendi asked. “How much of this is my fault before I apologize. As a Christian, you want to get your personal apology percentage as close to zero as possible.”

If your spouse doesn’t apologize, tell yourself that it is born out of insecurity, he said.

“Unless you live with Satan…this technique is guaranteed to work: To change someone else, change yourself first,” he said.

“Most marriages that break up are not because of a pathology,” he said. “It’s two people who kind of stop liking each other. Much of the time what happens is that stuff that’s this big (using a thumb and finger to indicate small things) builds up.”

Who do you treat the best? he asked. “You want your spouse to say you treat her the best,” the psychologist said.

Fr. Donald Calloway

Father Donald Calloway on Saturday night talked about Satan’s strategy to “take the queen off the board,” associating the chessboard queen with the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Fr. Calloway, a convert, explained that many saints loved chess, in part, because of the analogy with the faith. “Did you know that a bishop and a queen can checkmate in four moves?

“We need to bring Our Lady back in a powerful way,” he said, without her priests getting into scandal and sin. “Unless we have the beautiful woman in front of us, Our Lady, we’re going to get into trouble.”

The Blessed Virgin is crucial to Christianity because we wouldn’t have Christianity without her, he said.