“Last week I attended the Lifeteen Conference, it radically changed my life. My perception of the conference the days before it started painted a picture of an academic gathering with lectures about philosophy and very serious Bible studies. Of course, it would include daily Mass at the Basilica with the mundane music and the lack of participation that I experience in my parish. I was shocked wwith the conference.
On Monday, I was very pleased to learn that Matt Maher was present and would play music during the week, but I reacted skeptically towards the active participation of the audience in the praise. All the standing, clapping, and dancing was to me a big joke of a prayer. Also, I was surprised by the deep insight that the first couple of speakers provided into many spiritual topics. Later in the week, I felt the power of the Holy Spirit break through my pride, my sarcasm, and my skepticism and I soon found myself praising God as enthusiastically as those guys from Texas. This week changed my spiritual life from mere adherence to the rules of the Church into a deep desire to serve and praise God.
I could write on indefinitely about all I experienced during the week, but I’m just going to point out a few of the major highlights. I was struck by the powerful lectures instructing us about our Catholic faith. The theme of this year’s conference was a sign for me of God’s great sense of humor and sort of a smack in the face for me. “Heroic Virtue” struck me as the most necessary thing for my generation to have and for me personally to start practicing. I know the virtues, I know my duties, I just didn’t pay attention and didn’t act on it before.
On the first day, Fr. Bob’s lecture on the nature of the Eucharist was one of the most brilliant and simple explanations of the Sacrament that I have ever heard. He explained how only the power of the Eucharist can provide true peace and true happiness and how it is this power that makes us one. Another lecture that really touched me was Mark Hart’s talk on the theology of the body. This stance on sexuality is a very unpopular and socially awkward standpoint to take especially when addressing a group of teenagers. We live with the constant bombardment of sexual media images as well as the amoral opinion that we can do whatever we want with our bodies disregarding the dignity of the sexual act and any rule of Christian morality. Also, I was instructed as much by Mark’s action of chastity until and in marriage as his theoretical explanation of John Paul’s theory. Furthermore, I enjoyed the morning Bible Studies which gave me a deeper understanding of God’s Word and how I may use it in my prayer.
A more important aspect of my experience was the spiritual development and nearness to God that I went through. I felt very privileged to have the opportunity to participate in the Mass every day and to receive the Eucharist fully knowing its meaning and feeling God’s grace present in me. Also, I dived fully into the experience of Adoration both in the participatory and in the silence. In these moments I reflected on the mystery of the God of the Universe coming down to Earth to be with me. This week I really had the time to think and concentrate and pray on this magnificent revelation that I’ve so often doubted. During Adoration I encountered God’s peace and lived in it without any worries in full faith that He would take care of me. I was so immersed into prayer that many times I lost sense of time. My prayer experience was made whole on Wednesday when I had the opportunity to go to confession and to receive God’s mercy. I also enjoyed and took advantage of our nightly prayer at the Grotto. They were a great way to thank God for our day and to come together as a group in prayer. The Grotto was a place of peace and quiet for me and I made sure to go there as often as possible and get rid of all that was troubling me. The last night, I was very grateful for the prayer service that we had. I needed the prayers said over me to give me the strength to carry on and to support me in my prayers and to get rid of my doubts. The experience was shocking and I know I witnessed the power of God.
Lastly, the interpersonal dimension of the week was very powerful for me. In our brief group meetings and in the larger prayer services, lectures, etc I got to see the hope for my generation that I had never seen before. It was a great testament to the world that we will not succumb to the power of sin but rather humble ourselves and serve God as His disciples. Furthermore, in our discussions I quickly realized how privileged I have been all my life. When others talked about the troubles in their families I thanked God that He gave me two loving, married parents and siblings who even at their worst love me and I love them. God sent me a clear signal that I am one of very few that enjoy this blessing and that I should not waste it. Also, I determined to go out into real life and spread the Word of God and all that I learned and I experienced in Life Teen. I thank God for the enormous blessing that this week was to me and I ask Him to inspire me and my peers to use this blessing to promote His Truth in our world which is in dire need of it.”
Alfredo A. Guzman
"Let us entrust all to the protection of Mary to whom her divine Son has reserved the last victories over hell: “And she shall crush thy head.” Let us be, in all humility, the heel of the Woman ."
Blessed William Joseph Chaminade