The latest Steubenville young adult conference, Encounter, brought crowds of people to the Finnegan Fieldhouse in an all-day retreat on September 3. Students came from main campus, as well as high schools near and far.
A number of speakers addressed the young adults on a variety of topics from spiritual warfare to relationships and single life. These lectures occurred not only in a large group setting, but also in small impact sessions designed to let attendees choose those which they most wished to hear. Speakers included Dan Harms, the Rev. Louis Merosne, Chris Padgett, and Mary Bielski.
Speaker and musician Jackie Francois Angel spoke about how life with Christ is the fulfillment of every desire for intimacy that people crave. “Every longing is for God,” she said. “With human relationships there are different types of intimacy…with God, it’s similar.”
The most intimate that men can be with God on this earth, according to Francois Angel, is “when we become one flesh with God in the Eucharist.”
“God became so vulnerable on the cross…it takes us being vulnerable with him,” she said.
She compared every Mass to a marriage: each person participates in a procession up the aisle, like a bride, to meet the bridegroom, after accepting his proposal which he gave to her by his death on the cross. “Every time you say amen, we say I do,” she emphasized. “We become what we receive,” she said, and so the marriage is consummated.
Francois Angel encouraged her audience to accept its wounds, for “he wants to shine his glory through those wounds.” Yet she said that healing only comes from intimacy with God, who will never love his children less no matter what they do.
“That loneliness,” said Francois Angel, “that’s God knocking on your heart.”
Sophomore Rachel Hamilton said, “I really appreciated this year’s emphasis on vulnerability….God abundantly loves each of us through and through, and he constantly yearns to reach us past the walls we build.”
Mary Bielski, national Catholic youth minister, brought the message that “we are created for abundance, a life of joy,” rather than living in the bondage of past lies.
“The redemption process comes sometimes in pieces,” said Bielski. She emphasized to her audience the importance of knowing their identity as children of the Father in being released from that bondage. “Many of us today are not walking in freedom (because there are) places in our hearts that don’t know our sonship.”
Using Romans 8:5, Bielski told the students, “The place where you walk in freedom is where you know who your daddy is.” She said that freedom is found in “abandoning yourself to his mercy,” for “if you want to seek his heart you have to die (to yourself).”
Rather than reaching for the fruit, the lies, that people have come to believe about themselves, Bielski said they are called to run to the Father’s love, who “always takes you back.”
During impact sessions, Bielski elaborated on how to rid the mind of false perceptions in a talk entitled “Know your Enemy.”
Bielski claimed that in order to combat Satan, people need to be aware that he is real. “One of the biggest lies in our culture right now is that Satan doesn’t exist,” she said.
“He’s going to look for your weakest point,” she said. “What attracts demons is sin.”
Bielski’s advice for overcoming temptation is a formula: recognize, resist and renounce. First, one has to “recognize that Satan is speaking…(he) twists partial truths.”
“Satan cannot read your mind, he watches your behavior,” said Bielski. Yet she also clarified that Satan works through the mind, by creating strongholds and patterns of belief.
The second step, said Bielski, is to resist, rather than “conversing or ruminating” with Satan, and finally to renounce the spirit of the bondage. Only after renouncing this bondage can one “move into intimacy with the Father.”
Chris Padgett, Catholic author and speaker, hosted the day’s events, including praise and worship by the Josh Blakesley Band and an hour of adoration led by the Rev. Louis Merosne.
Padgett asked the young adults at the beginning session, “What do you want from today? Do you want to thrive, not just survive?” He then reminded them that each day is a chance to start over.
Francois Angel concluded the evening by extending Padgett’s question: “What do you want from this year?”