Young-adult speaker series aims to encourage vocations

BOSTON -- Amidst the hustle and bustle of downtown Boston, 70 Catholics sought inspiration from Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley in the middle of the day halfway through the workweek.

They took time out of their hectic schedules to hear the cardinal speak about faith witness at the Old Statehouse on Sept. 13. He was there to inaugurate the first of the “Christ Speaks in the City” talks sponsored by the Archdiocese of Boston’s Vocation Office in collaboration with other offices including the Office of Young Adults.

The lunchtime speaker series is meant to provide young adults who work in downtown Boston the opportunity to see how Christ speaks through the witnesses of fellow Catholics, according to Father Daniel Hennessey, assistant director of the archdiocese’s Vocation Office.

Cardinal O’Malley encouraged those gathered to seek God through prayer and the sacraments in order to better understand themselves and what God is calling them to do. He spoke for a half-hour on topics ranging from the Catholic Worker movement to terrorism.

Of the latter he said, “Some people would like to use religion as a way to manipulate people, but the purpose of religion is to humanize people. To help us to discover God so that we might know who we are, made in His image and likeness.”

Father Hennessey said that he has personally heard from many young adults seeking to better understand how to make time for God in their busy lives.

The event energized those in attendance and was a “grand success,” he said.

“The general reaction by everybody was that they were very happy to have been there, and it was very positive for them personally and the Church in Boston,” he said.

The series will feature one speaker a month from October through December. On Oct. 11 Andreas Widmer, CEO of OTF Group and former pontifical Swiss Guard, will speak about “My Faith in Capitalism: Reflections of a bodyguard to Pope John Paul II.” Sister Olga Yaqob, a hermit of the archdiocese who is from Iraq, will talk about “The Joys of Serving God’s People in Iraq and America” on Nov. 8. The final installment of the series, on Dec. 13, will feature Father Darin Colarusso, a newly ordained priest for the archdiocese and former United States Air Force navigator who flew jets over the Middle East for 12 years. The title of Father Colarusso’s address is “Drawn by Truth: How the Search for Adventure Led Me to Christ.”

Father Hennessey said he is in the process of lining up speakers for the spring. That series, which will begin in January or February will, ideally, be held in a larger venue, he said.

The crowd that gathered on Sept. 13 filled the room at the Old Statehouse. Cardinal O’Malley urged them to “make time and space for God.”

“To discover who God is helps us to understand who we are, why we are here and what we have to do in our lives,” he said.

Citing St. John, Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his first encyclical “Deus Caritas Est,” “We have come to believe in God’s love,” he said.

“In these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of our lives,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “Being Christian is not just the result of an ethical choice or lofty idea but the encounter with an event, with a person who gives life a new horizon and decisive direction.”

Each of the faithful are called to worship God, frequent the sacraments, announce the good news and serve others. Serving others means loving them and sacrificing for them. The Church community is also called to build a civilization of love, based on the experience of God’s love, he added.

“We who have lived through the 20th century have seen the bloodiest and most violent century in the history of humanity,” he said. “A great part of the violence of the 20th century is due to the atheistic theologies of Nazism and Marxism, both of which purposed a utopian world that prescinds from God.”

But the violence, war and terrorist attacks of the last 100 years bring out both the worst and the best of people. On Sept. 11, 2001 people rushed into the World Trade Center towers, risking their own lives to save others, he added.

Christians are called to help their neighbors, and with the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus taught that a neighbor is not just someone who lives next door, he said.

The cardinal concluded his remarks by telling a Japanese parable about a man who lived in a magnificent home on top of mountain and took a walk each day in his garden, looking at the sea below. One day he noticed a tsunami and tried to warn his neighbors who were on the beach. They could not see him waving his arms or hear his shouting, so he decided to alert them by setting his house on fire, he said.

“When his neighbors look up, they see the smoke, they see the flames. Some of them said, ‘Let’s climb the mountain and help our neighbor to save his home.’ Then the others said, ‘Oh that mountain is so steep and we’re having such a good time. You go.’ The ones that climbed the mountain to help their neighbor were saved, and those who stayed on the beach having fun when the tidal wave hit the shore, perished,” Cardinal O’Malley said.

“God is beckoning us to climb that mountain of love,” he added. “When we climb that mountain, we may think that we’re doing God a favor by helping our neighbor, but we’re saving ourselves.”

Rachel Craig, a parishioner at St. Joseph Parish in Boston, said she found out about the speaker series from a co-worker who had received a flier. Talks like this promote Catholic unity and are “powerfully important,” she added.

“It’s always inspiring to hear Cardinal O’Malley speak,” she said.

Cardinal O’Malley has a hopeful response to the difficulties that Catholics face, she said.

Lorenzo Berra, a physician who moved to the United States from Italy four years ago, said he was particularly moved by a story that the cardinal shared about his vocation. Cardinal O’Malley said he and his father once saw a friar working in a field. His father pointed to the man and said, “That man is the happiest man in the world.” The memory of that man, living his vocation, made such an impression on Cardinal O’Malley that he later joined the friary there.

Berra said that witnessing a man who is happy in his vocation, like Cardinal O’Malley, inspires him to bring happiness where he lives and works. The cardinal’s witness has shown Berra that it is possible to joyfully serve the Lord, he said.

“When you see that, everything becomes easier,” he said.