Cardinal opens Theology on Tap series

LOWELL -- After Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley fumbled over some words while speaking at The Brewery Exchange on Oct. 18, he joked “I haven’t even had any beer.”

Nevertheless, the cardinal met with some sobering questions from his young adult audience at the Lowell watering hole. The event kicked off the 2006 season of Theology on Tap in the Archdiocese of Boston.

Someone asked about the need for confession, another about why non-Catholics cannot receive Communion and another about how to cultivate a life of prayer.

Regarding prayer, Cardinal O’Malley stressed the need for Catholics to have a “game plan” in their prayer lives. Otherwise, prayer will take a backseat to everything else, he said.

“If we don’t do that, then prayer is somehow always going to be relocated to the moments of leisure that never seem to come,” he said.

Theology On Tap series are currently planned for four different locations -- The Brewery Exchange in Lowell, Redline in Cambridge, The Globe in Boston and The Harp at the Garden in Boston. However, Anastacia Stornetta, coordinator of young adult ministry, said she hopes to expand the program this year to bring a Theology On Tap series in each of the archdiocese’s five regions.

Brian Flaherty, organizer for the Lowell series, said in the evening’s opening remarks that he hopes it will be a way for local young adults to gather in fellowship. Flaherty added that he is glad to have a hand in bringing Theology on Tap “closer to home for those of us in the Merrimack valley.”

Theology on Tap originated in Chicago over 25 years ago and is now in its 8th year in Boston, he added.

Cardinal O’Malley began his comments by telling the audience that he had never given a talk at a bar before. He spoke about the importance of prayer, weekly Mass attendance and the danger of false idols promoted by our culture.

“We live in a culture that shapes our minds, our feelings, our consciousness. One of the overriding concerns of our culture is for money,” he said.

Jesus understood that material wealth would be a stumbling block for people, he added.

“There are over 3,000 verses in the Bible about money. Jesus talks about money more than about prayer because He knows that for so many of us money is that false idol that captures our hearts and keeps us from embracing our vocation,” Cardinal O’Malley said.

In addition to materialism, the culture promotes the pleasure principle and instant gratification. All of these contradict what the Church teaches about finding meaning in life. Being Christian is a call to discipleship, serving the Lord and seeking a relationship with Him, Cardinal O’Malley said.

“The Christian is bound to perform many good works, but before anything else what one ought to do is to pray, for without prayer no other good work whatever can be accomplished,” he said. “As Christians, as believers, we need to cultivate a life of prayer. Prayer is not feelings. Prayer is not just reciting poetry. Prayer is turning to God and embracing His will.”

His comments were followed by several questions from the young audience.

Lynn Flaherty, wife of event organizer Brian, asked the cardinal how the Church can still be considered holy amidst the clergy abuse scandal.

“The Church is holy in Christ. Christ is the head of the Church,” he answered her. “In the Church we have saints and sinners.”

Speaking to The Pilot after the event, Flaherty, a parishioner at St. Francis Parish in Dracut, said that young adult Catholics need to gather at events like this. Many events in parishes are aimed at seniors, children or parents while young adults are often overlooked, she said.

By speaking in Lowell, Cardinal O’Malley showed that he understood the importance of such events, she added. “His presence spoke volumes to the Merrimack family and to young adult ministry.”

Tom and Jen Murphy, parishioners at St. William Parish in Tewksbury, said they were glad to receive encouragement from the cardinal to cultivate lives of prayer. Both are preparing to become Catholic and are enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.

Tom added that he was excited to see so many people come to the event and ask questions.

“The Church is overwhelmed by questions, and people are looking for answers. This is a step in the right direction,” he said.

Theology on Tap in Cambridge started on Oct. 19 at Redline in Harvard Square and in Boston at The Harp at the Garden on Oct. 24. Upcoming sessions will be held at The Harp on Nov. 7 and at The Globe in Boston on Nov. 16.