Thank you, Colleen Campbell

Ya ha pasado un mes de la celebración del Congreso Interuniversitario “Santa Teresa de Jesús, Maestra de Vida”, pero el impacto sigue vívido en nuestros corazones. Prueba de ello es la entrada de Facebook que la periodista Colleen Campbell, ponente de este evento, ha dejado hace unos días en su página y cuyo enlace y contenido, en inglés y en español, adjuntamos. En cualquier caso, Facebook facilita la traducción en los distintos idiomas.

Colleen Campbell , durante su conferencia en el #CongresoSantaTeresa2015 #Ávila #España #STJ500

Colleen Campbell , durante su conferencia en el #CongresoSantaTeresa2015 #Ávila #España #STJ500

Post Facebook – Colleen Campbell August 2015 (en español)

Happy Feast of St. Louis!

On this day that the Church celebrates a great king, husband and father, I wanted to share a few updates. First, some recent articles:

* The New York Times wanted my take on the political impact of Pope Francis’ new encyclical. You can read it here: http://nyti.ms/1Ia5Jur

* National Review Online asked what I was celebrating on Independence Day. Here’s that short piece: http://bit.ly/1erHI60

Most of my summer writing hours were devoted to preparing for speaking engagements, including my keynote address at the University of Avila’s Inter-University Congress on St. Teresa of Avila earlier this month. The Arlington Catholic Herald ran this story on our trip, complete with photos of the conference and the whole family: http://bit.ly/1J9RFgd. I’ve pasted more below.

If you prefer to read in Spanish, check out my interview with La Razon, Madrid’s daily newspaper: http://bit.ly/1PRiYl7. Or you can hear a Spanish translation of my speech (no English available): http://bit.ly/1JhyBjg.

If that’s not enough Spanish flavor for you, check out the new Spanish edition of My Sisters the Saints, now available from Madrid-based publisher Rialp: http://bit.ly/1EgcwCW. Aceprensa, a Madrid-based outlet, recently ran this kind review (in Spanish): http://bit.ly/1JY5vZG.

The trip to Spain was truly a graced one for my husband and children and me. One of the greatest graces was the sense of hope we came away with – hope for the Church’s future even in these trying times. A quick memory to illustrate the point: On the night of my speech – which was also my husband’s birthday – John and I had an opportunity to get out by ourselves (thanks to the daughter of our host, who graciously babysat our little ones, all sleeping soundly after a long day touring in the Spanish sun). We watched a spectacular light-and-sound show that the university hosted for the people of Avila on the town’s famed medieval walls.

The experience is hard to describe. It was basically a series of elaborate lights and images that used Avila’s walls as a canvas to tell the story of St. Teresa and her 17 Carmelite foundations. The visual effects were amazing; the walls looked as if they were moving, growing, shrinking, alive. Even more impressive was the way Teresa’s life and spirit were conveyed in an impressionistic, 25-minute presentation that, judging from the crowds we saw, attracted nearly every soul in Avila.

It was a terrific example of the New Evangelization. And it was another reminder to me of how much vitality and creativity there is in the Church today, even in places like Western Europe, where we American Catholics sometimes assume everyone is thoroughly secular. The Catholics I met in Avila were some of the most enthusiastic and impressive I’ve ever encountered. They’re up against it in Spain – it’s considered fanatical to even believe in God in many corners of the larger cities like Madrid – but they are plugging away, spreading the Gospel with boldness and joy. Some, such as the consecrated Crusaders of Mary who run the University of Avila, are devoting their entire lives to “the clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ,” as Pope St. John Paul II defined the New Evangelization.

Like so many other Catholics we met at the Congress – students and professors from Austria, Germany, England, Ireland, Mexico, Peru and even India – the Crusaders are not making headlines with their evangelization efforts. They’re not wasting time waiting for a political savior or worrying about how their cause is faring in pop culture. They’re simply bearing witness to Christ, being a light in their little corner of the world. And they’re making an impact – one community, one event, one soul at a time.

In observing their embattled-and-thriving attitude, I was reminded of how much of Christian history has been this way: with committed followers of Jesus not being applauded by the surrounding culture but often swimming against its tide. Perhaps we are called again to do as the first Christians did, to be what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI described as a “creative minority” in the larger secular culture. “It is the creative minorities that determine the future,” Benedict said in 2009, “and in this sense the Catholic Church must understand itself as a creative minority that has a heritage of values that are not things of the past, but a very living and relevant reality.”

None of this is to say that we should sit out the important cultural and political debates of our time. Only that we should not pin our hopes on their outcome. As Christians, we take the long view – the longest one there is, that of eternity. We are called, as Mother Teresa liked to say, “to be faithful, not successful.” So we can feel free to forge ahead with whatever calling God has given us, knowing that our job is not to win over everyone to our way of thinking. Our job is to glorify God with our lives – with every part of our lives, even its littlest and most seemingly insignificant moments.

The value of life’s little moments – both now, and in eternity – was one of the many lessons I learned from my father during his 12-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. I was honored last week to share what I learned from Dad at the Excellence in Ethics Symposium at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I spoke on the challenge of seeing those with Alzheimer’s as wounded healers, people who can teach us in and through their struggles.

We tend to recoil from the ravages of Alzheimer’s and those it afflicts. That’s understandable. But men and women living with Alzheimer’s deserve to be recognized for their gifts as well as their needs. They deserve to be appreciated for the wisdom they can offer us, even if that wisdom comes in unexpected ways. After all, wisdom in the unexpected – like grace in life’s little moments – is a hallmark of the Holy Spirit. As St. Paul tells us in First Corinthians,

“God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Cor 1: 27 – 29)

I don’t know about you, but that’s not the way I naturally think. I’m always tempted to overlook what’s little and low and weak, to focus instead on doing something “big” for God (or myself). People with Alzheimer’s force us to rethink that “bigger-is-better” mentality. They remind us to slow down, to savor the simple joys of the present moment, those little ways of connecting that go beyond words.

They may not remember where they are each day. They may forget your name or even their own. Yet they are often able to pay perfect attention to the person sitting right in front of them, to embrace what Jesuit Jean-Pierre de Caussade called “the sacrament of the present moment.”

In their weakness and simplicity, those with Alzheimer’s remind us that God doesn’t need words to connect with us, and He doesn’t need us to do “big” things to prove our value. He loves us simply because we are His. And He challenges us – through the presence of the frail and needy in our midst, including the demented – to love others the same way.

As summer slips away, I hope you’ll find time in these last few weeks to savor your own little moments of connection with nature, your loved ones and God. And when the bustle of fall starts up again, let’s watch for those quiet moments of grace that can add up, over a lifetime, to something truly big – in this world and beyond.

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