Here are the things I’m reminded of every year at the LA Religious Education Congress--which ended today with a lively Mass celebrated by Roger Cardinal Mahony--and which I sometimes forget during the rest of the year. First: The Catholic church is alive because the People of God are alive with the Spirit. Look, it’s easy to get dispirited when you read stories of clergy sexual abuse, of parishes closing down, of pastors absconding with money, and so on. But just a few minutes at the Anaheim Convention Center, which was thronging with energetic, dedicated and enthusiastic lay people, offsets if not those concerns, then at least the pessimism that those concerns sometimes bring. In the past few days I have met dozens of directors of religious ed, catechists, deacons, pastors, religious ed teachers eager to spread the Gospel in their parishes. Most inspiring for me are the young (say, around 20 or so) lay workers who congregate at Congress. Two of them, a young man and a young woman who are church workers and repeat visitors at LA, and who have become my friends, have an energy that must be near the energy and enthusiasm of the early disciples. Perhaps the next best thing to "consolation without prior cause" for inspiring me in the Catholic life is meeting young people on fire with the desire to do great things for God and for the church. Second: The Roman Catholic Church in this country continues to assume a wonderful, darker complexion. Yes, I know we write about this in the magazine often; and yes, I’ve read all the studies that talk about the colossal influx of a new cohort of ethnic groups, but there is nothing like seeing thousands of Hispanic parishioners strolling through the grounds of the largest Catholic convention in the country, wearing T-shirts proclaiming the names of the parish, attending Spanish-language Masses and seminars, strolling arm in arm with one another laughing, and talking excitedly to one another, to convince you that the church in this country is changing, and that this change is infusing new life and vitality into our community. Gracias a Dios! Third: Catholic publishing is alive and well. Sure, the book (qua book) is eventually supposed to die out. (I doubt it, though.) And, sure, it’s harder and harder in this economy for any business to do well. But when confronted with acres of stalls that display books that can satisfy almost any spiritual need--a veritable ocean of good books--it reminds you that there should be no reason for Catholics ever to lament, "I’ve got nothing to read." Anyway, I thought you might like some good news, of the small "g" and small "n" type. Sometimes good news like this can help us to spread the real Good News. James Martin, S.J., in Los Angeles
Final Thoughts from L.A.