The Evangelium Conference is an apologetics conference aimed at young adult Catholics who desire to learn how to defend their faith in the ever more secular world in which they find themselves; this year’s theme being “Explaining the Catholic Faith in the Modern World”.
But also it aims to further the holiness of its participants, starting at the fundamentals. From expert speakers on a wide range of topics who appeal to reason and the intellect, to great fellowship and camaraderie among participants; from exquisite and reverent liturgy which truly raises the heart and mind to God, to the social gathering that can reach right into the early hours of the morning with traditional Irish poetry and music to boot, the entire weekend is filled to the brim with an energy and spirit that really appeals to the young adult Catholics who populate the pews of the Irish Church; spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally.
I could go on gushing about it, but I’m sure the reader would like to know just how all of this is accomplished. The most full day of the weekend is the Saturday, so let’s go through last years timetable to get a feel for the day:
We get up bright and early at 8 a.m. for Morning Prayer. As mentioned previously, good liturgy is one of the many foci at Evangelium Ireland. So we begin each day with the appropriate office from the Liturgy of the Hours. Then follows breakfast; we’re kept well fed throughout the weekend!
We have two conferences with usually one speaker on a particular topic. Some examples of such topics from last year were on Catholic Education, the language of the abortion debate (which is still an ongoing issue in Ireland), the Mass as source and summit of the Christian life, and Renewing the Church in light of how far we’ve fallen since the ’60’s.
This year, we’ve teamed up with Christopher West and his Theology of the Body tour, and we will also be looking more at the abortion issue as it is still very relevant here in Ireland.
At 12 noon we have Holy Mass. This is the centre of our day and somewhat of a highlight. The liturgy presented by the Evangelium team is (as far as I am aware) unique in the Irish Church. At Evangelium, we will experience the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in as much unity and continuity as possible with the Extraordinary Form but the highlight is Ad Orientem (the priest faces God).
It is without a doubt the most reverent, prayerful and spiritually enriching Mass you’ll find outside of the Extraordinary Form. I have found out from personal experience that the Catholic youth of Ireland largely relish such an expression of the Mass as the average Sunday Mass in Ireland is still celebrated by people from the ’60’s to appeal to the same. When celebrated in line with the timeless tradition we have in the Catholic Church, the Ordinary Form becomes vivified, enrapturing and above all, it brings us (as youth) closer to God.
After lunch, there are two times for workshops with a tea break in between. Topics for workshops included Bible Basics, What Would Jesus Tweet, an exploration into the psychology of same-sex attractions, and more. They are more focused and in smaller groups with time for discussions on their respective topics.
Evening prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours follows the workshops. And after dinner we have an apologetics panel. This is where the main speakers gather for a long Q&A on various topics. It’s a more relaxed environment where anyone’s questions can be answered after having had time to mull over the talks earlier in the day.
The day ends with a Holy Hour and confession with Compline (night prayer) and Benediction at the end. Lastly there is an optional social gathering where we all hang out and relax after a fantastically and unapologetically Catholic day!
I’ll offer one last word on why this sort of conference is necessary in the Irish Church and among the youth in Ireland thereof.
Firstly, in Ireland, any intellectual engagement in matters theological/religious are firmly dropped after primary school (if they had even been taken up). Only in a particularly devout home does the Faith, in any meaningful way, survive. Young Catholics have no idea of the great intellectual tradition belonging to our Faith. I know because my friends and I have been brought up in it. Evangelium Ireland, like no other apostolate here, answers this.
Secondly, Ireland and its institutions (schools, hospitals, universities, etc) are becoming increasingly secular and hostile towards the Catholic Church and Her adherents. This short weekend provides a breather for us young Catholics and strengthens us too. Just knowing that we aren’t the only ones out there is a great relief.
“Iron sharpens iron, friend sharpens friend”
the Book of Proverbs says. There is great friendship to be had here as we’re a small but strong community and the world is not making it any easier for us.
Thirdly and most importantly, the liturgy and spiritual fruit from the conference are very helpful for our growing in holiness. At the end of the day, that’s what matters most.
The Evangelium Conference Ireland will take place from the 7th to the 9th of July, at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth