SEEK21: Remember You Are Beloved
Speakers at the Fellowship of Catholic University Students-organized event spoke from a variety of locales on everything from God’s love to holy heroes.
This week’s “SEEK21” offered what attendees always look forward to from Fellowship of Catholic University Students’ conferences — dynamic talks, along with time for delving into adoration and the Mass, as well as music and other faith and fellowship opportunities. Held virtually, a slew of speakers spoke from a variety of locales on everything from God’s love to holy heroes.
‘Let Yourself Be Loved’
Father Mike Schmitz, the director of youth and young-adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth and the chaplain for the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, spoke on Saturday night, reflecting, in his signature style, on the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
He began by saying that his relationship with his dad wasn’t what it should have been when he was younger; he often avoided spending time with his father because their interests differed. “He chose to love me, and I chose to avoid him,” he recalled.
He used his personal story to segue into talking about the parable.
He said this concept of avoidance describes where many people are in their relationship with God. “Too many of us live like practical orphans, like God is not actually our dad,” he said.
He went on to discuss how the Prodigal Son wanted nothing to do with his dad — and he lost it all.
Father Schmitz asked his listeners if they had ever felt like they had lost it all, saying things such as: “I used to have hope, but I don’t have hope anymore.”
He also discussed how people often think: “I’m God’s problem child.”
But he stressed: “We overestimate what it takes to come back home.”
He talked about how the Prodigal comes back because he is hungry and how we shouldn’t disqualify ourselves from coming back to God, no matter the reason.
But Father Schmitz acknowledged that such reluctance to return happens, with people thinking they can’t return to God for a variety of reasons. “How many Christians are like that? How many of us are like that?” he asked.
Still others think, the priest said, “I’ll come home. Why? Because I don’t want to go to hell.” He said people go through the list of what they know they should do: Go to confession; go to Mass; pray — “because I don’t want to go to hell.”
“And we miss out,” he said, if we live the faith life this way, viewing it as a check list.
He emphasized: “The most important thing that would change everything is the fact that the Father loves you so stinking much.”
But he said that many people keep living the faith as a check list because “we don’t take a moment to realize the deep truth. ... We hold on to the belief that God merely tolerates us,” thinking, “Loved? Not me.”
He said the parable “is about the dad,” too, reflecting on his response to his son: “He never gave up on him,” letting him know “my love does not have any bounds.”
The reference to the best robe the father gives his son “shows his abundant love,” Father Schmitz explained.
The sandals he gives, Father Schmitz added, reflect that the father “gives him freedom.”
“He gives the best thing to the worst kid,” he continued.
He also discussed the ring, describing how it has the mark of authority of the father. What does this mean? “He restored his sonship.”
The point, Father Schmitz said, is how God views us: “The Father says you’re worth celebrating. You’re worth rejoicing. The Father says you are worth loving.”
“We underestimate what it takes to live in the Father’s house. You have to let him see you,” he reflected.
“He wants to know our story, the awesome things and the broken things … where you’ve failed. ... We have to let him know us.”
Meanwhile, there is the older son, who became angry at how his father acted when his brother returned.
“The Father’s love knows no bounds,” Father Schmitz explained, adding that many people are like the older son.
“Maybe you never ran away,” he said, but have been focused on “serving and serving and serving.”
He went on: “The older son is avoiding the father just like the younger son.”
The older son wants to avoid the Father — because he thinks his value is in what he does, doing what the father says.
But the father, Father Schmitz continued, said, “‘My son’ — he claims him again — ‘you are with me always. You don’t think I’ve noticed your faithfulness? I’ve also noticed that you have avoided me. But you also think I haven’t noticed your faithfulness. I have. You are with me always. Everything I have is yours.”
Father Schmitz added: “I think what he is saying to us is: ‘Son, let this be your home,’” adding, “Home is where you let yourself be seen, let yourself be loved.”
He drove home the point: “It’s about the relationship” between us and the Heavenly Father.
He looked forward to the adoration time to follow his talk, telling listeners of the Eucharistic Jesus: “Let him see you. Be seen.”
He said confession allows us to tell God, “Here’s my story.”
Prayer gives us this opportunity, too — “This is me.”
“Let yourself be known. Tell him your story. Give the Father permission to love you,” Father Schmitz encouraged.
“Does the Father have permission to love you as you are?” he asked.
He concluded: “Let yourself be seen, let yourself be known, and let yourself be loved by the Father.”
Among other faith-filled truths that speakers shared:
- “You and I can go to God with anything. ... He welcomes you and I. ... He says over and over: ‘You are mine, and you belong to me.’ ... His heart is for you,” Sister Miriam James Heidland, of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), said in her talk.
- Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Barron of Word on Fire reminded listeners of this Christ-centered truth: “Our humanity is rendered more beautiful by the presence of God.”
- Sarah Swafford of Emotional Virtue (who also graciously endorsed my own book) reminded conference-goers: “You are the beloved son, you are the beloved daughter of God.” We must remember, she said: “The world has ideas for you and so does Our Lord. … Who do you listen to?” We should say of God as we run to heaven, Swafford added: “Watch what he is about to do. I trust him.”
- Lila Rose, founder and president of Live Action, exhorted in her talk: “Find your heroes” who show the way to live and love. She shared three of her own: St. Teresa of Calcutta, Jesus Christ and Mother Mary. “Her beauty exuded from her soul,” Rose said of Mother Teresa, adding that the saint “changed the way I saw the world,” prompting her to see Jesus more fully in others. “True beauty is loving others … and seeing God in others,” Rose explained. “Our Lord Jesus Christ: He is the ultimate hero,” she said. And she also explained her closeness to Mary, discussing Mary’s Yes to God’s plan and reassuring listeners that “Mary feels our pain. Mary prays for us.” Of Mother Mary, she added: “This is my ultimate female hero. I want to be like Mary.”
What talks or moments of SEEK21 most touched you?