I don’t know if I’d say that I’m an expert in Mariology – that branch of Theology that focuses on Mary the Mother of God – but I fancy my chances in a trivia contest where all of the questions are in that category. Last Saturday evening I was afforded the opportunity to put that belief to the test in the Grand Ballroom of the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel.
I never would have guessed that a Marian trivia contest would be a part of the festivities at the gala dinner of the 2018 National Conference of the Young Catholic Professionals – with many conference events being held on our Saint Ignatius campus.
Sure, the theme of the conference was “Mary, Star of Hope,” and sure, the evening felt in many ways like a big birthday party since it fell on September 8th, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But in that elegant room filled with young people in tuxes and ball gowns, amidst all the great food and conversation and speakers and musical performances, I was blind-sided by the announcement of Marian trivia.
But that wasn’t my only surprise of the evening. Throughout the event no matter where I turned I seemed to run into former students who were there as members of the Cleveland chapter of the Young Catholic Professionals. It began when Peter Russo ’11, the Cleveland VP and Director of Technology, checked us in, and it continued throughout the night.
For those unfamiliar with YCP, it was founded in 2010, is headquartered in Dallas, and presently has 18 affiliate chapters throughout the country. The purpose of YCP is to provide connections both professional and personal for Catholic young adults in their 20s and 30s. Their webpage (https://www.youngcatholicprofessionals.org/) leads with a headline that encapsulates their ultimate goal: Working in Witness for Christ.
Considering the growing secularization of the culture and its animus toward the Church it is good for these young people to have a group of likeminded friends and colleagues to keep them from losing hope as they travel through an increasingly hostile world. And as I looked around the room and saw literally hundreds of young and smiling faces I must admit that I too was pulled up from that feeling of being hopelessly mired in a culture and Church that seem at times to be circling the drain.
My hope grew – and how could it not – as I looked over the program for the weekend’s events and saw that these young Catholics chose to come from around the country to listen to and grow from a series of talks that focused on Mary, Star of Hope. Who better to point to as the bearer of hope both theologically and physically than Mary, the Theotokos or “God Bearer,” the one who gave birth to our Hope?
Numerous popes have pointed out that the Blessed Mother is the ideal Christian, the follower of Christ par excellence, and therefore the ideal model for faith and love as well as hope. Every Catholic should look to her for guidance on following our Lord, but it is particularly heartening when those who are young find her to be their steady and dependable guide. Very often the message of the world in which they have grown up is one of empowerment and personal fulfillment, and so it takes great courage to follow the lead of one who submitted to God in a life of humble service. And such courage is fortified when accompanied by like-minded – and like-aged – companions.
So as an Old Catholic Professional (and, an Old Professional Catholic) I pray for the success of YCP and encourage any and all young Catholics to consider joining such a faith-, love- and hope-affirming group. And I say this as someone who, in all Marian humility, stumbled in the trivia contest on the second-last question. But at least now I will never forget that Mary, Our Lady of Charity, is the Patroness of Cuba.
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