The conference started the best way possible with a Holy Hour. Below is a picture, not from a church, but from a room in the hotel that looks more like a church that some churches I've been in. It was beautiful, and a beautiful reminder of why we are here - Jesus Christ.
After the Holy Hour we said morning prayer together before moving up to a larger conference room. The key note speaker of the day was Cardinal McCarrick, who, as always, was an engaging speaker. The first part of his talk was to those involved in vocations work. Specifically addressing the priests he gave three key points - 1. Love your priesthood (love the priesthood), stressing that to love it you need to understand it as service. 2. Love your brother priests, highligting the fact that if your brother priests don't respect you they won't help you, and vocations directors can not do this alone - they must have the help of their brother priests. 3) Always rejoice - real joy, tinged with a healthy fear of the Lord, and pray without ceasing. Cardinal McCarrick also stressed the need to thank all those who help in the work of promoting and supporting vocations.
Then the better part of His Emminence's talk had to do with a list of things every Bishop should do:
1. Mandate prayers for vocations in the prayers of the faithful. He highlighted the fact that it is important how they are worded. He clarified this by saying that we are blessed with many vocations to the permanent diaconate, and acknowledged that there was a great need to pray for holy vocations to matrimony, but that there is a critical need for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Cardinal McCarrick stressed that he wasn't saying not to pray for vocations to the diaconate, lay consecrated life, or holy matrimony, but that they should be seperate intentions in order to not dilute the emphasis.
2. Every Bishop should write a prayer for vocations and publish it throughout the Diocese.
3. The Bishop should ALWAYS promote vocations where ever he goes.
4. The Bishop needs to go where the vocations are - high schools, COLLEGES and UNIVERSITIES, young adult ministries, etc. He mentioned Theology on Tap specifically and told an amusing story about going to one where the bar was so crowded the waitresses couldn't get to people, therefore couldn't sell beer, and the bar manager was mad because they didn't make any money.
5. The Bishop needs to "buttonhole" people (or at least I think that's what His Eminence said). Cardinal McCarrick spoke to need of personally inviting people - individually tell men they should become a priest. He said that many seminarians have come up to him saying that he once told them they should become priests, which of course he could not remember doing, but in the end it was an affirmation of the fact that we have to invite people.
Cardinal McCarrick went on to give quite a few more great ideas, but since it's been a long day already, those may have to wait for another post. Tomorrow we travel to Mt. St. Mary's in Emmitsburg and hear a keynote address by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, followed by Mass with Fr. Groeschel. Hopefully I'll get some pictures, and tell you what he had to say.
I should add that lunch today started with the Angelus - from what I understand all of this is a very positive change from years past. Also, the lunch was sponsered by the Army Chaplains who rightly made a plea for the critical need for chaplains. Again, maybe I'll post more on this later. For now it's time to hit the rack.