Which gets back to the discussions here this week. We live in the world. We know too many of us aren't taking what we say we believe seriously. A Catholic governor of New York made increased abortion access in his state a priority. A Catholic former Speaker of the House shut down a legitimate question about brutal late-term abortions, insisting the topic had some kind of "sacred ground" protection. And how many weddings have you attended in a Catholic church after the couple had already spent months, if not years, playing house? Living as though married, with only a party delayed, the "sacrament" performed only for the sake of nostalgia or pictures?
That one woman I mentioned echoes the thoughts of many young people I've encountered over the past few years: She loves God, she loves her church and she is open to sacrifice to do God's will in her life. There's a sacrificial aspect to our lives. While religious faith is a source of hope and joy, there is no escaping the fact that life can have its share of hell. We don't escape that. We seek to bring good to situations we wouldn't have necessarily scripted for ourselves.
Mother Dolores Hart is at this conference. Many know her as the nun who kissed Elvis. Dolores Hart had a successful acting career, having starred in two movies with Presley, among others, but found herself called to a life of contemplative prayer. She now emanates wisdom and peace, but recalls crying herself to sleep for the first seven years in the convent. Sometimes we don't understand all the reasons why we are where we are.
In her memoir, "The Ear of the Heart," Mother Dolores writes: "To enter the contemplative life truly, you have to go through a narrow, lonely place in your being, where you face all your fears and selfish patterns, even when you don't know what these are. I thought I was very grown-up, very mature. You don't realize what a child you are until God tests your heart and you go through that deep place all of us have to go through."
A key question of the day: What are we here for? We may just be here for one another, but not in the ways that culture assumes. The Catholic Church, throughout the country and world, offers opportunities for spiritual growth and temporal support for all. The church is for sinners, and that will be all too evident at times, but she does offer something: not utopia, but a way to journey together to something beautiful and live in union with the source of all beauty.
In his Times column, Bruni admits to sadness upon witnessing hypocrisy. That's an overwhelming reality of our day. I'm sorry we are all so damn human, or the overwhelming countercultural witness of real Christianity would be inspiring and uplifting. That's the only successful communications strategy for a church: Be for real.