By David G. Bjornstrom

All Things Made New: Napa Institute Summer Conference Overview

July 26, 2021
Column: Catching Air

The Eleventh Annual Napa Catholic Conference was held July 22-24, 2021, with an impressive lineup of Catholic speakers on the theme “All Things Made New.”

The conference included Mass and a wide range of talks, including religious and spiritual topics, lots of commentary on current Church and world events, apologetics and some very practical subjects like fasting and a legal update on the Supreme Court and religious liberty in America.

We are in the midst of troubling times in the Church and our society…    this is not the first time in history…  

There was general acknowledgment among the speakers that we are in the midst of troubling times in the Church and our society, but more than one speaker pointed out that this is not the first time in history, reminding listeners of the Protestant Reformation and the early Church’s beginning with Emperor Nero and a Roman Empire full of idolatry, general debauchery and overt hostility toward Christians.

One constant theme of the conference was that our hope is not a worldly optimism but rather a confidence that God is always with His Church. He has given us a trustworthy blueprint for success that includes infallible teachings on faith and morals and the abundant grace of the sacraments.

Despite many signs of darkness in the world, Curtis Martin, founder/CEO of Fellowship of Catholic Students (FOCUS) told listeners on Thursday to focus on opportunities to rebuild the Church as seen through a lens of hope. He found hope in the fact that that our young people have a deep internal stirring for greatness. Even if that only manifests itself as a love for super hero movies, those desires stem from Man’s God-given yearning to rise above the mundane and from the energy and enthusiasm of youth that can only be satisfied by God.

Our hope is not a worldly optimism but rather a confidence that God is always with His Church.

Chris Stefanick, author and speaker, in his talk “Christian Response to a World Gone Woke” noted that the human heart was made for God and no amount of temporary “wokeness” can change that fact.

Other speakers reminded us that the tools we have from God and our Church have not changed and will see us through. These include the basics of prayer, fasting, almsgiving and of course the sacraments.

Father Spitzer, S.J., president of Magis Center for Reason and Faith, gave us a framework to explain to anyone who will listen how the Catholic Church has always been right in its moral teachings, including teaching the abject failure of the sexual revolution to make people happy. Father Spitzer showed how easy it is to demonstrate this even to people without faith, based on abundant information from modern science, secular research and statistics to show this even from a purely secular standpoint.

Tim Gray, president of Augustine Institute, gave a talk called “”Signs of the Times,” in which he said we live in a time of lies where even “truth is on trial.” He likened our present society, with its degradation of life and insistence on gender ideologies, to the classic story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen, in which everyone in a kingdom goes along with the pretense that the emperor is wearing a fine set of clothing when he is in fact naked. We all know the story. The farce continued until an innocent child shouted out that “The emperor has no clothes!” We need to be that child in our present time, calling to mind Jesus’ admonition for us to become like little children.

Father Dave Pivonka, T.O.R., president of Franciscan University, took things to a higher level, reminding listeners that the Church has always had the power of the Holy Spirit, still with us as much today as ever since the day of Pentecost. He emphasized that we can accomplish nothing on our own. God is always waiting for us to give ourselves totally to Him, trusting in His Spirit and with hope and faith that He is in charge.

More on some of these talks in coming articles…

David G. Bjornstrom is a retired Santa Rosa, CA-based attorney at law with 38 years specializing in business, estate and tax law. He may be reached... MORE »

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