My wife Kalyn and I, and our child (in utero), arrived in Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon. We are representing the Eparchy of Saskatoon along with Deborah Larmour and her husband Don. Coincidentally, Deb and Don taught us marriage preparation and Serena Natural Family Planning, and Deb is now the Family life Director with the Eparchy. All four of us were sponsored- flights, hotels, conference fees- by an anonymous donor. Archbishop Chaput wanted representatives from every diocese and eparchy in North America, so I am hoping that a lot of people took the anonymous donor up in his or her offer.
Like my past days of attending World Youth Day (Cologne 2005, Rio de Janeiro 2013) I was immediately struck by the fact that a multicultural city can at least seem like they are putting out the red carpet for both Pope and pilgrims. Everywhere you go there are signs and people telling you that you are welcome to Philadelphia "The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection" and the Pope's visage is on everything: Art, murals, signs, cakes, plush toys- you name it, they have it!
Yesterday was very quick, we just had to register and pick up our credentials and conference supplies. Then, we took some time to explore a city transformed. Cassocks and Habits are everywhere and I heard local Philadelphians continue to comment on the "happy looking young sisters" and "new priests". There was even a Lego reproduction of St. Peter's Basilica at The Franklin Institute, along with Vatican treasures and a display of Genghis Khan artifacts. Shopkeepers keep asking us where we are from and tell us that we are welcome, and suggest where the best cheesesteaks and pretzels can be had.
Bishop Robert is a powerful speaker and gave a speech called "Living as the Image of God: Created for Joy and Love". Bishop Robert told us that God became one of us that we may share in the divine nature. Atheism, both the old and new, is predicated on the assumption that the more glory we give to God, the less we get, but that is untenable to the Holy Bible. Let's think of the story of Moses and the burning bush. The bush is on fire, but it is not consumed. He illuminates and sets his creation "on fire" without damaging it. Don't let the Atheists teach you otherwise. We must worship our God, says Bishop Robert, or we will end up worshipping false gods: money, power, our own ego.
May God Bless and keep you all, I will update you tomorrow on the breakout sessions and keynotes from day 2. Tomorrow should have twice as much content.