A few weeks ago, Watermark sent three seniors to the Los Angeles Religious Eduction Congress in Anaheim. This is an annual conference where Catholics across the United States to participate in liturgies, workshops, and exhibits. Here is a reflection by Eric, one of our students who went:
All in all, the whole experience was a fairly eye-opening one for me. The four of us gathered at the airport on Wednesday night to fly down to LA, first for the Youth Day, and then LA Congress. We arrived in Anaheim and took a cab to our hotel, a few blocks down from the convention center. We settled down and slept early anticipating the long day ahead of us. We woke up at around 8, ate breakfast, and walked down to the convention center. As we got closer, I noticed large groups of teenagers walking in the same direction, and assumed they were heading for the Youth Day too. When we got there, we found the arena jam-packed, and had to take seats in the back. I looked at the booklet and realized that only half the people were at the arena. the other half were located in some ballroom elsewhere because of space problems. This was pretty amazing, because I have never really seen so many zealous Catholic youths together before. They were singing, dancing, clapping with so much enthusiasm that it made our worship look bland. One thing I noticed really quickly was just how rare Chinese Catholics are. Literally, we were the only Chinese Catholics. The day started with worship, leading into a talk followed by lunch. We then had another talk and then Mass to close us off. I have to say, even thought the schedule sounds kind of boring, it was an amazing day.
One thing that stood out to me that day was the first talk we had. Originally we were signed up for a talk on some random topic, but we decided to switch it up and go to a talk about the topic of Forgiveness. The speakers for this workshop were a husband and wife team and the talk was really engaging and fairly funny. The reason why I wanted to go to this talk specifically is because I feel like forgiveness is something I personally struggle with. They told many stories and gave many examples, all to show why forgiveness was the way to go. They taught us the meaning of when Jesus said “if they slap you, turn the other cheek.” Apparently, backhanding someone in the Jewish culture is a sign of extreme disrespect and the speakers told us that “turning the other cheek” is you telling them to slap you again not because you’re weak, but to regain your respect by letting them slap you the right way. Anyways, it’s pretty hard to explain, but the whole idea made sense to me. So in a way, forgiving someone is a way to gain back your respect and show who the bigger man is. This completely contradicted my previous notion that forgiving someone is like giving in, showing you’re weak.
Another thing that stood out to me was Catholic music. I never knew it was so good. I’ve always thought the best worship songs were like ones by Protestant bands like Hillsong or David Crowder Band. Well, on the night before we came back, they had this concert involving four Catholic song writers: Steve Angrisano, Tom Booth, Cooper Ray, and Josh Blakesley. It was one of the most amazing concerts I’ve been to and one of the highlights of the week. I honestly didn’t know that these type of Catholic songwriters existed. I felt each and every one of their songs down to the very core. People like them are inspirational.
I wished the weekend was longer. LA congress was just spectacular. If given the chance, I would definitely go back.