David Ancell's Virtual Home

Virtual Opportunities to Grow in Faith

  /   Sunday April 19, 2020  

We’ve been through a most unusual Lent that has unfortunately extended into Easter this year.  Of all kinds of fasting that one make undertake, I never imagined I’d be fasting from the Eucharist and certainly not for this long.  Of course, with this being the case, retreats and conferences everywhere are being cancelled.  Thankfully, by the providence of God, there are some virtual opportunities available to grow in faith (most of these were discovered by my wife).  At any other time in history before now, it’s not likely we’d have these available.  While I think it’s still better we get away to a real retreat once this is over, virtual opportunities, combined with being basically stuck at home, may give you more opportunity for listening to good Catholic talks and learning more about the faith that you otherwise would have had.

Please keep in mind that some of these offerings are being given for free, at least to some extent.  However, many of these speakers make a substantial amount of their living doing speaking.  With retreats and conferences being cancelled, it’s going to have a big effect on the money they have coming in.  If you are able, please consider making a donation where accepted.  If not, then please just pray for everyone who is offering the talks (actually, pray for them even if you donate).

One great offering comes from the Carmelite sisters at Sacred Heart Retreat House in California. The Carmelites have had to close their retreat house and cancel their retreats due to COVID-19, but they still wanted to offer virtual retreats.  There was one this past weekend, and this coming weekend they are offering another one given by Fr Bryce Sibley. I went to a men’s retreat he gave a couple of years ago, and I’d highly recommend him as a retreat director.

Interestingly, the Sacred Heart Retreat House has a registration deadline for being a part of the virtual retreat, and they e-mail the link to each talk at a certain time that they want you to listen.  I can understand that they are trying to keep a normal retreat schedule, but I’ve found that this is extremely difficult to keep to for a house with kids in it. I prefer a “listen when you can” approach.  However, you can get the talks later from their podcast.  Besides, the retreat is free, and last week’s retreat was really good.

Next on the list is the Ignited by Truth conference. My wife and I went to the live conference when we lived in the Raleigh-Durham area. Since they couldn’t hold their normal conference, they were nice enough to do a free virtual conference, with six hours of content, this past Saturday.  Oh, and they’ve kept it available for free on YouTube.  If a six-hour YouTube video is a bit intimidating, be sure to check the show notes where they’ve been nice enough to outline when in the video is each talk.  My favorite talk was the first one, but the others are well worth a listen.

Probably the first virtual conference I went to was the Virtual Catholic Conference.  It was fantastically well done, and during the weekend of April 3rd – 5th, it was free.  The free conference time has passed, but it’s still possible to buy perpetual access to the site (though it’s a bit expensive in my view). They got together about 60 speakers, including some very well known ones, to video themselves doing 20 minute talks.  On many of them, you can tell they were just in their homes recording on whatever they had, but that’s part of the charm.

On the site, you can choose what you want to listen to and when.  Most of the talks stood on their own.  I think this conference provides a good example for any parish that has a good core group of people who can teach and would like to put together their own virtual conference or retreat on YouTube or Vimeo (Note that videos can be made “unlisted” in YouTube in case a parish prefers to share with only their own parishioners.).

If you are looking for something a bit more Thomistic and intellectual, try the Thomistic Institute’s Quarantine Lectures. They are short but packed with intellectual material.  If you want to catch up on what you missed, they are posted on their YouTube channel.  You can watch them for free.

There are a number of other places to go that have been around even before the quarantine.  Ascension Presents has a number of good talks in popular style.  They also stream Fr Mike Schmitz’s Mass on Sunday mornings if you were looking for a Mass to watch.  Franciscan University of Steubenville also posts many talks from past conferences on YouTube.  Of course, the YouTube videos are free to watch, but you can also buy MP3s to download in their store if you want.  The president of the Franciscan University, Fr Dave Pivonka, is offering a Metanoia program through The Ministry of the Wild Goose.

One of my favorite places to make a retreat is Casa Maria, run by the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word.  There are a lot of talks available to listen to for free.  If you want to listen to a complete retreat, you can buy the MP3s for a reasonable price.  They have some really great speakers, and the sisters are a very faithful to the Church and very joyful people.  I hope I’ll get back down there before too long.

Unfortunately, there’s one ministry that I’d have to put in the “what not to do” category.  I won’t link to them here, nor will I mention their names.  They are otherwise doing some great work, but they put a retreat online, not for sale, but for rent on Vimeo.  It’s $50 for only 30 days of access with no option to buy perpetual access or a download.  Really, seriously?  There ain’t no way I’m going to pay that amount of money to have access for only a limited amount of time!  There’s nothing wrong with rental offerings in and of themselves, but, for example, EWTN offers video purchases but then offers rental for a lower price. If this apostolate offered a purchase option, I might even pay more than they are asking for the rental.

So, take time during this rather unusual time in our lives to grow closer to Christ.

Category: Catholic, Response

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