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Friday, April 27, 2018

International Meeting of Traditional Catholics Welcomes Serious-Minded Millennials

Written by  John Rao
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John Rao Addresses the Roman Forum, Gardone,  2015 John Rao Addresses the Roman Forum, Gardone, 2015

A Brief Note from Michael J. Matt

"What are you gonna do about it?"  It's a question we get on a regular basis: "Okay, Remnant, you've informed us of the problems, so now what are you gonna do about it?" Well, we just did something about it!  We published a newspaper, hosted a conference, organized a pilgrimage, wrote an article--whatever it is. Living in this secularist post-Christian paradise of ours, the options are rather limited. There are no Catholic countries left. There is no Catholic army in which we might enlist. We could start yet another blog, I suppose. But how many of those do we really need? Pretty soon there are going to be as many blogs in this movement as people.

Might it not be a better idea to look around at the men and women who've been down in the trenches forever, and maybe see if we can lend a hand to the initiatives that are already working?

Dr. John Rao has been around a while. To give you an idea of how long, he used to write for my father back in the 1980s. John was a close personal friend of Michael Davies, and the great Dietrich von Hildebrand was his mentor. I've been honored to call John my friend all of my adult life, and I’m no spring chicken. So, yes. John’s been around the block a few times.

John’s also one of the great Catholic historians of our time. And he's doing something every year on the shores of Lake Garda in Italy that really should give us all tremendous hope for the future. He's bringing together the best and brightest scholars, journalists, priests and academics from all over the world for a nearly two-week conference that's been bearing good fruit for over a quarter of a century.

I myself have acquired vital allies for The Remnant over the years by attending this event which, by the way, John's organization has financed. I've never paid a dime to be there. Why? Because this is what John's Roman Forum is all about. Bringing together people who oftentimes have more influence than money for an event that specializes in networking, studying, discussing, praying and, yes, eating and drinking together for 12 days.

And it works.  One very quick example on a personal note. I'd known Vatican journalist, Ed Pentin, by reputation for years. Last year, John found a way to get Ed to come to Gardone. We all hit it off. A few months later, Ed Pentin was speaking at our Catholic Identity Conference in Pittsburgh. That alliance would never have formed were it not for the Roman Forum. And this happens year after year—alliances, friendships, cooperation between academics, priests, journalists, activists on both sides of the Atlantic. The Traditional Catholic movement becomes stronger every year because of this one, unique event. And, yes, the setting is key to its success. Dr. Rao holds conferences in New York all year long. But, once a year, he hosts one in Italy which draws as many Europeans (perhaps more) than Americans.

Now, like the rest of us, John Rao isn't getting any younger. And over the past few years, his organization has placed a lot of emphasis on looking to the future of the movement by offering scholarships to young, serious-minded Catholic men and women---the future priests, professors, journalists, pro-family activists, fathers and mothers…young folks who are willing to sit at the feet of the old soldiers to study and learn and prepare to assume leadership roles themselves one day.

And this is not merely some fun-filled vacation in Italy. There are two lengthy and often challenging lectures every day. There are in-depth discussions and debates. There are roundtable seminars whereby Europeans can share with their American counterparts some of the ideas and strategies of their work in the field of Catholic preservation and restoration.  This event is not for the intellectually faint of heart. It's challenging.

So much happens during those 12 days to impact both the present and future of our movement that this should not be seen as something beneficial merely to those fortunate enough to be there in person. From the days when Michael Davies, William Marra and Dr. David White were "regulars" at Gardone to the present, this event is a premier leadership conference for the Catholic restoration movement.

And not everyone there is a traditionalist, by the way. That’s the other fascinating aspect of this project. It is so well-respected that many influential persons, who may not be "traditionalists" per se, nevertheless attend each year, and so the traditionalists who organize it have ample opportunities to evangelize in the name of sacred Tradition, the glorious Traditional Latin high Mass (exclusively) being a daily occurrence throughout the conference. If you're at this event, you don't skip the Mass! It just isn't done.

So, John and his team have been pounding the pavement again this year, trying to find sponsors for their lecturers as well as a few deserving young participants--handpicked by Dr. Rao himself. As time is now running out, he's asking for help with just a handful of the last candidates on his list.

Please read his letter below and, if you support this project as much as I do,  consider helping John get over the hump. He's raised the vast majority of what's needed already, and only needs a comparative few dollars to finish the job and get ready to host yet another meeting of Catholic minds from all over Europe and the Americas. He just needs a little help from us.

"What are we gonna do about it?" Well, I have an idea: How about we help John Rao recruit a few young fighters for the army of Christ the King?  MJM


Dear Friends of the Roman Forum,

Funds continue to be needed for Gardone because we have five scholarship candidates from among the eighty Summer Symposium participants--future seminarians, and students---none of whom has sufficient means for attending. Each of them needs $1,500 to be able to attend. Allow me to summarize why I think attendance is so important.

1) I am firmly convinced that the teaching, liturgical, and general Catholic cultural experience that participation in our international Symposium provides is desperately needed in this unparalleled age of crisis in the Church. This is especially true given that our natural tendency under such crisis conditions is to get lost in endless and rather parochial “practical” activities that impractically neglect all too much: our most important gaps of knowledge; our recurring strategic failures in dealing with what are often quite repetitive problems; and our crucial personal needs as complex “soldiers of Christ” engaged in a frustrating war. This is why we often target the wrong enemies and issues, or deal even with the correct opponents and problems in hopelessly self-destructive ways, or-worse still---give up entirely and wait for "the end".

2) I am firmly convinced that we all need a “bath” in the kind of full Catholic experience that the Summer Symposium provides. This reminds us that we are part of a body---the Mystical Body of Christ. We are not Protestant individualists. We are not meant to be disassociated atoms that come together merely through the aid of a computer. Unfortunately, however, we are almost all of us buried in a day-to-day environment in which our contact with one another is precisely of this isolated, machine-driven sort alone. This was not the environment of the Catholic Christendom of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas, Giotto, and Dante. This was not the environment of the Catholic Christendom that produced the martyrs of the Vendée and those of the Cristeros. Christendom will never be rebuilt through the work of individualistic atoms lost in cyberspace alone.

3) I had the personal good fortune to learn the way in which a full, communal experience can awaken a young soul to a passion for learning and fighting to win the world for Christ in almost five magnificent years at Oxford University in the 1970’s. My fraternal group inside the university at large consisted of an international community of rather disheartened and isolated “refugees”. We were all refugees from the religious and intellectual collapse of most institutes of higher learning in the Americas and Europe. We were refugees from the “carpet bombing” of everything traditional and beautiful within the academy conducted by the varied radicals of the 1960’s in our different countries. Oxford at the time still permitted us to cultivate our commitment to Faith and Reason. It did not force radical change upon us. Instead, we did the “forcing”. We forced the beauty and the traditions of an Oxford that was one of the most brilliant products of our Catholic past to do what it could for us: to shape us as a band of brothers who then worked to inspire one another as individuals; to give us everything it could give to a student of the Catholic Middle Ages. Only those who have gone through such an experience in such a splendid “time out of time” can fully relate what it means for making young men and women realize that they are not alone, and that all of nature is intended to provide them a kind of “magical” space that must propel them upwards, since “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights”. Those of us who had the good fortune to undergo that communal experience felt an intense obligation to pass it on to others; to work to fill the world with Catholic communities dedicated to transforming all things in Christ. Having gone through an isolated Catholic awakening first---and being still immensely grateful for it---I nevertheless know that the communal awakening was the infinitely more effective and lasting one.

The International Summer Symposium provides for many persons that same communal “time out of time”; that same fraternal, “magical space” that Oxford gave me. It forces the Catholic environment of Italy---whether that environment wants to aid us or not---gracefully to work to bring the young people participating in the program to the awareness that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights”. It inspires all of us who say mass, teach, and make music in Gardone Riviera to use this rare moment to reinvigorate our common practical commitment to transform the “real time” of our daily lives throughout the globe; to do so in the hope of saving the pitiful remnants of existing Catholic culture and laying the long-term basic intellectual and spiritual foundations for a new and even better Christendom.

My Oxford experience cost me the grand sum of $100 per year in American currency. Please help us to keep this kind of experience alive under the much more expensive and isolated conditions of our time with your tax-deductible donation for these scholarship candidates. And please remember the Roman Forum in your prayers in this year, the fiftieth since its foundation by the great Professor Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889-1977) in defense of a Humanae vitae now once more under attack.

Long live Christ the King!

John C. Rao (D.Phil., Oxford)

Chairman, Roman Forum; Associate Professor of History, St. John's University

“Even if the wounds of this shattered world enmesh you, and the sea in turmoil bears you along in but one surviving ship, it would still befit you to maintain your enthusiasm for studies unimpaired. Why should lasting values tremble if transient things fall?”  (Prosper of Aquitaine)

The Roman Forum
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