West Cornwall, CT

by Mattias Caro

Gathering with other men and women of Faith, I had the opportunity to explore and to discuss in depth the values that form a Free and Virtuous Society. In today’s landscape, it is essential that Christians learn that their faith has an impact on the world outside Sunday’s walls. Indeed because Christ took the form of man, because he lived among us, laughed with us, and loved us, there is nothing within our world that falls outside the scope of the redeeming message of the gospel. As H. Richard Neibuhr reminds us in his book, Christ in Culture, it is essential that Christians realize they are in culture and society and respond to its particular challenges.

And it is engaging society—working through culture—that we can have the greatest effect on this fallen world. Working to build the culture of life in all its facets is the name of the game as John Paul II teaches. TFAVS is an eye-opening opportunity where Christians of all denominational backgrounds can wrestle with the questions of economics and justice that rankle our consciences daily and that we must confront with the hope and optimism of our Faith.

What impressed me the most is how Christians of so many backgrounds—from Methodist to Anglican to Catholic, from places as far as Brazil to Uganda to California—can immerse themselves in ideas as old as Plato and Aristotle in order to answer timeless questions. Within the sphere of society, we find a common ground to bring forth the gospel to all people.

Despite our many differences, at the heart of our concerns is the person. Each of us has the indelible mark of God upon our souls, created in His image and likeness, endowed with a free will and intellect. It is with our creativity and freedom that we need to find ways to respond to society’s problems. Key to this idea is that each one of us is personally responsible for our actions. As a result, any programs and solutions that belittle by mitigating personal responsibility do not help truly form a good society. They would treat a problem not a person, creating a façade of solutions, when in fact the same problem remains, and indeed, is worsen.

Mother Teresa once said that the greatest poverty in the world was the spiritual poverty of the West. I doubt that in one weekend any of us could solve this problem that faced the world. But by spending time together—through sharing meals, discussing ideas and challenging one another— I came quickly to realize that I was not alone in my efforts and concerns about what is troubling the world and in particular, our American society. Learning from the wisdom of the ancients and especially the unfathomable truths of the Gospel, I realize that God calls us to fellowship with one another in responding to the challenges of this time. It is the friendships I made in this one short but intense weekend that I know will help to challenge me to think, to live and to act in a Christian manner in regards to shaping our society.

Like our Founding Fathers of the eighteenth century, like the great Protestant and Catholic reformers of the sixteenth century, like the apostles and Church Fathers of our earliest centuries, great men always seem to appear in clusters. Why? Because we cannot live alone. We must encourage one another and above all love one another. In the realm of ideas and of our society, TFAVS helped encourage me to see that like-minded and like-hearted Christians exist around the world to engage and to change society. That is a treasure truly beyond compare. And for that, I am grateful for the Acton Institute and for that I would encourage any Christian serious about dealing with society to spend a weekend at TFAVS. Thanks Acton Institute!