GOD AND FAITH IN WINE COUNTRY

Napa Institute Founder Discusses 1st Annual Conference

NAPA, California, JULY 15, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The Napa Valley, known for its high-quality wine industry and for being a top destination for wine lovers, will be the gathering spot this July for committed Catholics interested in discussing the future role of faith in the United States.

The Napa Institute, founded by Timothy Busch, will launch its first annual conference July 28-41 at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa. The institute seeks to promote and defend Catholic thought and beliefs in an increasingly secular society, which the institute refers to as “the next America.”

Its main event is the annual conference, which will offer members not only ongoing spiritual and theological formation in the faith, but also opportunities to network with other serious Catholics.

Confirmed speakers for this month’s conference include Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles; Cardinal Roger Mahony, the retired archbishop of Los Angeles; Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento; Jesuit Father Robert J. Spitzer, president of the Magis Institute; and George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

The institute has scheduled subsequent conferences on the same last weekend of July through 2016. In 2012, the conference will take place July 26-29.

In this interview with ZENIT, Busch reflects on why he founded the Napa Institute and what he hopes will be achieved during the first annual conference.

ZENIT: Could you explain why you began the Napa Institute and what is its mission?

Busch: I wanted to create an annual apologetics conference where serious Catholics could come together to hear challenging and inspiring content, participate in beautiful liturgies, and enjoy fellowship and relaxation. Rather than entertainment or emotionalism, I wanted to emphasize solid teaching from the Church’s bishops, who are our shepherds, and Catholic intellectuals. I also wanted these Catholics to be able to come together year after year to network and develop friendships that will inspire great things for the Church and the world.

The mission of the Napa Institute is “to equip participants to defend and advance their Catholic faith in ‘the next America’ — today’s emerging secular society.”

ZENIT: Why Napa?

Busch: I love the Napa Valley and the great wines that come from there. This inspired me to work with a team to develop the Meritage Resort and Spa in the Napa Valley. I want the Meritage to be a haven for Catholics seeking a respite from the hustle-and-bustle of their normal lives, which is why, for example, we have a consecrated chapel where, with the generous permission of Bishop Daniel Walsh of Santa Rosa, Holy Mass is celebrated frequently. Since this is my vision for the Meritage, I figured, “Where better to host this conference than at the Meritage?”

ZENIT: The tagline for the Napa Institute is “Equipping Catholics in the Next America.” What is meant by the “Next America?”

Busch: The “Next America” is a concept developed by Archbishop Charles Chaput, who has advised throughout the development of the Napa Institute. In a wonderful essay that he published on the First Things Web site, Archbishop Chaput describes a “next America” in which American religious loyalties are “steadily softening” and “Catholics will likely find it harder, not easier, to influence the course of American culture, or even to live their faith authentically.” Why? Because the culture is becoming increasingly secularized and skeptical of orthodox religious observance.

ZENIT: The inaugural Napa Institute conference will take place this month. What do you hope will result from this event?

Busch: I hope that the participants will be better prepared to engage in substantive discussions with Catholics and non-Catholics alike regarding the issues discussed. I hope that participants will leave with a greater appreciation and love for beautiful liturgy and our sacred music tradition. I also hope that participants will have a stronger sense that they have a role to play in evangelization through participation in various apostolates and directly engaging those with whom they come into contact.

ZENIT: The first day of your first conference will be dedicated to the theme of “Charity in Truth,” and in the afternoon several conferences will address the issue of immigration? Why was immigration chosen to be spotlighted on this first day?

Busch: Immigration is an issue about which there is disagreement even among faithful Catholics. The reality is that the Catholic Church in America always has been an immigrant Church.

As with any hot-button political issue, our analysis and deliberation should be informed by our Faith. For this reason, we have asked Tim Gray of the Augustine Institute to discuss the Catholic approach to immigration and immigrants in light of holy Scripture and the teachings of the Fathers and the Scholastic tradition.

Then, Archbishop José Gomez, who happens to be a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Mexico, will look at the historical role of immigrants in the Church in America, and Cardinal Roger Mahony will discuss comprehensive immigration reform from a policy perspective as informed by Catholic social teaching.

ZENIT: The second day will focus on secularism and atheism. What are the concerns for a society that lives as if God didn’t exist?

Busch: In the last century, the world witnessed the horrors committed against humanity by secularist, atheistic states such as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. We also see the results of rising secularism in the United States, such as no-fault divorce, abortion, and, now, same-sex “marriage.”

Further, a society that lives as if God doesn’t exist is not living to its full potential. As the first paragraph of the Catechism explains, “[God] calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church.”

This is what God intended for us, and a society that lives as if he doesn’t exist is diametrically opposed to this primary purpose.

ZENIT: The third day will address the “Cost of Discipleship.” What is at stake for those who choose to be outspoken defenders of the Gospel in today’s society?

Busch: As the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI explained in his Angelus message of Oct. 28, 2007, after the beatification of the 489 Spanish martyrs: “Baptism commits Christians to participating courageously in the spreading of the kingdom of God, if need be cooperating with the sacrifice of life itself.”

Thus, what is at stake from the standpoint of our souls is whether we will live up to our baptismal commitment. When we do, when we choose martyrdom (whether red or white), we are taking an affirmative step to bring forth the reign of Christ.

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