Preparing the Way

Driving through downtown Des Moines, I am stopped at the corner by Wells Fargo arena on a sunny, warm fall day. Colorful leaves skitter across the road; the breeze teases a longer summer; and pollen triggers my allergies. Looking at the arena – empty now – I remember the late August day when a small team gathered at that same corner to pray the rosary to prepare the arena for the upcoming Christ Our Life conference, and the sign the Holy Spirit gave me that this would be a special weekend.

Our little group huddled up, prepared for the task at hand. We had rosaries, a jar of blessed salt and a bottle of holy water to sprinkle around the perimeter for protection, the anticipation of an amazing weekend in September, and a desire to ask the Holy Spirit to come and – as Ellen always says – put souls in seats to glorify our Lord.

Patty Fredrichs

Patty Fredrichs

At the appointed time, the rosary began. Marilyn asked Mother Mary for her intercession, the saints for their prayers, and Fr. Joe for his. She dedicated the conference to Jesus and Mary. Walking along the perimeter of the building, Marilyn sprinkled blessed salt, Vicky sprinkled holy water, and our prayers soared to heaven.

It was there, in that quiet, our voices “calling out in the desert”, that it happened. As the evening traffic drowned out the rosary leader, forcing me to listen all the harder for his voice, sound fell away and suddenly, I heard the loud click of a switch, the buzzing of electricity and was aware of a light. I turned to the building, and there, shining up from one of the concrete corners, was a light – just the light – like a search light, going straight up from the arena into heaven. Glancing around, it seemed no one else noticed it, as bright, loud and shining as it was.

I was quite awed by the light. It was joyful, strong, purposeful. I sensed the Holy Spirit was claiming His territory, setting a boundary, preparing this building for what was coming. I paused for a moment, taking this in. I imagined the Holy Spirit was pleased with the group blessing the arena, cleansing it, as it were, for Him to come and make it His home for the weekend of the conference, and showed His approval with the lights. Looking back, they seem like pillars of fire sent to protect the building, the city, the conference so that people could come, gather, and worship together and be fed.

The group had moved on, praying into the traffic sounds, the breeze, the skittering leaves, unaware of the light. Fragments of the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and Glory Be broke through the surrounding noises. As we rounded another corner, another loud click, another buzz, and another search light shining brightly. Twice more we rounded corners, and twice more, the search lights came. Now the arena was surrounded by them. Four bright lights shining up to heaven, one on each side of the arena.

We completed the circle. The blessed salt ran out. The holy water bottle was capped. The final light was next to the bench on the corner. It was shining so brightly. And still no one else noticed. I felt comforted by the lights. I knew they were a sign that the weekend would happen and it would be a blessing to many.

Reflecting on the lights, “preparing the way” comes to mind. By preparing the arena, we were blessed with an amazing conference…that reached out to the world in a way we never anticipated. The lights? I think they were the Holy Spirit’s way of telling us that. On that weekend, over 2,600 people gathered in person. Speakers were at their first large in person conference in months. Vendors were excited to be out. Emails and letters and comments of the blessings still bring tears to my eyes, just hearing what the very fact of being able to gather as a group and pray the Mass together meant to so many. And the livestream – that unexpected complexity we felt so called to add this year – allowed so many to participate who would otherwise have missed this event, and found new friends from around the world!

We didn’t plan for this, but by preparing our hearts and conference home for the event, the Holy Spirit took over and did what we couldn’t: Brought the world together to believe, live, and celebrate our faith!

What was YOUR experience in the arena during the conference? We would love to hear from you.

Join the discussion 9 Comments

  • Karen Quiner says:

    I have just started getting to know the team for Christ Our Life and the thing that touches me the most is how every meeting starts with the rosary and every decision is taken before the Lord in prayer. This conference is not about egos and is entirely about the glory of God. It is a beautiful thing to be a part of.

  • Linda Dixon says:

    I have already sent my thoughts about the wonderful conference.
    I heard a little bit ago that Pope Francis is approving same sex marriage.
    Is that true?
    Linda Dixon

    • Christ Our Life says:

      Hi Linda,

      Thanks for your comment. We would like to refer you to the statement from our own Bishop Joensen of the Diocese of Des Moines.

      “In itself, the statement of the Holy Father regarding civil unions drawn from the recently produced documentary is surprising, and for many Catholics seeking to be true to Christ’s teaching, troubling. It seems that he was offering a longstanding personal opinion and not invoking his office to issue an authoritative teaching. One is led to speculate: perhaps he is simply trying to dissociate the Church’s practice of sacramental marriage between a woman and a man from those unions recognized by the state that entail social and economic benefits for individuals in households who would otherwise not be afforded them? Regardless of his intent, surely he and all Christians are called to recognize all individuals, including those who self-identify within the LGBTQIA+ community, as children of God bearing ultimate dignity and full members of the human community meriting respect and protection from ostracism or harm. As with his previous, often-cited “Who am I to judge?” comment, which was lifted out of context and given a very different interpretation than what the Holy Father was addressing at the time, we will all need to examine the larger context of this conversation and look for Pope Francis to provide further clarification before offering further comment.” ~Bishop William Joensen

      As always, we pray for our priests, bishops, and our Pope as they discern the will of God.

      God bless you and yours Linda

  • carol steiner says:

    We have been bringing my sister & brother-in -law, several years now. When they heard that it was still open to the public they had to come, and NOT watch it virtually. The experience of being there live is so much better. We had a great time, there was nine of us and we all stayed over night too. The Sunday experience was great too. Thank you each and everyone who puts so much effort into this. We loved all the speakers. One disappointment , how long must we wait to see who will be at the next conference?
    Everyone is so welcoming, and we could see smiles through those crazy masks. Indeed a year to remember.
    blessings, Len and Carol

    • Patty Fredrichs says:

      Thank you, Len and Carol, for sharing your experience. There is a “buzz” in the arena with everyone together! We appreciate your kind words. 🙂

      • Karen F says:

        I am part of the fragile group with a lung disease. Was so blessed to attend and stream to my TV. From mass, to speakers, to music I could feel the Holy Spirit at work. Many Thanks and Blessings. It was a fantastic conference.

        • Patty Fredrichs says:

          Hi Karen, Thank you for sharing your experience. The livestream was such a blessing, and allowed so many to participate. We heard from so many exactly what you have shared: That they felt the Holy Spirit throughout the event. It made all of the additional work worth it, knowing how many were blessed by it!

  • Linda Dixon says:

    Dear Team,
    After reading your story about getting ready for the conference, explained to me why I thought it was the best one ever.
    I felt the Holy Spirit so many times, it brought tears to my eyes. Hadn’t been to confession since Christmas and so thankful for the opportunity to receive that sacrament. Loved your Bishop Joensen for his wonderful participation in the conference and the fact that it was his first anniversary. So very Blessed. I have a sister in law from Missouri who had seen Mirjana as she has been to Medjugoria.
    She would of loved to have seen her even lived streamed. Awesome Fr. Donald Calloway. We had a group of 6 who studied his book this past summer. So it was doubly appreciated that he was at the conference telling of his conversion. I have recommended his book to our Knights of Columbus. I don’t know if they will do it, but I told him about the book and wrote down the title & author. We will see. I gave it to him (the one in charge) during these 40 days for life. I Always love the music. Deacon Harold was also very glad to see him as I’ve seen him on EWTN. Sister Miriam so full of the spirit. Jon’s beautiful family was wonderful to see.
    I know your team will have a wonderful conference 2022. God Bless You!

    • Patty Fredrichs says:

      Thank you, Linda. It did feel very special this year, and the team felt the Holy Spirit presence, as well. From Bishop Joensen’s participation and anniversary celebration, to having so many together for those beautiful Masses, this conference was really special.

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