In Hayes Valley

Writing from my Uber to the San Francisco airport, where I’ll arrive with about thirty minutes before my Delta flight to Detroit (and ultimately to Philadelphia) departs.

Met up a few hours ago with Eric Snyder after work at this little Biergarten in Hayes Valley, on Octavia Street. Despite a truly hot afternoon, our evening beer time turned out to be in practically November-like Philadelphia conditions: windy, slightly damp, and downright chilly.  “It gets warmer here in September,” Eric commented at one point without any trace of irony.

But it was good to share a final beer with him before leaving. This has been a good visit; two full weeks, the longest time I’ve spent in California so far in my life.

Port of San Francisco

I didn’t do a great job capturing the sense of the San Francisco Ferry the other day when I was leaving the city for Vallejo, but I think yesterday’s attempt when I shot a minute or so as we approached San Francisco turned out pretty nicely and gives a sense of what it’s like in real life. It helped that it was such a beautiful mid-afternoon as we were arriving. I’ll be here for another few days visiting with family, and then will be back in Philadelphia on Thursday.

Leaving Napa Institute

The 7th Annual Napa Institute was great, and like last year I’m sorry to be leaving the presence of so many good people. What’s the point of Napa Institute? I think of it simply as helping foster relationships among Catholics from around the country (and a few internationally) while preparing people to go back out into the world with verve and confidence in their personal, family, and professional lives. I’d guess there were around 600 people here this year, but except for the Saturday night keynote dinner, it always felt far more intimate than that number suggests.

This year’s theme was “Strangers in a Strange Land,” and tied in with Archbishop Charles J. Chaput’s recent book by the same name. How should Christians live in an America that’s largely post-Christian in its instincts, lifestyle, and preferences? It’s a big question, with lots of answers that will work depending on your situation and community. One of the things that sets Napa Institute apart from other conferences is the “continuing conversations” that unfold in a beautiful setting with people over 4-5 days, combined with the fact that the speakers, panelists, etc. who tend to be higher profile generally stay throughout these days and are at the same tables as everyone else during meal times and in between sessions. Everyone is approachable, and most people are super friendly. There’s a great vibe.

I spoke on a panel on the topic of “How to Win the Issue of Assisted Suicide” with Archbishop Chaput, Fr. Robert Spitzer, and Greg Pfundstein. Matt Valliere of Patients Rights Action Fund moderated the conversation, which was a good and rewarding one. Including a few photos from the past few days below, including one I snapped after our Friday panel with Archbishop Chaput and Bobby and Kristina Schindler, who I work with at the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network.

Future belongs to those with children

Archbishop Chaput addressed the Napa Institute. I was present for it, and it has been covered in a number of outlets. The full text of his speech is available here. I’ll highlight a bit of it here:

In a world that can sometimes seem disheartening, Christians have a path to the future in lives of joy and love, Archbishop Charles Chaput told those gathered Thursday at the annual Napa Institute conference.

While Christians need to see the world’s problems as they are, “we can’t let the weight of the world crush the joy that’s our birthright by our rebirth in Jesus Christ through baptism,” he said.

“If we cling to that joy, if we cling to God, then all things are possible,” he added. “The only way to create new life in a culture is to live our lives joyfully and fruitfully, as individuals ruled by convictions greater than ourselves and shared with people we know and love. It’s a path that’s very simple and very hard at the same time. But it’s the only way to make a revolution that matters.”

The Napa Institute, founded in 2010, aims to help Catholic leaders face the challenges of contemporary America.

“When young people ask me how to change the world,” Archbishop Chaput said, “I tell them to love each other, get married, stay faithful to one another, have lots of children, and raise those children to be men and women of Christian character. Faith is a seed. It doesn’t flower overnight. It takes time and love and effort.”

“The future belongs to people with children, not with things. Things rust and break,” the archbishop continued. “But every child is a universe of possibility that reaches into eternity, connecting our memories and our hopes in a sign of God’s love across the generations. That’s what matters. The soul of a child is forever.

In the face of the many challenges of today, he pointed to an idea from St. Augustine: “It’s no use whining about the times because we are the times.

“It’s through us that God acts in society and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is carried forward. So we need to own that mission. And only when we do will anything change for the better,” the archbishop said.

… Archbishop Chaput suggested that the modern world is not much different from the Athens that St. Paul visited. The city was “full of idols,” where everyone “spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” There, St. Paul disputed with Jews, devout persons, philosophers and other residents. …

The Acts of the Apostles show “the perpetual newness of the Gospel,” the archbishop said.

“They’re also a portrait of courage as St. Paul, Christianity’s greatest missionary, preaches the Gospel in the sophisticated heart of Athens,” he continued. Despite mockery and condemnation, St. Paul persists and “understands that his audience has a fundamental hunger for the Godly that hasn’t been fed, and he refuses to be quiet or afraid.”

“Things rust and break, but every child is a universe of possibility.”

Napa Institute, year two

I’m at the Napa Institute after attending for the first time last year. Napa Institute brings together 500+ Catholics for prayer, fellowship, and enrichment. I’d describe its goal as equipping Catholic leaders of all stripes to confidently re-enter the public square as Christians in a secular culture.

This year I’ll be participating in a panel discussion that I’ll share more about after it happens. I’m also joined this year by Bobby and Kristina Schindler of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network. If last year was an indication, this should be a rewarding five days in a beautiful part of the country:

The 7th annual Napa Institute Conference will be held July 26-30 at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, California.  Featured speakers include Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum, author George Weigel, author Mary Eberstadt, Dr. Tim Gray and Dr. Ted Sri, both of the Augustine Institute, Fr. Robert Spitzer S.J., president of the Magis Center and the Spitzer Center, and attorney Alan Sears.

The weekend conference includes fine dining and socializing opportunities.  On Thursday evening, for example, dinner includes a Taste of Napa Valley, which features products from wineries and breweries from all over Napa Valley.  Off-site events for attendees to choose from include a golf outing at Eagle Vines, wine tasting at Mondavi or Domaine Carneros, Trinitas Library Tasting and, for the first time this year, a tasting at the Napa Distillery.

To Vallejo and Napa

I’m traveling from San Francisco to Napa today. Specifically, Ubered to the San Francisco Ferry Building, and hopped on a Vallejo-bound ferry that lasts about an hour. I shot the clip above as we were pulling away from the city.

When I get into Vallejo, I’ll Uber to Napa where I’ll spend the afternoon with friends from Life Legal Defense, which does incredible work providing legal representation for the “little guys” willing to make a statement in defending our constitutional right to life. Alliance Defending Freedom, Americans United for Life, and the like pick up cases that are likely to set precedent on a national level, but groups like Life Legal Defense consider every case to be a precedent, in some sense. That’s how I think of them, at least.

Tomorrow the 7th Napa Institute kicks off at the Meritage Resort. I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends, and making new ones.

Driving Tesla

Yesterday afternoon after mass, Eric and I were sitting in his apartment when he turned to me and asked: “Do you want to rent a 2014 Tesla Model S for $45?” I stared at him for a moment before answering, “Of course.”

He had found an incredible deal with a company called Get Around that let us rent for three hours, so we Ubered to the downtown San Francisco parking garage where the car was waiting. Everything was controlled through the app, and the car became available for unlock at the start of our rental time. We drove down the coast, past Pacifica toward Moss Beach where we had a beer on the deck of Moss Beach Distillery before turning around and heading back to the city before our rental time was up. It was a great way to spend a few hours on a Sunday evening.

If you haven’t driven a Tesla, you can’t imagine why any of this even merits sharing. If you have driven one, you’ll know how distinct the experience of driving a Tesla is from any combustion-engine vehicle. Both a Ford and a Tesla are cars, but the former feels much closer to the Model T and the era of the horse than the latter, which feels much closer to the era of space flight and autonomy.