Catholic symposium – how music, food, and friendship ground us in reality

The Angelus by Jean Francois Millet Public Domain CNA The Angelus, Jean Francois Millet, 1859. | Public Domain

The Prairie Troubadour gathering will be full of good music, food, and discussions with Catholic leaders addressing how to live a healthy human ecology in a digital age.

"[Prairie Troubadour] springs out of a desire among Catholics to live the good life [and] to navigate their way through the digital world," said Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., who will be a speaker at the event.

Located at the Liberty Theatre in Fort Scott, Kansas, the third annual Prairie Troubadour will take place on Feb. 9-10. The event will feature talks and conversation, access to the sacraments and prayer, and musical performances.

"There will be people from all different walks of life looking to live … the healthy human ecology," Conley told CNA, "[Celebrating] everything from what we eat, to how we entertain ourselves, friendship, music, wine – the good things in life."

Among the conference speakers will be Christopher Check, president of Catholic Answers; William Fahey, president of Thomas More College; and Kevin O'Brien, founder of Theater of the Word.  

An informal musical session will follow the discussions on Friday where a variety of instruments will be passed around between musicians in attendance. On Saturday, a musical duo called the Vogts Sisters will be brought in for a late-night conversation session to be enjoyed with whiskey and cigars.

Tickets range from $85-175, and all the proceeds from the event will go to St Martins Academy, a unique all-boys boarding school opening this fall, that will focus on a classical education and teach students all aspects of running a working farm.

Daniel Kerr, who is hosting the gathering, told CNA that the symposium is in honor of his late father, Gerald Kerr, who was nicknamed the Prairie Troubadour for his poetry and songwriting.

This symposium is themed "Field and Family: Reflections on a Healthy Human Ecology," and it will focus on human happiness in an increasingly disconnected digital age.

"We find ourselves immersed in technology, in a society that's obsessively preoccupied with entertainment and the pursuit of pleasure," Kerr said.

"Despite the rapid advancements in technology and availability in technology, people aren't happy."

Christopher Check agreed, and told CNA that a constant absorption with screens and digital media has separated people from reality. The Catholic Church aims to help overcome that, he said.

"Number of afflictions in the post Christian age … one of them is the separation from reality: The separation of man from what is real."

"The Church, in her qualities of truth and goodness and beauty, has guardianship of what is real. Included with that is an understanding of man's relation to the natural world, or what once went by the name of creation, and his role in it."

How does people find their role? By seeking the Catholic faith and the naturally good things, said Bishop Conley.

"We intentionally live tapping into the great legacy of our Catholic faith, first of all, but we also tap into the riches and treasures of western culture by the way of truth, goodness, and beauty, and how they manifest themselves in natural things: good work, good play, good conversation, good friendship, good food, and good drink."

The bishop continued to discuss the qualities of truth, beauty, and goodness, and, said that relativism challenges human experiences of truth and goodness.

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"[However,] beauty has not been compromised and when we recognize it and see it we are drawn towards it, whether it be in art or music, literature, poetry or friendship."

This symposium, he said, is an opportunity to celebrate the desires which truly make up the human person – the transcendental properties of truth, beauty, and goodness.

"We all desire truth; ultimately in Jesus Christ; we all desire goodness, which is love made visible; and we all desire beauty," he said.

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