Archbishop O’Brien draws a crowd in tavern

Theology might have been on tap Wednesday night but it was the archbishop who was pouring, inspiring the standing-room-only crowd.

Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien spoke at The Ropewalk Tavern in Federal Hill, as part of the Theology on Tap series. He challenged the room of more than 100 young adults to work in their parishes and communities and tackle the problems of the city.

“We are made in the image and likeness of God and that’s the basis of what we do in regard to the treatment of others,” he said, urging people to have a “deeper, more full, active prayerful involvement.”

He cited the example of Cardinal Lawrence Shehan, who was booed when he asked for equal treatments for blacks.

“Times have changed – the message hasn’t changed,” he said. “What sacrifice are you willing to make? What do you do? How do you challenge it? Do you really believe each one of us regardless of economic status, regardless of what they look like, regardless of what they’ve done – is the image of God? God is defaced when that image is degraded by poverty … by sexual abuse … by abortion.”

When faith leads to action, he said, “whether it’s about housing, war or right to life, we shouldn’t be apologetic.”

He spoke at length about urban problems. In blighted parishes, he said, “the school is there as a beacon … the church is there and going to stay there.”

He quoted Ed Koch, a Jewish major of New York, whose first act was to call together the priests of New York City. When one of them finally asked why he’d invited them to the mansion, Mr. Koch told them it was because the priests would always be there; even when others left the city, they would be the “glue of the city.”

“I think we can say that about this city as well,” Archbishop O’Brien said. He praised Cardinal William H. Keeler for doing great job of keeping schools open and providing tuition assistance.

He also commended “street saints,” the more than 8,000 volunteers in parishes and schools, and 10,000 volunteers with Catholic Charities.

He also pointed out that it wasn’t just the “down and outs” in the city who needed help but the “up and outs” in the affluent suburbs, where kids “with all the money in the world are crashing cars and committing suicide.” He termed it a “spiritual poverty.”

“What engine drives us?” he asked. “Are we here to take or are we here to give? The biggest sin in the world is to make myself the center of the world.”

He also urged young people to consider a vocation. “You think you have to be super holy; you don’t – you just have to have a big heart.”

He denied that this generation is self-involved.

“I’ve heard it said the youth of today are too selfish, too tied up in their own needs,” he said. “I really resent that. I’ve seen kids in seminary willing to do anything to serve, I’ve seen young kids go overseas and willingly give their lives.”

The reaction of the crowd, which packed the brick-walled tavern, lit mostly by neon beer signs, was positive.

“He is awesome,” said Lisa Giannaccini, from St. Ursula, Parkville. “It’s great to have an energetic and current, on-target and amazing leader, someone who is willing to be our shepherd.”

Ann Volz, also from St. Ursula, said, “I liked how he was so humble.”

Eric Dechtiaruk, from St. Joseph, Fullerton, said, “I was impressed. I was really glad he has the commitment to come down, and he’s trying to draw people our age into the church. They don’t know where to go for leadership. Venues like this provide, I don’t want to say a more realistic, I guess a more accessible atmosphere. Going to a bar is a real part of your life.”
Theology on Tap is a program that started in Chicago more than 20 years ago. It is held periodically throughout the archdiocese.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.