Rise Up always falls between Christmas and New Years (Dec 28-Jan1), which is also often a special time for families. For the last 10 years, since 2002, I have celebrated my birthday(Dec 30) away from my family and at CCO’s Rise Up Conference (except for ’08 when Vanessa and I visited her family in Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Brunei). That means I’ve had my birthday in Edmonton, Saskatoon, Toronto, Vancouver, Quebec, Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal, and this year again in Vancouver. This past year was particularly special as I celebrated my 30th on the 30th and I got to be with my family for the first time in 10 years (the last time Rise Up was in Vancouver my family was in Australia!) I don’t feel any different and I certainly don’t look any older, but God gave me a small birthday gift by way of an insight on life.. My birthday falls on the Feast of the Holy Family and Fr Tom Rosica’s homily for the day reflected on Mary and Joseph’s role in Jesus’ life – they would have taught him how to pray, how to read the scriptures, live virtuously, how to relate to God. Imagine! Teaching the Son of God about his own Father! What truly holy parents. I thought about my own parents and the role that they’ve played in my life and was grateful for all that they’ve given to me. I then realized the great privilege and responsibility that I have with my own kids. What would I want to teach them? What are the most important things? Taking Mary and Joseph’s parental example, I would hope that my kids would know and love God above all else. That they would read the scriptures and pray. That Jesus would be the center of their lives. That they would live out their missionary identity as Catholics. Our Rise Up conference provides just that – an opportunity to learn about God and to encounter Him, to make a commitment to place Him at the center of their lives, and to respond to His invitation to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28). There were many stories of lives changed and if you’d like to see it first hand have a look at youtube.com/ccoriseup. When the time comes for my own kids to attend a Rise Up conference(and I hope they’ll want to!), as much as I would want to have them around during the Christmas season, I know that God might have something greater in store for them at the conference – conversion and a personal encounter with Jesus. And that’s what’s most important. This year I was doubly blessed, having witnessed lives changed at the conference and having my family with me over Christmas and on my birthday. What a great birthday present!