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Jesse Romero loves the Catholic faith.
So does Darrell Miller.
And both husbands, fathers and former world-class athletes are not afraid to let everyone know it.
Romero’s passion is evident as he holds a rosary high in his outstretched hand and discusses how Jesus and Mary are key players in his life.
Miller clutches a Bible as he talks about the power of the Eucharist and the path that led him to join the Catholic Church 13 years ago.
“I want to be holy. That’s my goal in life,” Romero said.
“We are charged to live the Gospel,” Miller said. “We are charged to be different.”
The pair, along with Father Larry Richards, Father Jonathan Meyer and Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, were among the speakers at the second annual Indiana Catholic Men’s Conference on Sept. 22 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. (A story on Archbishop Chaput’s keynote address was published in the Sept. 28 issue of The Criterion.)
Sponsored by the Marian Center in Indianapolis, the title of the conference was “Lions Breathing Fire: Living the Catholic Faith.” Taken from a homily of St. John Chrysostom, a fourth-century saint, it describes what people should be like after receiving Communion.
The event included Mass celebrated by Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein and Archbishop Chaput, and the opportunity for confession as well as exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction.
As he did the previous year, Archbishop Buechlein welcomed the more than 1,000 men who decided to use this September Saturday as an opportunity to reconnect with their faith.
“Thank you for taking your baptismal call to holiness seriously, … and placing yourselves in the hands of God,” he said.
The archbishop also recounted a speech given by Michael Irvin, a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s, when the wide receiver was inducted into the National Football League’s Hall of Fame in August.
Though his life after football has included several bumps in the road, including drug arrests, Irwin asked his children to learn from his mistakes.
Sharing Irvin’s advice, the archbishop told the men in attendance, “ ‘Look up, get up and don’t ever give up.’ ”
“That would be a good motto for today,” the archbishop said.
One of five children raised in a Baptist home, Darrell Miller was always eager as a teenager to go to the altar calls at his church every Sunday.
“I wanted to receive Christ,” Miller said.
The older brother of former Indiana Pacers star Reggie Miller, Darrell became familiar with the Catholic faith when he starting dating his wife, Kelly, during his career as a minor and, later, major league baseball player with several teams, including the now Anaheim Angels.
Though he initially tried to get his wife interested in exploring the Baptist faith, Miller soon found himself immersed in learning more about Catholicism.
A Life Teen Mass in Arizona planted another seed in his faith journey.
“There were people, including men, fully and actively participating in the Mass,” said Miller, who is director of Major League Baseball’s Urban Youth Academy and a board member of Catholic Athletes for Christ.
But that was only part of his attraction to the Catholic faith.
“One thing I could not deny is the power of the Eucharist,” he said. “Every single Sunday, I wanted to receive Christ … . This Church is the real deal.”
The sacrament of reconciliation is something else about the faith that Miller has learned to love.
At his first confession, Miller recalled thinking, “I need forgiveness, and I wept and I cried.
“I knew I was forgiven, and I was whole,” he said. “It was the most difficult but best thing that ever happened [to me].”
Miller encouraged the men at the conference to put God first in their lives and to be spiritual leaders in their households.
“Our goal in life is to return to Christ what he has given to us,” he said.
For some individuals, that may mean reprioritizing their life and turning it over to Christ, Miller noted. It also means letting Christ run your life.
“We know about him [Christ], but we don’t know him,” Miller said.
“I urge you to be the body of Christ to your family,” Miller told the men.
A cradle Catholic, Jesse Romero didn’t begin embracing his faith until 20 years ago.
It was through his study of Scripture that he realized the Bible “is a man’s book.”
Quoting Scripture throughout his presentation, Romero encouraged those in attendance to become like “lions breathing fire” to fight the culture of death that is so prevalent in today’s society.
“There’s one thing that makes the devil afraid—us receiving holy Communion,” said Romero, a former member of the Los Angeles Police Department, a three-time world Police Boxing Champion and a
two-time U.S. Kickboxing Champion.
“Learn the basics [of the faith] well,” he continued. “This is the Lord’s gym. God has given us the one-two punch: confession and Communion.”
Many people face spiritual struggles in life, Romero noted, but “the sacraments of the Church are the nuclear warheads God has given us.
“We need that Jesus blood transfusion.”
The sacrament of reconciliation has made national news in recent months, Romero noted. He mentioned a story in The Wall Street Journal that discussed how other faith traditions are realizing the power of confession.
“We are blessed that Jesus Christ has given us the way to get rid of all that unresolved guilt,” he said.
There should be a placard in every confessional that reads “TGIF—Thank God I’m forgiven!” Romero added.
Secular experts have noted that people who practice the Catholic faith have the lowest suicide rate. The reason? The sacrament of reconciliation, Romero said.
“America needs a heart transplant—the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” he added. “He is a physician,” and his healing “happens every day in that confessional.”
As we live on the front lines trying to rid our culture of society’s dehumanizing effects, Romero encouraged conference participants to love the Lord and develop a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary through the rosary.
“Stay close to Jesus and stay close to Mary,” he said.
Father Larry Richards had simple advice for men at the conference: If you don’t own a Bible, go out and buy one.
And carry a rosary in your pocket and pray it every day.
He also shared a motto for living each day as a person of faith: No Bible, no breakfast. No Bible, no bed.
“You should start and end each day with the Word of God,” he noted.
Father Richards, a nationally known mission preacher and retreat master, encouraged the men to follow the Virgin Mary’s example and be people of prayer.
“No human being spent more time with Jesus than Mary,” said Father Richards, a priest of the Erie, Pa., Diocese.
Like Romero, Father Richards encouraged daily praying of the rosary. He called it is a great defense against Satan.
“This is a weapon. You’ve got to use it,” he said.
“Mary is the last gift Jesus gave to us,” he continued. “You’ve got to take her into your care. Like a pair of glasses, we look through her to see Jesus, her son.
“Gentlemen, you need the mother of God.”
When praying the rosary, Father Richards told the men to put themselves in each scene.
“As you look at the life of Jesus Christ, then you become like Jesus,” he said.
As a follower of Christ, you must be able to embrace life’s crosses and challenges, and tell people that you love them, Father Richards added.
“Twenty-five years ago today, my dad died,” Father Richards said. “I spent my whole life judging my dad instead of loving my dad.
“Be a man of love, and tell your family you love them,” he added.
There are 1,400 minutes in a day.
“Can you not give 30 of those [minutes] to the Lord [to attend daily Mass]?” asked Father Jonathan Meyer in his address focusing on the conference theme.
“Are we willing to make the sacrifice? This is not about talks, it’s about salvation,” said Father Meyer, associate pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis and archdiocesan director of youth ministry.
“Fast food is great, but Jesus is eternal life,” he added.
In discussing the conference theme, Father Meyer told participants, “We are called to be like Christ, to be lions, to die to our sins and rise again.
“We are called to be lions breathing fire.”
At our baptism, we are given candles that carry not tiny but enormous flames that exhale truth, justice and the charity of God, Father Meyer noted.
While the lion represents Christ, breathing represents the Holy Spirit and fire is the power of God, he added.
“It’s not about us. It’s about what God does through us,” Father Meyer said.
If we become individuals who receive the Eucharist daily, “the devil can do nothing but flee,” he noted.
“We are called to be lions, to breathe the fire of God,” Father Meyer said. †