November 16, 2012

Men’s conference participants called to evangelize

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin speaks to the approximately 600 men who attended the seventh annual Indiana Catholic Men’s Conference on Oct. 20 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin speaks to the approximately 600 men who attended the seventh annual Indiana Catholic Men’s Conference on Oct. 20 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Nearly 600 Catholic men from across Indiana came to the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis on Oct. 20 to be strengthened in their faith.

The event was the seventh annual Indiana Catholic Men’s Conference organized by the Indianapolis-based Marian Center and St. Michael Foundation.

The day got off to a rousing start when the attendees gave a standing ovation to Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, who just two days earlier had been introduced as the next archbishop of Indianapolis.

Archbishop Tobin opened the conference with a prayer and short reflection on the important role that Catholic men can play in the Church’s mission of evangelization.

“I think that the fact that you are men banding together to be formed by the word of God and to be sent as missionaries wherever the Lord wants you is really encouraging,” he said. “ … I’m so happy that you’re here today because—whether it’s your sons or your nephews or the kid down the block—all of you have an opportunity to be a missionary, to show, especially young men, that it’s possible to be a man in every sense of the word and to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

Archbishop Tobin recalled in his reflection how his father taught him the basics of football in their backyard in Detroit during the 1950s and 1960s.

A priest who could have been an offensive lineman in the NFL spoke after the archbishop.

Father Michael Lightner, a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wis., stepped up to the podium standing 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighing approximately 300 pounds.

As an undergraduate at Eastern Michigan University, he had NFL scouts evaluating him as a prototypical offensive lineman.

But then he participated in a Marian pilgrimage in which he had a profound conversion experience. That soon set him on the road to the seminary and ordination to the priesthood.

Like Archbishop Tobin, Father Lightner exhorted his listeners to embrace in their own daily lives the mission of evangelization.

“Imagine what Jesus did with the 12 [Apostles] as he started Christianity all over the world,” Father Lightner said. “ … Imagine what he could do with 600 men in Indianapolis with one archbishop. Be faithful to the Church’s magisterium. Be faithful to the truth. Imagine what you can do.”

While encouraging them to take action to spread the Gospel, Father Lightner also emphasized the critical role of prayer for men in making changes in society.

“Do you want to defeat the HHS [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] mandate? Start praying the rosary,” he said. “Do you want to get rid of abortion? Start praying the rosary. We have to humble ourselves and go to Mary because she is the most beautiful creation that God has created.”

Father Lightner was followed by Mark Houck, co-founder and president of The King’s Men, a national Catholic organization promoting an authentic Catholic male spirituality and faith formation, and advocating against pornography.

Houck described how pornography had left a deep wound in his soul as a young adult. He had tried to fight his problem by returning to the sacrament of confession, but soon learned that he also needed to get to the heart of his problem before God could bring long-lasting healing to his heart.

“Going to confession without addressing the wound is like putting a bandage on a huge shark bite,” Houck said. “It’s not going to work. God wants you to go to the place where you don’t want to go. He wants you to go to the center of the wound. That’s where he wants you to go because that’s where the healing is.

“Pornography is an intimacy disorder. We’re only as intimate as we are honest. So when you start letting truth into your life, that’s when you’ll be set free from those things.”

Houck encouraged his listeners to turn to Christ as a model of strength and virtue.

“He’s got a manly heart,” Houck said. “He loves like a man. You need to love like that. You need to call upon that love.

“You have that heart, men. You’re grafted into the sonship of God. You’re his brother. … So draw on that strength, men. Draw on that courage for yourself as you deal with these issues in your community. And come together as brothers and draw on that strength because you’re going to need it.”

During a break at the conference, Jason Frey, a member of St. Louis Parish in Batesville, spoke about how he came to the second Indiana Men’s Conference with a cousin and has come back each year with more of his relatives. This year, he brought along 13 men.

“I just had a feeling of the Spirit, I guess, to bring more people in here,” Frey said. “I learned so much about my faith—like praying the rosary on a daily basis, the power of confession, the power of the Eucharist. Hearing it from men made such a difference in my life.”

In addition to the speakers, the conference also featured opportunities for confession, eucharistic adoration and Benediction as well as celebration of the Mass.

Catholic author and commentator George Weigel spoke after lunch about the important role that Catholic men can play in society in the United States, which is becoming increasingly secularized.

He pointed as evidence of this to the HHS mandate, announced in January, that forces abortifacients, sterilizations and contraceptives to be paid for by nearly all religious employers and other business owners opposed in conscience to these medicines and procedures.

“Over these past 10 months, I’ve had occasion to think seriously about the wonderful saying of Pope Pius XI,” Weigel said, “which that great pope articulated when the shadows of a harder totalitarianism were lengthening across Europe in the 1930s.

“Pope Pius XI said, ‘Let us thank God that he makes us live among the present problems. It is no longer permitted to anyone to be mediocre.’ ”

Weigel then exhorted his listeners to go forth from the conference to take up the defense of religious freedom and to see this task as a gift.

“It is a gift to defend religious freedom in full, which includes the right of religious institutions to conduct their educational and charitable activities according to their own religious and moral self-understanding,” Weigel said. “It includes the necessity of defending the conscience rights of religious believers, particularly employers, when an aggressive secularism tries to use state power to coerce those consciences.

“This is the freedom for which Christ has set us free. And may we be given in this grave hour in the history of our American democracy the grace, the wit, the wisdom, the humor and the guts to live that freedom nobly.” †

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