By Tim Johnson and Christopher Lushis
For more photos from the event visit the photo gallery.
FORT WAYNE — Over 1,200 men from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and beyond were encouraged to leave the Rekindle the Fire Fourth Annual Diocesan Men’s Conference with an action plan to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. The conference, held Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne included dynamic speakers who encouraged the men to be men of prayer, spiritual leaders — heroes — and to be ambitious in spiritual pursuits.
Father Andrew Budzinski, the parochial vicar of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne, served as the master of ceremonies for the daylong conference. He told the conference attendees to spend the day in prayer and discernment and to focus on one concrete way they will encounter Jesus the following year.
Msgr. Michael Heintz, rector of St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend, opened the conference’s first morning session. Msgr. Heintz used the teaching of theologian Alexander Schmemann and spoke about the distinguishing feature of who we are as a race — which Schmemann called “homo adoros” — “we can worship, we can praise and glorify God, that we can give our very selves back to God in prayer. That’s what makes us unique. That is most fully who we are.”
“You and I are fully who we are when we are engaged in the praise and worship of Almighty God,” Msgr. Heintz noted.
Sometimes there are things that deter that full commitment.
“The Eucharist should format our lives,” Msgr. Heintz said. No other work, apostolate, ministry, activity, charity work in the Church is as effective as the Eucharist, he added.
“Prayer is not an activity that we manage like a stock portfolio or an exercise regimen,” Msgr. Heintz said. Those things do not have a living relationship, he noted. “But with prayer we are talking about a living relationship with God.”
And prayer affects everything about our day, he said.
He encouraged the men to recognize their daily rhythm of life, realize what that rhythm looks like and then develop good habits of prayer life within that rhythm.
Morning commutes can be a good time to pray the rosary or listen to Scripture. Or perhaps the morning shower is that time.
He encouraged the men to set a space in their home — for example a chair that is away from distractions — to be a space for prayer.
He told the men to pray even in those moments when they are not feeling it.
He suggested praying the Our Father three times a day — morning, evening and one other time. It sanctifies the day “by stopping and realizing, ‘it’s not all about me,’ I’m going to give this to the Lord.”
Prayer involves communication, but it also involves communion — being with God.
Msgr. Heintz suggested the men consider daily Mass, praying the prayers of the Mass and reading the Scriptures of the day. He encouraged the men to route their prayer life with the Church’s liturgical season and calendar.
For beginners, he said “start small, be faithful and let God do the rest.”
Speaker Jon Leonetti, an international Catholic speaker, author and radio host, also encouraged the men to make prayer a part of their lives. He encouraged the men to pray with their wives and pray with their children.
He said when a man prays with his wife, it is the most intimate thing he will ever do. “We are no longer just encountering God by ourselves, but are encountering the living God together in prayer,” Leonetti said.
Leonetti also told the men to make use of the sacraments and to make the Blessed Mother a part of their lives.
Speaker Hector Molina, an apologist on the staff of Catholic Answers, related the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
He spoke of the four “R’s” of the Lazarus story: Remove, Respond, Release and Reveal.
Jesus told the men to “remove” the stone at Lazarus’ tomb. Morlina asked the men what stones in their lives inhibits them from following Jesus. The sacrament of Reconciliation, he said, removes the stones. It is a sacrament of mercy that must be rediscovered for the world to be made whole again.
Morlina spoke about “respond.” Lazarus responded to Jesus to come out of the tomb. The men were encouraged to know God and be obedient to His Word.
He spoke of Lazarus being “released.” Morlina encouraged the men to find models of holiness in their lives and find spiritual mentors.
The fourth word, “reveal,” brought many followers to Jesus after witnessing God’s glory in raising Lazarus from the dead. Men were encouraged to reveal God’s power in their lives.
The final talk of the event was given by Doug Barry, the founder of RADIX ministries, the Battle Ready apostolate, and frequent guest on EWTN. He powerfully called to action the men present at the conference to be active in faith, to grow stronger in spirituality, and to set the example for how the family must pray together, fight against the attacks of the devil and lead one another to heaven.
Barry stressed that this can only be accomplished if we “are aware, become prepared and engage in this spiritual battle.”
He stressed “it is imperative to understand that the devil seeks to destroy our families and our relationship with God.”
Barry said the men must have a solid base, and be “forged into weapons for God to use in the spiritual fight.”
Thinking with the mind of the Church, he emphasized the necessity of prayer that is rooted in Scripture, frequent reception of the sacraments and fasting. Drawing upon the lives of the saints, he advocated that each person strive to control his passions and direct them to glorify God.
Above all, Barry directed the men to have lives centered in Christ that seek to transform families and society. “Jesus is expecting from us miracles,” he said.
The closing Mass was celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, who began with a challenge to encourage growth and holiness.
“Perhaps you came to this conference with the hope of leaving here a better person, a better Catholic,” Bishop Rhoades said. “That’s good. But I hope you leave here with the desire to be a saint, to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
He stressed, “the purpose of the Christian life is to live in Christ; to be holy.”
Bishop Rhoades highlighted the importance of striving for goals that will lead us to this greater holiness.
“We need to have a practical plan to achieve the goal of sanctity,” he said. His three directives were to: “be men of prayer; make the “secular” sacred; and be evangelists.”
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