SOUTH BEND — “Duc in Altum” may not be the most popular Latin phrase in today’s culture. However, that expression, which means “put out into the deep,” was the message of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades at Saturday’s Rekindle the Fire Diocesan Men’s Conference at Century Center.
Over 1,100 men from a variety of states, but primarily the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, attended a Mass celebrated by Bishop Rhoades to conclude the day’s activities.
The New Evangelization was a constant theme from the day’s speakers, echoed in Bishop Rhoades’ homily.
“I wish to encourage you this evening, first and foremost, to be men of prayer, to set your gaze firmly on the face of the Lord Jesus,” exhorted the bishop. “We are called to help others to see the true face of God in Jesus Christ — isn’t that what evangelization is all about? But first we need to gaze on that face.”
Bishop Rhoades continued his encouragement, saying “Catholic men who pray, who enter into the knowledge of Jesus and friendship with Him, who witness to Him in the family, in the workplace, in the parish and in the world: what a tremendous force for the New Evangelization!”
Best-selling author Matthew Kelly was one of the keynote speakers, challenging his audience to be “game changers” in 2013 by doing something transformational.
“Jesus was a radical,” noted Kelly. “His teachings were radical 2,000 years ago and they are radical today. God wants to turn your life upside-down, which turns out to be right-side up.”
Kelly encouraged the men to choose one of three options:
• Read the Gospel 15 minutes a day over and over for a whole year
• Go to Confession once a month for a year
• Use a Mass journal to find one way in the Mass you can be a better person each week for a year
In his second session, Kelly encouraged the men to be “dynamic Catholics,” saying research has found dynamic Catholics are people who pray, study the faith, practice generosity and evangelize. Unfortunately, that only comprises 7 percent of American Catholics. While Kelly notes most Catholics haven’t been taught to do many of these — if any — they aren’t beyond anyone’s reach.
“What would happen to your parish if each person there prayed 10 minutes a day, read five pages of a good Catholic book each day, gave 1 percent more in the offertory and did one thing to evangelize each week?” asked Kelly. “It’s doable.”
Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers riveted the crowd with his entertaining and energetic address. The University of Notre Dame alumnus challenged men to become more active as the spiritual heads of their households.
“When the serpent was tricking Eve, Adam just stood there and did nothing,” chided Burke-Sivers. “Our job is to be the chief servants of our wives and children. Give an example of Christ in the way you treat you wife and children.”
He also cited statistics that reveal twice as many young adults continue to practice the faith when their father attends Mass with them while they are young.
Deacon Burke-Sivers gripped a rosary made of bullets and shells that he was given by a member of special forces in Afghanistan. As he clutched it, the deacon warned that Satan is still working in the world today, and still trying to break up families.
“Use the rosary as a weapon against Satan,” he roared. “We have to make ourselves harder targets. The two best weapons we have are the rosary and adoration. If you’re struggling with issues, that’s okay. Growth comes through struggling. To win the struggle, we must be men of prayer.”
Franciscan Father David Mary Engo also addressed the crowd, noting these are challenging times for Catholic men.
“We need to stand in the face of great opportunity and believe in what the Church teaches in how we live our lives every day,” remarked Father Engo. “The New Evangelization has to begin with us allowing the faith to take hold of our lives.”
Father Engo advised the men they could do this by understanding Christ’s love for them and developing a love for everyone, praying for people encountered throughout the day and listening for openings to speak the faith.
The message was hammered home once more in the closing words of Bishop Rhoades’ homily.
“If the New Evangelization is going to bear fruit, it must be rooted in Christ, our relationship with Him and our faithful witness to Him,” remarked Bishop Rhoades. “So my brothers, let us all heed the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel: ‘Put out into the deep’ and ‘Do not be afraid.’”
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