6 PARTICIPANTS FROM COROWA
St Mary’s had six parishioners attending the 2nd Wagga Men’s Conference. All found the day interesting, enjoyable, and a source of strength for their faith. In today’s common parlance, it was a case of ‘the medium is the message’. I.e. the process of the day was its own strength, touching the lives of the 250 men who came from all parts of the diocese.
The day commenced with Reconciliation (Confession) for any who wished and quite a number took advantage of the availability of the 6 priests celebrating the sacrament.
However, for St Mary’s attendees having arrived at 9.30am, the celebration of Solemn Mass with the Bishop, Most Rev. Gerard Hanna DD, was the starting point.
There is something that strikes deep within the soul to hear – and to join in – such a good number of men in full voice singing the Hymns of the Mass and answering the responses.
UPLIFTING, INSPIRING AND ENCOURAGING
During these moments, it is not difficult to believe in the presence of the Holy Spirit hovering over the assembly encouraging, strengthening and inspiring our hearts. After all, we are simply doing exactly what Jesus asked us to do – gathering in His name – and when we do so He has promised to be right there with us filling us with His Spirit.
So, when 250 men who are committed in faith, express themselves through worship, discussion, attendance at lectures and shared fellowship over lunch – a clear affirmation of faith is warmly felt.
We are grateful to Bishop Hanna and his committee, for the smooth organisation of the day and to Mr Raymond De Souza for his insights into present challenges men face living their faith.
THE DE SOUZA TALKS
The focus of Mr de Souza’s first talk was “The De-Christianisation of the World”. He began by underlining the current thinking popular in the media and elsewhere in society – THE DOGMA OF RELATIVISM.
GOD IS DISPLACED
He observed how there is presently a “dictatorship and tyranny of relativism”. Put simply, it means we are forbidden to assert that there is God’s Law (the 10 Commandments), or that there is a Natural Law built into the fabric of society – that a family must needs be constituted as a man and a woman, married, and their children well supported and cared for. America’s Puritan Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves at this turn of events in the USA!
ECONOMY WITHOUT GOD
He spoke of attitudes underlying world economies: the bottom line is to have an “economy without God”. It means that the ‘mighty dollar’ is Number 1 for everyone, and so it must be duly worshipped.
POLITICS WITHOUT GOD
He spoke of how in the USA, where God is no longer considered central to political life – in a country where the individual wears his religious affiliation clearly on his sleeve – the political establishment has no will to repeal the 1973 Roe Vs. Wade legislation legalizing abortion. Politics without God means life is no longer sacred.
LAWS WITHOUT GOD
Where God and God’s law are no longer welcome, clearly the sexual revolution has no bounds. The contraceptive manner of thinking has infected the younger generation. In the USA, 97% of all unwanted pregnancies are the result of failed attempts at contraception. That has meant that those 97% have often turned to abortion to end the life in the womb.
The biblical teaching against homosexuality is now deemed irrelevant, therefore it is a ‘natural’ progression to insist there be equal rights for homosexual unions and male-female marriages.
In today’s world there is no place for ‘lukewarm’ Christians. St Gregory the Great pointed out that the most difficult person to convert is the lukewarm Christian or Catholic. Here de Souza reminded us of the text from the Book of Revelation where St John is told to send a message to the church at Laodicea: “Because you are neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you forth from my mouth” (Rev 3.16).
GOD’S EXPECTATIONS OF CHRISTIANS
Today, de Souza claimed, God has high expectations on us Christians: “Today God expects much more than the minimum. We are called to heroism.” He went on: “the more we know (about God and God’s Word), the more we will love (God and our neighbour), and the more we love then the more we will serve.” The speaker made it clear that this must lead to ACTION on the part of Christian and Catholic men.
NEW CATHOLIC ACTION
He said: “God does not expect us to be successful; God expects us to be FAITHFUL.” He also argued that this is leading to a new movement in the USA of a movement now called “New Catholic Action”. He said it is based on the premise: Prayer leads us to Study; Study leads us to Action.
MR DE SOUZA’S 2ND TALK
“MEEKNESS” OF JESUS
Surprisingly, the second talk began with de Souza focussing on Jesus’ meekness. He quoted the words of Jesus: “Learn from me for I am meek and gentle of heart” (Mt 11.29).
Contrary to the common currency regarding ‘meekness’ – that it is a form of timidity, he went on to explain that Jesus’ meekness was different: It meant that Jesus recognized absolutely the limits that God placed on him in his humanity; it meant Jesus’ perfect acceptance of all his human limitations – in the face of his nevertheless being the All-powerful Son of God. Here indeed was food for thought!
JESUS THE LION AND THE LAMB
De Souza said – in total conformity with biblical teaching – that Jesus is both the Lion and the Lamb.
Next, he argued – and here he referred back to the morning’s first lecture – that “Minimalism, mediocrity and a shallow piety result in RELATIVISM.” Where faith is not dynamic, powerful, energetic and practical the result is an acceptance of relativism: Who am I to say what is right or wrong?
The Christian and Catholic man has God’s Word, Divine Revelation, the Bible, and God’s Word is definitive. The Christian will speak it, will stand by it, and will defend it in the market place whatever the cost. This demands Christian heroism.
Adam failed to protect his wife, Eve. He did not show her clearly the boundaries – the limitations – of their state in paradise.
It is the task of the husband and father to be THE RESPONSIBLE ONE. It is his job to protect both his wife and his family. It is his job to teach his children.
Where Jesus saved his bride, the Church, Adam failed his bride.
ARMOUR OF GOD
The man of faith however, must be prepared for battle, because that is our life-scenario. What is at stake is precious – our wives our children who are, like us, constantly under attack. We need all the armoury spoken of by St Paul. He was referring to the Letter to the Ephesians – where Paul writes:
“…You must rely on God’s armour, or you will not be able to put up any resistance when the worst happens, or have enough resources to hold your ground. So stand your ground, with truth buckled round your waist, and integrity for a breastplate, wearing for shoes on your feet the eagerness to spread the gospel of peace and always carrying the shield of faith so that you can use it to put out the burning arrows of the evil one. And then you must accept salvation from God to be your helmet and receive the word of God from the Spirit to use as a sword” (Eph 6.13-17).
KING PROPHET PRIEST
Finally, Mr de Souza emphasized that within the family the husband and father whose model is Christ, must consider the reality that he embodies for his family. For the Church, Jesus is King, Prophet and Priest. The man whose life is modelled on the ‘meekness’ and gentleness of Christ has no less goal – to be King, Prophet and Priest within his family.
It is a big ‘call’, but God has placed it squarely before our eyes. Catholic men, like Christ, are called to lay down their lives for their families and for the good of the Church and society.
After discussions and questions to and from Mr de Souza, Bishop Hanna offered an insightful reflection on VISIBLE FAITH.
He began by saying that too often we have a very abstract concept of ‘faith’. We think it cannot be seen; that it is just something that we can keep within our hearts and put into practice when it is needed. However, he said, consider Jesus.
Quite often the Gospel writers use the phrase: “Seeing their faith…” and then it is followed by a miracle performed by Jesus.
FAITH OF 4 YOUNG MEN
The bishop then went on to focus on the story of the four friends of the young paralytic. Here were four young men who were carting their friend around the village or the town. They had heard about Jesus and his miracles. Perhaps some of them had witnessed Jesus perform a miracle. So they had a belief in Jesus – a ‘faith’ in Jesus. They convinced the sick friend to ‘Give Jesus a go’.
It then took an act of faith on the part of the sick man to allow them to carry him around, and especially it required quite a strong act of faith in them because they were going to lower him down on ropes through the roof from high above where Jesus was teaching. That took faith!
When Jesus saw what was happening He ‘saw‘ their faith. He ‘saw’ their faith and faith was the sign that Jesus always looked for when he wished to use his healing power. Their actions clearly showed their faith. The five young men were now showing their faith and Jesus saw it.
As Catholic men, do our actions ‘show our faith’? We are being watched by our family, by our neighbours and friends; they know we are Catholics. Do we ‘show’ our faith in Jesus clearly enough for them to see it and to be inspired to act; so that, like the sick young paralytic, they will be willing to follow us and believe in Jesus?
When Catholic men give such ‘faith-filled witness’ then the world will follow Jesus. In all of this we need to recall Pope Francis quoting his patron St Francis of Assisi: “At all times preach the Gospel and, when necessary, use words.”
The message is clear: actions always speak louder than words.
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Further photos from the Men’s Conference
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It was a great day and well concluded.