Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Conference Calls Men to Die to Self as Disciples of Jesus

The image of the Crucified Christ was the focus of the Diocese’s annual Men’s Conference – the large crucifix on the front wall of the main conference hall offering a stark visual as the day’s presenters spoke of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

“This is how Jesus saves us,” keynote speaker John Leonetti said, directing the more than 200 men in attendance to fix their gaze upon Christ on the cross.

“He tells us, ‘If you want to come after me, if you want to be my disciple, you now will take up your own cross daily and follow me. You will die to yourself. You too will give your life away.’”

Leonetti, a nationally known speaker, best-selling author and radio host, said the deepest longing for happiness is fulfilled in an encounter with Christ, and we must die to self to become a disciple.

“Ego, greed, selfishness – all of it has to die,” he said.

“Being an alter Christus, another Christ, is a calling for each and every one us as men. It’s what real men do,” Leonetti said in his keynote presentation, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Holiness.”

“Being a man means going there [on the cross] for your wife, your kids, for each other, for your parish, for your community. It means dying to yourself. That’s why Satan hates it so much, because what we see on the cross is the very school of humility, the school of love,” he said.

When we die with Christ, we rise with Him and become saints with Him in heaven, Leonetti said.

“There is no other meaning, reason or purpose to your or my life than to get to heaven,” he emphasized. “Sooner or later, we are going to die… If what we believe is true, your soul will either be in heaven or hell for all eternity.”

“There is no other meaning, reason or purpose in your life than to become a saint, to be in heaven with God for all eternity. I want that to be your mission statement when you walk out of this building today. Live that and communicate that every day,” he told the men.

“We have a decision to make every single day of our lives. Will your death on the cross be your life? Will it be what you live at work, on the golf course, on vacation? That kind of life doesn’t take any time off,” Leonetti said. “The crucified Lord, love Himself, doesn’t take any time off. It has to permeate every single fiber of our being, every millisecond of our day. We must be consumed with love, death to self, wanting what is best for the other.”

Joseph as Model

Carrying the theme “St. Joseph: The Carpenter’s Table,” the Men’s Conference on Saturday, April 20 upheld Jesus’ earthy father as an example for accepting God’s plan for our lives.

The daylong conference began with an hour of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the powerful witness of a sea of men in silent prayer before the Lord in the Eucharist.

Breakout sessions examined ways of cultivating a relationship with Christ, with St. Joseph as a model.

Leonetti, in a session titled “Back to the Basics,” posed the question, “If someone were to ask you why you’re Catholic, how would you respond?”

Through prayer, the Sacraments, and the help of the Blessed Mother and the saints, we can get back to the basics of the faith, Leonetti said, and respond to the question with a sure answer, “I’m Catholic because I believe it is in and through the Catholic Church that I have the best chance of getting to heaven with God.”

Deacon Armando Torres, Director of the Diocesan Office for Culture, Identity and Outreach, gave a breakout presentation on “Joseph, Chaste Husband of Mary: A Model for Our Lives.”

Joseph was led by the Holy Spirit to be the protector of the Holy Family, and he accepted God’s plan, despite the challenges that came with it. In doing so, St. Joseph is a perfect example of how to respond faithfully to God, Deacon Torres said.

“Have you had moments where you felt called to do something, or to fill a role?” he asked the men in his breakout presentation. “When we’re asked to do something, we might not think it is the Lord speaking to us, but we do hear calls – from our parish, from our wife, from our kids. We are called to respond as Joseph did, to lead our families. God prepares us to live faithfully so we can lead those He has entrusted to us.”

A third breakout session, “St. Joseph and Stoicism,” presented by Father Joshua Cavender, pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Selinsgrove, examined emotions, how stoicism can regulate emotions and logic, and the example of St. Joseph as a guide.

“Joseph learned who he is through his relationship with God,” Father Cavender said. “God knows us and loves us infinitely more than we know and love ourselves. Joseph’s trust in God was greater than the uncertainly of life around him.”

“To be in a deep relationship with God is, by definition, the most pleasing reality. Once we perceive Who God is, aren’t we going to start to orient all of our emotions, our desires, our goals, our happiness to the God that is the most pleasing to us? St. Joseph gives us the model of how to do that – that we trust God more than we trust ourselves, put that trust into action.”

Transformed by the Eucharist

Following lunch, visits with numerous Catholic vendors and ministry representatives, and the opportunity for Confession, Bishop Timothy Senior served as the principal celebrant and homilist during Mass to conclude the day.

Looking at the crowd of more than 200 men, the bishop said their attendance at the conference “is a sign of the strength of the faith in the Diocese.”

“We know that the Lord is working in our lives, still working in us, bringing us along to where we can be in complete communion with Him,” the bishop said. “We pause today to call to mind how we’re doing in that journey and making progress in the faith, allowing the Lord to really take us over. One important dimension in that process is the celebration of the Sacraments – the Eucharist in particular.”

When we receive the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord, “we are called to allow that to consume us literally, to become what we consume, that Jesus becomes ever more a part of our lives as we journey along the way,” he said.

“Jesus’ enduring mercy and unconditional love is always there and we can always turn back to Him and receive His forgiveness, no matter what. He still extends His hand in mercy and love…and allows his Body and Blood to transform us.”

“This is what we’re all called to do, each in our way – allow the Lord to be so visible in us that we become what we consume. It will be different for each one of us to make that sacrifice of ourselves, but it’s something we renew each day, for our families, for our communities, for one another,” he said.

(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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