March 19, 2021

‘How much has changed in one year’

E6 Catholic Men’s Conference in St. Leon continues despite coronavirus pandemic

Father Jonathan Meyer, pastor of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County, preaches a homily on Feb. 27 in the St. Joseph campus church of the Batesville Deanery faith community during the sixth annual E6 Catholic Men’s Conference. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Father Jonathan Meyer, pastor of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County, preaches a homily on Feb. 27 in the St. Joseph campus church of the Batesville Deanery faith community during the sixth annual E6 Catholic Men’s Conference. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

ST. LEON—A year ago, 1,500 men filled the auditorium of East Central High School in St. Leon for the fifth annual E6 Catholic Men’s Conference organized by All Saints Parish in Dearborn County.

It took place on Feb. 22, 2020, a matter of weeks before the coronavirus pandemic made such gatherings impossible.

With the pandemic still affecting the daily life of people around the world, the sixth annual conference was held last month on Feb. 27 on the St. Joseph campus of All Saints Parish with an in-person audience of 150.

Approximately 1,000 people viewed a livestream of the conference in 22 states and in the United Kingdom.

“E6” in the conference’s title refers to the sixth chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians in which the Apostle calls believers to take up “the armor of God” in the spiritual fight against the devil (Eph 6:11).

“How much has changed in one year,” said Father Jonathan Meyer, All Saints’ pastor, in his homily during a Mass that was part of the conference.

He then said to his listeners, “Raise your hands if you want things to get back to normal.”

Many in the congregation did.

Father Meyer paused and said, “I wish you hadn’t raised your hand.”

He doesn’t want the pandemic and the changes to social interaction it’s caused to continue, but he doesn’t want “things to get back to normal” in the life of the Catholic faithful.

What Father Meyer referred to was the normal state of affairs for many Catholics in the U.S. prior to the pandemic: low percentages of regular Mass attendance, and high percentages of Catholics who don’t believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and who disagree with the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of life, marriage and contraception.

“If you’re looking to get back to normal, normal is toxic,” Father Meyer said. “We should never want to get back to normal.”

The conference’s three speakers—Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, Jason Evert and Patrick Coffin—encouraged the attendees to go back to their homes, putting pre-COVID normal behind them and more fully embracing a daily life of faith.

The conference’s presentations, its Mass, the availability of the sacrament of penance throughout and its conclusion with adoration and Benediction were all means for attendees to embrace this new and different kind of normal.

‘Men, pick up your weapon and fight’

Catholic author Deacon Burke-Sivers of the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., challenged his listeners near the start of the conference’s first presentation to “go and tell somebody about Jesus” when they go back home.

“The problem is, we keep our faith to ourselves,” said Deacon Burke-Sivers. “We never talk about that encounter with Jesus Christ that changes us from the inside out, that helps us become the men who God created each one of us to be.”

One of the reasons he said men have difficulty sharing the Gospel is their passivity, something which he said also affects husbands and fathers living out their duty to “serve, protect and defend” their families.

Deacon Burke-Sivers traced this shortcoming back to Adam in the creation account in the Book of Genesis. When his wife Eve was tempted by the serpent to disobey God, Adam “stood there and said and did nothing. We have too many men who are standing by and doing nothing while Satan takes your family right out from under you.”

Scripture offers a better role model for husbands and fathers, Deacon Burke-Sivers noted.

“Adam failed. Joseph did not,” he said. “Joseph [like Adam] also says nothing in the Scriptures. His actions spoke louder than his words. He did everything faithfully that God asked him to do.”

Deacon Burke-Sivers also pointed to David in his fight against Goliath. Many Israelite soldiers were afraid of the giant Philistine warrior. They were comfortable in sitting on the sidelines avoiding conflict.

“Sometimes, men, when we get stuck, we get comfortable,” the deacon said. “God is telling us men that if we want to take anything in our lives to the next level, we’ve got to get uncomfortable—like Jesus on the cross.”

When David stepped forward to fight Goliath, he rejected the sword and armor offered to him, relying instead upon a simple slingshot, some stones—and the power of God.

“David understood that you could only defeat the Goliaths of life with the weapons of God,” he said. “And men, we Catholics, we have an arsenal.”

With that, Deacon Burke-Sivers picked up a rosary and showed it to his listeners.

“Men, pick up your weapon and fight,” he said.

‘Use your strength to serve’

Jason Evert, an internationally-known Catholic speaker on chastity and the Theology of the Body, reflected on the power of marriage and the threat to it posed by the devil.

“When [spouses] are united, their unity is so profoundly rooted in the image of God that the devil cannot bear it,” Evert said. “He isolates them from one another so that he may act.”

Pornography is a prime means of isolation and the demeaning of authentic masculinity for many men in society today, Evert said.

“Masculinity is the crucifix, the lover who empties himself for the beloved,” he said. “Porn flips it backward, where men learn to empty women for the sake of themselves.”

Pornography and lust also turn men away from the true use of the strength with which they were created, Evert said.

“What is the purpose of a man’s strength? Because of original sin, instead of serving and sacrificing, we dominate and manipulate,” he said. “But the purpose of the body is to serve. Use your strength to serve.”

Like Deacon Burke-Sivers, Evert pointed to St. Joseph as a role model for his listeners.

“We look to men like St. Joseph, who was authentically a servant,” he said. “In our vocations, we’re obviously called to the works of mercy. Most of you are married men. One of the beauties of married life is that works of mercy are demanded of you daily.”

‘If you want to know what a real man is, read the Gospels’

Patrick Coffin, known for his popular weekly podcast “The Patrick Coffin Show,” said perfectionism, pornography and passivity are three factors that keep men from authentic masculinity.

Perfectionism, he said, “is not the Christian ideal.” Any perfection people experience, Coffin noted, is what “God the Father imparts to us a gift.”

“The standard of the Gospel is not the ceiling. The standard of the Gospel is the sky—unlimited growth,” he said. “Unlimited potential that will become actual only in heaven. Here below, we have to get out of the idea that we have to be perfect.

“We have to ask for the grace to give up the perfection ideal that we have, because it’s a false god and we can never live up to it.”

The ultimate example of authentic masculinity, Coffin said, is seen in Jesus Christ.

“If you want to know what a real man is, read the Gospels,” he said, “and get to know [Christ], his emotional life, his yearnings, his loneliness, his desire for solitude, his work ethic, his patience [and] his humor … .”

‘Live your lives with tremendous peculiarity’

John Rennekamp, a member of St. Ambrose Parish in Seymour, attended last year’s E6 Conference in the packed auditorium at East Central High School.

He also attended this year’s conference and was glad its organizers didn’t let the pandemic keep them from offering it.

“It’s nice that they were able to overcome that challenge and still find a safe way to put this together to have this conference,” he said.

Rennekamp attended this year’s conference with his teenage sons.

“It’s important for them to continue growing in their relationship with Jesus,” he said. “These opportunities allow the Holy Spirit to work.”

His son Josh, 16, appreciated the example set for him by his father and other men at the conference.

“It’s been a cool experience to see all these older men learning more about their religious life and me learning about mine,” Josh said.

It’s this kind of experience that Father Meyer and the conference organizers hope will change the daily lives of attendees.

He spoke of this hope in his homily, referring to a verse from the first reading for the liturgy in which Moses told the Israelites that God had said they were “a people peculiarly his own” (Dt 26:18).

“How peculiar are you?” Father Meyer asked them. “Among your family and friends? How peculiar is your way of life among those who live in your area? Is your way of life different, or is it normal?

“ … Live your life with tremendous peculiarity. Live it differently. Make your decision today at this Mass, in the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, to refuse to be normal. Make the radical decision today to be a saint. Love your brothers, your sisters. Love your grandchildren. Let them know the Father’s love.

“If there’s any grace that comes from this conference, it needs to be that men are set on fire to live their lives differently from what the world sets before them. Through God’s grace, may it be so.”
 

(To purchase video or audio recordings of this year’s E6 Catholic Men’s Conference visit cutt.ly/xzYoEPD.)

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