FRANKLIN, Tenn. (CNS) — The Catholic Church needs men to fully commit to their faith, and men have all they need from God “to be a force” for the church, a former major league baseball player told a men’s conference in Franklin.
“Men, we’ve lost confidence,” said Darrell Miller, who is currently the director of the league’s Urban Youth Academy. “The lie of Satan … is that you can’t do it. … You are enough and you are exactly who you’re supposed to be. … God has given you everything you need to be a force for our church.
“You don’t have to do one thing but say, ‘Amen. I commit,'” said Miller, who was raised a Baptist and became a Catholic as an adult. He is the brother of former NBA star Reggie Miller and women’s basketball legend Cheryl Miller.
Darrell Miller was one of three speakers at the conference, joining Kevin Reilly, a former NFL player who faced a crisis in his life when cancer led to the amputation of his arm and shoulder, and Tim Staples, director of apologetics and evangelization at Catholic Answers, also a convert to Catholicism and a former seminarian.
“We’re under spiritual attack. If we don’t do something now as men in the church we’re going to lose our church,” Miller said. “They’re beheading Christians. They’re taking our very freedoms … because we stand for truth. When a lie takes away the power of truth, we need to act.”
“It’s about sacrifice,” Miller said. “That’s how we’re supposed to live our lives.”
He urged the men in the audience not to be lukewarm in their faith, but to embrace it fully. “It’s about commitment. It’s about every day pick up your cross,” Miller said, urging them to evangelize the “home front and then go out in the community.”
Staples was a member of a Pentecostal church, but in his last year in the U.S. Marine Corps, a fellow Marine challenged him to study Catholicism. Intent on proving Catholicism wrong, Staples spent two years studying the faith and ended up joining the church.
“God is looking for a few good men,” Staples told the crowd. “The ultimate liberator is Jesus Christ.”
Christ shows us what love is, Staples said, when praying in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest and crucifixion he says, “Not my will but yours be done.”
“Love is an endless outpouring without expecting anything in return,” Staples said. “This is what we are called to as men, to pour ourselves out without expecting anything in return.”
When Christ surrendered to the Father’s will, “grace exploded into his life and empowered him to do what he had to do,” Staples said. “He was perfected in his suffering.”
Reilly told the audience his own story of triumphing over adversity.
He grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, a star football, basketball and baseball player, rooting for his heroes on the major league sports teams in nearby Philadelphia.
He was drafted out of Villanova University, where he was a star linebacker, by the defending world champions the Miami Dolphins. Facing long odds of making the team, Reilly said, he considered quitting.
“My first adult decision was to have the fortitude to not leave on my own,” Reilly told the men gathered for the conference.
Near the end of training camp, the Dolphins traded Reilly to the Philadelphia Eagles, the team had grown up rooting for. He made the team and served for two years as the captain of the special teams. He ended his career with the New England Patriots.
But that is when he faced his biggest challenge. A rare cancer of scar tissue led to the amputation of his left arm and shoulder and the removal of several ribs.
After the operation, Reilly said, “I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, how do I go on from here.” … I was going to have a major league pity party.”
While he was still in the hospital, he was visited by a volunteer who had lost a limb during World War II. The volunteer talked to Reilly about how his life was about to change, that he would have to give up things such as jogging and golf, that everyday activities like tying a tie or his shoelaces might now be too difficult.
During the conversation, the volunteer called Reilly handicapped, which jolted him, he said. “I was not ready for that label.”
But Reilly was able to overcome the obstacles in his life through faith, family, friends and fortitude, he said.
“I didn’t know until I was in a crisis situation, the human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to you,” he told the crowd.
“God gave it to all of us. It’s the Holy Spirit,” he said. “Why do we wait until we’re in a crisis? We could be using it in our everyday lives to help people.”
“The Catholic Church is in crisis, but it’s not the first time it’s been in crisis,” Reilly said. “We came through because of you guys and your faithful service. … Think about what we stand for. Collectively, we’re a team that has to bring it back.”
Reilly also encouraged the men to embrace their faith. He tries to attend Mass several times during the week. Leaving Mass, “I feel like I have a spiritual steroid. I feel like I have Christ with us,” he said.
He urged the men at the conference to bring their faith to their community, standing up for their beliefs and reaching out to those in need.
“There’s no such thing as magic,” Reilly said, “but there are miracles, and because of Catholic men and women they happen every day.”
— By Andy Telli, Catholic News Service. Telli is managing editor of the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville.