They came in droves from all over the diocese to get re-energized and empowered to live and share the Gospel message.
Nearly 1,500 men packed into Founders Hall at Xavier College Preparatory March 21 for the annual Catholic Men’s Conference. An array of powerful speakers challenged and inspired the men to embrace their faith and live it boldly.
Former advertising executive Tom Peterson, president and founder of Catholics Come Home, bluntly stated the case for speaking out on the faith. Atheists, he said, have no qualms about spreading their message and are supporting paid advertising to do it.
“There’s no room for lukewarm — you have to take a stand,” Peterson said. “We’re in a battle against principalities and powers. You’re either serving God or your serving the evil one. There’s no in-between.”
Peterson shared practical ways the men could witness to Christ in their everyday lives. For starters, when people ask them how they are doing, they could respond with “I am blessed.”
He also challenged them to offer to pray for people on the spot when they speak of their difficulties. It’s easy to say you’ll pray, Peterson noted, “but we often forget to do so.”
The best way to evangelize, he said, is through love because “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Dr. Peter Kreeft, a professor of philosophy at Boston College and The King’s College who has written 75 books, spoke to the men about the true nature of freedom and different kinds of freedom.
Many people, he said, confuse the higher, internal freedoms of our soul and mind with the lower, external or physical freedoms. Free will, Kreeft said, is what makes us human and can never be taken from us.
“Christ gives you true freedom and freedom from sin and the supreme victory over whatever is not you,” Kreeft said. “Goods come to us in a hierarchy and whenever you prefer a lesser good to a higher good it never works — you miss the first thing and spoil the second. You become addicted.”
That’s one of the secrets of Alcoholics Anonymous, an organization that has helped millions escape the shackles of addiction, Kreeft said. AA holds that only a higher power can free someone from addiction.
There’s nothing worse than a slavery that you place yourself into, Kreeft said. “Those internal freedoms are much more important… Freedom is not a problem — it’s the solution to a problem and the means by which we choose the highest freedom.”
Kreeft focused some of his remarks on the realities of spiritual warfare.
“Who are our enemies? The Bible tells us. Not the ACLU, not Protestants, not atheists and not Planned Parenthood. They are devils, demons and evil spirits. If they don’t exist, then Jesus is a fool because He met them and conquered them.”
Participants at the conference also heard from Fr. John Parks as well as Valley businessman Ric Serrano. Confession and adoration were available throughout the day and a host of apostolates manned information tables in the courtyard adjoining the packed hall.
Dave Tucker, who stood at the St. Paul’s Street Evangelization table, said he was inspired by the speakers at the conference, especially when they spoke about sharing the faith.
“We’ve got to get out of our comfort zone and start taking back ground in the culture again,” Tucker said. “We can do it with courage — the Holy Spirit flows through us. We have the same Holy Spirit that the Apostles had.”
Bill Marcotte, pastoral associate at St. Andrew Parish in Chandler, said he was similarly inspired by Kreeft’s presentation and that freedom is a key topic for men.
“Our culture tells us what freedom isn’t,” Marcotte said. “I think we need to understand what true freedom is and the different types of freedom. True freedom frees men to be who God has created them to be.”
More conference photos
From Catholic Men’s Fellowship of Phoenix on Twitter
From Arizona Knights of Columbus on Facebook