Men encouraged to take active role in spiritual life
By David Myers
Fellowship, faith formation and being a stronger witness to God in daily living were the central themes of “Iron Sharpens Iron: Fourth Annual Catholic Men’s Conference,” held Feb. 20 at San José Parish in Austin. More than 500 men from throughout the diocese attended the all-day event, which was sponsored by the Central Texas Fellowship of Catholic Men.
The conference began with a Mass concelebrated by Bishop Joe Vásquez; Father Alberto Borruel, pastor of San José Parish; and Father John Ezratta of Miles Christi. In his homily, Bishop Vásquez told conference attendees, “We all need God’s mercy.
“Jesus spent a lot of time with tax collectors, with sinners,” Bishop Vásquez said. “He was criticized by the Pharisees for this. But the Father loves us unconditionally, as the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke’s Gospel shows us. As we strive in our lives for holiness, we should let God’s unconditional love permeate our relationships.
“Thank you for being who God calls you to be. You are not perfect men, but you are good men.”
Featured speakers for the conference included Tim Staples, a convert to the Catholic faith who serves as the director of Apologetics and Evangelization for Catholic Answers, and Trent Horn, an apologist and speaker for Catholic Answers. The conference emcee was Patrick Ryan, former Central Texas resident, who serves now as the executive director for Mater Dei Catholic Radio in Portland, Ore. Music for the event was provided by Jeremy Rodriguez, a Catholic musician from Lockhart who is lead singer of the band “Soundwave.”
During his morning talk, “God is Looking for a Few Good Men,” Tim Staples urged the men to step up in their role of making a difference in today’s culture.
“There is a lot of confusion in today’s culture,” Staples said. “One reason for this confusion is many Catholic fathers are leaving it up to mothers to raise kids on their own. Dads have to lead, not just moms. Men need to take an active role in raising the children, and they need to show their own spirituality.”
Being a follower of Christ means being called to die each day, Staples said.
“Are you willing to put yourselves out for your wives and children?” Staples asked. “In matrimony men and women are called in Christ to help get each other to heaven, and to bring as many children with them as they are able.”
Trent Horn focused on helping prepare the men at the conference to dialogue with people who are not Catholic, in particular, atheists.
“There are different arguments people use to try to negate the existence of God,” Horn said. “Some arguments are stronger than others. We can dialogue with these people in love. Often, there is an underlying reason for a person’s choice to not believe in God. Through dialoging with atheists and agnostics, we can find out what is causing the person to reject God and be witnesses to the truth.”
The conference also featured personal testimonies of faith by Father Francisco Rodriguez, associate pastor of St. William Parish in Round Rock, and by Jonathan Saenz of Texas Values, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving and advancing a culture of family values in the state of Texas.
José Mireles, a parishioner of St. John Parish in San Marcos, said a desire to open his ears and let the Lord say to him whatever he wanted to say was what led him to the conference.
“I was raised Catholic, but I was not active in my faith until about nine years ago,” Mireles said. “Since then I have gone to many retreats. I love going and being open to what the Lord may have for me.”
Curtis Miles, a parishioner of St. Albert the Great Parish in Austin, came thanks to an invitation by a devout Catholic friend. It was his second year to attend the Men’s Conference.
“It’s a great experience to come to these conferences,” Miles said. “It is a way to help strengthen your faith.”
Rupert Torres, a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Parish in Pflugerville, came at his wife’s suggestion.
“This is my first year to attend,” Torres said. “It is a way to put more into your faith, and to help you remain firm in it.”
The Central Texas Fellowship of Catholic Men will host the eighth annual Men’s Fellowship Mass July 23 at 10 a.m. at St. Mary Cathedral in Austin. Bishop Joe Vásquez will celebrate the Mass, and a reception will follow in the Bishop’s Hall. For more information about this ministry, visit www.centexcatholic.com.