Men urged to read the Bible, make time for prayer

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The annual Men's Conference, sponsored by the diocesan Office for Family Life, was scheduled to begin March 7 at 9 a.m. at Foxchase Manor in Manassas. If you got there 45 minutes before it started, you would have found a full parking lot with the nearest place to park more than a mile away. A combination of snow piles in the parking lot and more than 1,000 attendees were the culprits.

The conference theme, "Victory Over the Common Enemy," attracted men from the diocese eager to hear speakers like Fathers Larry Richards and Marc B. Drouin talk about ways to conquer sin and evil.

Father Richards is an author and EWTN radio host whose frenetic presentation style makes him a popular speaker.

He started off the morning with a request for the men still outside the ballroom.

"Get your butts in here," he yelled.

They did. He also warned them that some may be offended by what he said. Some may have been.

"Show me your Bibles,'" he asked the men.

Some men did bring Bibles, and they raised them in the air. Father Richards said that if you are going to fight evil you need a weapon, and that weapon is the Bible.

He said that God is speaking to you; you just have to listen. Start with the Bible.

"Start reading until God hits you with a 'two-by-four,'" said Father Richards. "You get your marching orders from God almighty."

He then asked the men why they came to the conference. Some men answered, "To grow."

"If you don't grow, you're dying," said Father Richards.

The way to grow, he said, was to own your own Bible, and to read it every day. You also need to pray. But you can't just go through the motions of prayer. For Father Richards, the best prayer is the Our Father. The Our Father is recited daily by millions every day, but many don't really know what they are reciting. "Thy will be done" is key, he said. Most people do their will, not God's.

He said that some people complain they do not have enough time to pray. But we all have the same amount of time.

"You need to build your day around prayer," said Father Richards.

Prayer should become part of your life from this day forward. Men need to commit time with the Father every day.

But love is also important, he added. You need to love your family and yourself.

"If you lay down your life for others," he said, "that's love."

Father Richards concluded his presentation by telling the men to "commit yourself to prayer every day, and tell the people you love that you love them."

After Father Richards spoke, Father Marc Drouin took to the podium. Father Drouin is pastor of St. André Bessette Parish in Laconia, N.H., and is Manchester Diocese Bishop Peter A. Libasci's liaison for healing and deliverance ministries. He spoke about the devil's real presence in our lives.

"We see the presence of evil day in and day out," he told the men. "The devil is real."

Father Drouin said that the devil is not some fictional character as many people believe.

He told his own story of being sexually abused as a child. The stigma of that abuse followed him through his life and into the priesthood. In 2004, he read Neal Lozano's book, Unbound - A Practical Guide to Deliverance.

"This is what I needed," he said. "My entire life was changed."

The book freed him from years of shame and embarrassment. Most of us are wounded to some degree, he said, but we can find relief through God.

In his conclusion, Father Drouin reiterated Lozano's five keys to healing: repentance, forgiveness, renunciation in the name of Jesus, taking authority in the name of Jesus, and receiving the Father's blessing. A blessing is a powerful thing, said Father Drouin. Fathers should bless their children at night. Men should also bless their families at Thanksgiving.

The reactions of the attendees to the conference and the speakers were positive.

"This was great," said Andrew Knepper from St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal. "I read about Father Larry Richards and wanted to see him in person."

George Getek from Church of the Nativity in Burke said that Father Richards was very dynamic, and he took to heart Father Richards challenge "to give five minutes each day to Christ."

There were many fans of Father Richards, including Mike Turk from St. Raymond of Peñafort Church in Springfield.

"(Father Richards) was so dynamic, so 'in your face,'" said Turk.

The day of reflection and commitment ended with Mass celebrated by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde, sending men out to fight evil and to live a good Christian life.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015