More than 700 men 'gird for battle' at the annual men's conference

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“You have come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What would you do without freedom? Will you fight?” asked Father James R. Searby, chaplain of George Mason University’s Catholic Campus Ministry in Fairfax, quoting Sir William Wallace from the movie “Braveheart.”

Father Searby tried to rally 700 men with battle cries from movies such as "Lord of the Rings," "Henry V" and "Animal House" in the opening talk at this year’s Men’s Conference, “Girding for Battle,” sponsored by the Office for Family Life at St. Joseph Parish Hall in Herndon March 5. Authors Ralph Martin and Scott Hahn, the other keynote speakers, heralded the message of putting on “spiritual armor.” 

"In many ways the New Evangelization depends on us - men of God." Scott Hahn, best-selling author and professor at Franciscan University in Steubenville

“I want to become a better man,” said Jordan Callaway, a parishioner of St. John the Beloved Church in McLean. Callaway and his friend Ethan Gross, a parishioner of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington, were drawn by the conference’s poster that depicted a dark cathedral and bold text spelling the t’s in “Girding for Battle” with swords.

“We chose the title, ‘Girding for Battle,’ because there is a need for a clairon call to all men, both married and single, to accept their role as defenders, and to seek truth in the face of a society that has been washed in relativism,” said Brendan Gotta, Young Adult Ministry coordinator.

The talks addressed the transition of secular culture in America from its Christian roots, and encouraged men to live out their discipleship to Christ as soldiers in the trenches.

In his homily, Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge thanked the attendees for giving up their Saturday to be present. 

“I love the theme of your conference,” said the bishop. “There is a battle to be fought.”

CONNOR BERGERON  |  CATHOLIC HERALD

Father James R. Searby (left), chaplain of George Mason University's Catholic Campus Ministry in Fairfax, speaks during a panel discussion with authors Scott Hahn (center) and Ralph Martin at the 2017 Men's Conference at St. Joseph Parish Hall in Herndon March 4. CONNOR BERGERON | CATHOLIC HERALD

The bishop listed attacks on human life at all stages, irreverence for the sanctity of marriage and the rejection of Christian values as examples of darkness. 

“Indeed there is darkness, but you see we do not despair,” he said. “Where do we find the power … to gird for battle? We rejoice in knowing the truth.”

Bishop Burbidge said battles cannot be won alone, but in fellowship — such as attending the Men’s Conference — battles are victorious.  

“There’s a fear in each one of us — that I may not live up to the fight, that they may find out I’m inadequate,” said Father Searby.

He said fear can even enter our prayer lives and create a “false” prayer. Instead of accepting the love of God, he said, men can fall into the temptation of praying to God by listing their achievements hoping to earn his love.
“We don’t have to win it, it’s given,” he said. 

Martin, a visiting professor at Franciscan University and president of Renewal Ministries, an organization dedicated to Catholic evangelization, was the second speaker at the conference. He gave an analogy of Bedouins preparing for a sandstorm to show how to dismiss sin. He said Bedouins assemble a tent before an approaching sandstorm, while their camels sit outside. Often, the camel will stick its head into the tent and consume the tent, leaving the Bedouins outside in the sandstorm.

“At the first sign of the camel’s nose — kick it,” he said. “The very first moment of temptation label it. The more we delay it, the harder it is to stop.”

 CONNOR BERGERON  |  CATHOLIC HERALD

Father James R. Searby (left), chaplain of George Mason University's Catholic Campus Ministry in Fairfax, speaks during a panel discussion with authors Scott Hahn (center) and Ralph Martin at the 2017 Men's Conference at St. Joseph Parish Hall in Herndon March 4. CONNOR BERGERON | CATHOLIC HERALD

“We have many lessons to learn from the old evangelization,” said Hahn. 

Hahn, a Catholic convert, professor at Franciscan University in Steubenville and best-selling author, connected the responsibility of fatherhood to the New Evangelization. He cited a statistic from Focus on the Family Publishing to articulate the importance fathers play in the development of faith formation in families.

“If a child is the first person in a household to become a Christian, there is a 3.5 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow,” he said. “If a mother is the first to become a Christian, there is a 17 percent probability everyone else in the household will flow. But if the father is the first, there is a 93 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow.”

“In many ways the New Evangelization depends on us — men of God,” he said. 

Hahn said fathers need to know God as Father and pray the Lord’s Prayer to understand the “sonship of God.”

Rick Lauber, a parishioner of St. Joseph Church, brought his sons Dylan and Lucas to the conference. 

“I thought it’d be good to invite the future patriarchs,” he said.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017

@cbergeronACH