|King Elendil and the Battle of the Alliance...|
Of course, in a world where masculinity is suffering under the weight of faithlessness, apathy and distraction, the increase role of women due, in part, to financial needs, no-fault divorce, women's liberation and single-mother parenting and the confusion of gender equality, where the meaning of manhood and womanhood is up for grabs, getting men to want to do "something" is becoming as elusive as finding the ring of power in Tolkien's fantastical Middle-earth.
But, the battle is never lost. The quest continues and many good men are stepping "into the breach," as the Archbishop of Phoenix Thomas Olmsted called it in his exhortation letter to Catholic men a few years ago.
Each year, the Archdiocese of Miami tries to do its part by bringing good men together, in hopes of inspiring them to do something.
For the past seven years, anywhere from 350-750 men have gathered at the Annual Men's Conference, usually held at St. Mark's Church in SW Ranches, to grow in faith, bond with other men who are trying to live their faith, participate in a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Thomas Wenski, pray, reflect and listen to nationally renowned speakers such as Dr. Scott Hahn, Tim Staples, Fr. Larry Richards, Jesse Romero, Matthew Leonard and, this year, Stephen Ray.
Ray, a former anti-Catholic Baptist, who converted to the Catholic faith along with his wife in 1994, after a long and arduous internal struggle, which cost them many of friends and family in the process, has since served as a Catholic Evangelist, author and Holy Land tour guide.
|Stephen Ray and me...|
He is a gifted and dynamic speaker, who I hear regularly on my favorite podcast to and from work, Catholic Answers Live and also knew from his best-selling book, Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church, which started as a letter to his father explaining his conversion. So, when I heard he was the guest speaker this year, I quickly signed up!
I attended the conference with two friends from my parish and, as I have done in the past, I took notes so I could share them with you. These are some quotes from Stephen Ray:
“If you can change men, you can change the world.”
"God has a weak heart for any of his children who gets down on their knees and asks for help.”
“All churches in early Christianity had an altar. Martin Luther got rid of the altar and replaced it with a podium.”
“There is no pope in Protestantism; no final word. When Martin Luther got rid of the pope, he created a billion others who became their own pope.”
“It’s a scandal to the world that Christianity is so divided.”
“Americans choose their churches and their morals like they choose their restaurants; how they feel that day.”
“In the Bible, first came the teachings of Christ, the Magisterium, then came Tradition, passed on by the Apostles, and then came the Bible.”
“I had my wife to myself and the kids came along and I didn’t have my wife to myself anymore.”
“The American society is attacking the family more than any other culture in history.”
“The Devil wants to destroy the family.”
“God is like a GPS; every time we screw up, all we have to do is turn to Him and He’ll tell us how to get back on the right path.”
“Purgatory is the front porch of heaven.”
“A father is a reflection of God. How kids see God is through their vision of their father.”
“The family is where you learn morals, relationships and resolving conflict.”
“You can tell something about the painter through his art. God is an artist.”
In reference to Ephesians 5, where it states for wives to be submissive to their husbands and husbands to “love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her,” Ray said, “Any husband who puts his wife’s needs over his own will never have to worry about his wife being submissive; she’s going to want to be submissive.”
“Good sex is the roadway to heaven. God made us sexual creatures. We help each other become holy. But it has to be on God’s terms not ours. ”
“The family should be a factory for making saints.”
“Men became passive because the culture continuously tells us that we’re idiots.”
“The most important thing that a father can do for his kids is to love their mother.”
“We’re living in a pagan world.”
“We’re like returning to the Garden of Eden where man wants to be his own God.”
“Pluralism and relativism are the modern version of pantheism and paganism.”
“Abortion is a modern sacrificial offering to pagan deities.”
“More Christians have been martyred in the last 100 years then in the 1900 years before.”
Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
“Christians are the ones that can show the world there’s a reason to live and a reason to die.”
“We need to teach our young people what it means to be Catholic.”
“Christianity is a manly sport; no more sissy comfortable Catholicism.”
“We can get the culture turning the other way, if we swim against the tide.”...
This final one reminds me of the GK Chesterton quote, that I have used in the past, "A dead thing can go with the stream, but only the living can go against it."
Therefor, it's time to call upon the hobbit, the elf and the dwarf, put aside complacency and find Frodo Baggins and the ring because, as St. Paul wrote, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm." (Eph 6: 12-13)...