By Terry Ball
I was truly blessed to have the opportunity to attend the third annual men’s Pure MENtality Conference: Prayer for Life held March 26 in Iowa City.
Father Michael Phillips, pastor of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Iowa City, was emcee and his wisdom, guidance and great love for our Lord were the guiding force for the conference.
He said he thought the men’s prayer conference was a work of the Holy Spirit. From the opening Mass to the closing prayer, the guys had the opportunity to experience the joy and happiness that comes from opening one’s life to God.
The speakers were excellent and inspired the men to appreciate their Catholic faith as perhaps they never have before. I believe the emphasis on the Eucharist, reconciliation and personal prayer before the real presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament made an impact on all who attended.
The keynote speaker was Father Francis Hoffman (aka “Father Rocky”) of Relevant Radio whose hard-hitting emphasis was on letting the Lord enter our lives. The one thing God wants from us is our love. And it is very important to believe in and trust Christ. One is able to get strength from the Eucharist. Receiving the Eucharist on a daily basis will change your life, Fr. Rocky promised. When he was director of a confirmation class he learned from the students the importance of challenging them to learn about their faith. We need to set high standards for people to meet. I agree with this thinking as I am a teacher. Knowing our faith pertains to head knowledge; evangelization is faith which comes from our hearts. We need to get people to know and own their faith from their hearts!
Another speaker was “Jimmy” James Becker, an Iowa native whose primary apostolate is outreach to varsity athletes at the University of Wisconsin. Becker said his biggest struggle in college was making some wrong choices even though he knew the right thing to do. St. Paul reflects on this in his letter to the Romans: “I do not understand my actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate … For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do…” (7:15,18-19).
At the University of Wisconsin, where he serves as a full-time Varsity Catholic missionary, Becker leads two Bible studies and works one-on-one with several students — challenging them to live out the faith they profess. Varsity Catholic challenges athletes to unite mind, body and soul, grow in faith, excel in virtue and learn to serve Jesus Christ and his Church.
Becker stressed the importance of the Beatitudes in spiritual growth, a willingness to transform oneself into the image of God, and to listen to God – whose presence is essential in the daily lives of all. Becker identified reasons men do not pray, including: they think they can be totally in control of all situations; they may not want to have more work to do; they do not want to spend time in prayer being upset. Becker advised the men to take time daily for prayer, receive the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist frequently and make an examination of conscience.
Also speaking at the conference was Father Rudolph Juarez, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City, adjunct judge on the Davenport Diocese’s Marriage Tribunal, and vicar for Spanish-speaking in the diocese.
He referred to Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Vatican documents, such as Humanae Vitae, in his talk.
Fr. Juarez thinks people need to better understand Catholic teaching on morality and to incorporate this teaching in their daily lives. They need to develop their spiritual lives by practicing the Catholic faith through attendance at Sunday Mass and by receiving the sacraments, especially of reconciliation and Communion.
Now, conference attendees like me must take all of these messages to heart and become more Christ-like to all we meet on our journey.
(Terry Ball is a member of St. Joseph Parish in Hills.)