November 22, 2019

Blessed Mother plays key role in life of speakers at conference

Father Rick Nagel elevates the Eucharist in St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis during a Mass celebrated for those attending the annual Indiana Catholic Men’s Conference on Oct. 5. Concelebrants include Father Michael Keucher, left, Father Michael Lightner and Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception Father Donald Calloway. Approximately 375 men attended the conference. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

Father Rick Nagel elevates the Eucharist in St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis during a Mass celebrated for those attending the annual Indiana Catholic Men’s Conference on Oct. 5. Concelebrants include Father Michael Keucher, left, Father Michael Lightner and Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception Father Donald Calloway. Approximately 375 men attended the conference. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

By Mike Krokos

Father Donald Calloway has a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother.

So does Father Michael Lightner.

And Roy Schoeman, who was born and raised in a Jewish household but converted to the Catholic faith as an adult, says the Virgin Mary has played an integral role in his life of faith, too.

The trio were speakers at the annual Indiana Catholic Men’s Conference on Oct. 5 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. Approximately 375 individuals attended the daylong gathering which included the keynote speakers, Mass, a eucharistic procession and the opportunity for reconciliation.

‘Without Mary, we are orphans’

Father Calloway, who is a member of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception, called the Blessed Mother “God’s woman.”

“Without her, I would not be here,” he said in reference to how learning about Mary and delving more into the Catholic faith helped him as a young adult abandon his corrupt lifestyle and pursue his vocation to the priesthood. “She brought me to Jesus Christ.

“This beauty that God has made is encapsulated and personified in one person,” he continued, “and her name is Mary, and she’s our spiritual Mother. … God made her flawless, perfect, a masterpiece.”

The priest said the devil knows the power of feminism, and uses pornography and other outlets to bring evil into people’s lives. “Satan wants to dismantle Christianity,” Father Calloway said.

The Blessed Mother, he noted, can help us in this battle. “If you want to become holy, you have to acquire virtue.

“If you don’t have Mary in your life, you’re not going to get it,” he continued. “Every man needs a beauty before his eyes to go to battle for, to slay dragons for, to sacrifice your life for.

“Do you know how important the Virgin Mary is to Christianity? She’s the heart of Christianity,” Father Calloway said. “The heart of every home is the mother. Without Mary, we are orphans.”

‘Real men pray the rosary!’

In an earlier talk, Father Calloway shared his passion for the rosary.

“Hopefully, you have a rosary,” he said to those in attendance.

“If you don’t, shame on you!” he exclaimed. “You need to get a rosary, brothers, because this is serious stuff.”

Father Calloway said all Catholics—not just grandmothers and nuns—should carry a rosary with them and pray it regularly. He noted that it is a devotion that is appropriate for all walks of life.

The rosary, Father Calloway continued, is “the most powerful sword imaginable.”

Satan is aware of the rosary, and knows the power it has, he continued.

“We need to realize the weapons we’ve been given because we are in a spiritual battle,” he said.

The rosary can help overcome darkness and evil, “and it has power to slay the dragons in your life, because they want to destroy you.”

Father Calloway implored those in attendance to make time to pray the rosary. “Brothers, this is so important for us. You need to be doing this. Twenty minutes a day, guys. You can do this!

“Real men pray the rosary! A Catholic man without a rosary is like a soldier without a gun, it’s like a knight without a sword.”

The rosary is a weapon to slay the dragon of evil, he added. “This will lead you deeper in your spiritual life.

“This has the ability, as our Lady says, ‘to change the world.’ It stops wars, alters history, slays dragons! Be a dragon slayer. That’s your role as men, especially today. Brothers, I beg you as your brother and as a priest, pray the rosary.”

He added that graces from the prayer are numerous. “Man-up to the challenge of praying a daily rosary and having an intimate relationship with this woman because you’ll be a better father, you’ll be a better husband, you’ll be a better Catholic. I guarantee it.”

‘He’s calling you to be a warrior’

Father Michael Lightner grew up in a Marian household where he and his siblings “were forced to pray the rosary every night as a family.

“We would kneel down in front of the [Our Lady of] Fatima statue and pray,” he said of how Mary has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember.

Despite the strong foundation nurtured at home, the standout collegiate football player, who at the time stood

6 foot 5 inches and weighed 330 pounds, put faith on the back burner while seeing a future in the National Football League.

That all changed after a trip to Medjugorje with his mom, who led pilgrimages there for years.

The trip was the result of his getting caught with marijuana while home from college for Christmas break, and his mom forced him go on the pilgrimage with only one request: that he go to confession. He could do whatever he wanted the rest of the time there.

Father Lightner, who is a priest for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wis., said he decided, “I’m going to punish this priest, I’m going to tell him everything,” and that’s what he did during his 30-minute confession in Medjugorje. His sins included ongoing alcohol and drug use and promiscuity, among other things.

When the priest finally shared the words of absolution, Lightner said his body started contorting.

“Oh my God, he is real,” he said he thought of our Creator. “And my life changed at that moment. … I walked out of that confessional a different person.”

That experience began a life of conversion. It included trips back to Medjugorje, and eventually a few years later answering God’s call to the priesthood.

Father Lightner admitted his stubbornness led to challenges along the road to his vocation, but he has no regrets.

“I love my life now. I love working for the Lord.”

The greatest gift of our faith, he said, is receiving the body and blood of Christ.

“The Eucharist is the source and center of our lives,” he said. “When you receive the Eucharist with mortal sin on your soul, … you’re condemning yourself to hell. You will be judged upon that when you stand in front of Jesus Christ.”

We must keep ourselves in right order, the priest continued, which means regularly partaking of the sacraments, including reconciliation.

Like Father Calloway, he agreed Satan is working in today’s world.

“To get rid of the Eucharist, you have to get rid of the priest,” he said. “This is Satan’s plan.”

The priest said each of us will hear two voices in our lives—God and Satan— and “we have to understand what voices are talking to us.

“This is where temptation starts. The normalizing of sin is: temptation is first, sin is second, third is affliction, and then fourth is possession,” Father Lightner said.

“We’re all getting tempted by Satan. There are demons assigned to you to get you to fall. There are also angels assigned to you to keep you safe.”

God has provided instruments to help us battle evil, he noted.

“You’re not using the tool belt that God has given you,” Father Lightner said. “First off, his name is the most powerful thing you can say: ‘in the name of Jesus Christ.’ Take authority over your families ‘in the name of Jesus Christ’—to bless your children, to bless your wife, to bless every time you’re intimate, to take lust, to take all that … out of your lives. … To change our lives, we need to ask for the grace to come into our heart.”

The priest noted that Christ was the first warrior and that the rosary “truly … is a sword. And it will stop wars, and it has.

“My brothers in Christ, realize that he is calling you to a life of prayer, but not one of passiveness, not one in your own homes, he’s calling you to be a warrior,” Father Lightner said. “To be a warrior in Christ means that you start to see the world for what it is. You start to look at the spiritual. … Watch what happens when you pull out a rosary.”

Mary connects divinity and humanity

Roy Schoeman was brought up by devout Jewish parents, German Holocaust refugees who passed their faith on to him.

He excelled as an undergraduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), then went on to earn a Master of Business Administration degree from the Harvard Business School. He was then invited to join the faculty there as a professor of marketing.

While Schoeman was doing well in his professional life, he said he had lost his belief in God while at MIT. He said his struggles with trying to find his faith the following years eventually led him into despair.

During this time, he began examining other faith traditions, including Catholicism. True stories of eucharistic miracles and other revelations made him think “all the evidence” pointed to the truth of the Catholic faith.

One day while taking a long walk, he said that he came to feel the presence of “an all-knowing, all-loving God.”

“God himself—who not only created everything in existence, but created existence itself—not only knew my name, not only arranged everything that ever happened to me, but was watching over me,” he said, “leaning over me with his ear to my lips to hear the faintest murmur into my heart—of concern or happiness or sadness or whatever—so that in a very real way everything that made me sad made him sad, and everything that made me happy made him happy. And that was by far the most revolutionary, overwhelming aspect of this experience.”

Everything became very transparent, Schoeman said, and he began seeing everything through a spiritual lens.

“It was a mystical experience,” he noted.

A year later, Schoeman said he had an experience of the Blessed Virgin Mary appearing to him one night while he slept.

“The most overwhelming part of this experience was just to be in her presence … and to feel the purity and the intensity of the love that flowed through her,” he said. “It was to be lifted up into a state of ecstasy greater than I ever imagined could exist. As beautiful as she was to see, even more profoundly affecting was the beauty of her voice.”

This experience, he said, helped lead him to understand that Mary connects divinity and humanity. Knowing the Blessed Virgin and wanting to receive Communion is what led him to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church

As Schoeman continues writing, speaking and teaching Catholic theology, he also focuses on the relationship between Judaism and the Catholic Church.

Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#674) and the 11th Chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Schoeman noted that the Jewish people will play an integral role in the second coming of Christ.

“Pray for the conversion of the Jews,” he said.

‘We are to lead our domestic Church’

Brendan Madden was eager to bring his 14-year-old son Blaise to the men’s conference.

“Blaise is at the point of turning into a man, so this is definitely the way forward,” Madden said.

A member of St. Louis de Montfort Parish in Fishers, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese, Madden was attending his second men’s conference.

“There’s always something from the priests that give testimony, but also the gathering of all the men together,” he said, “that helps me to continue on my daily life, knowing that we are to lead our domestic Church, which is our family. That’s critical in today’s world.”

Madden was also pleased to hear how speakers were influenced by Medjugorje, which happens to be how he met his wife.

“I had the opportunity to live in Medjugorje, and that really resonates with me, what Our Lady is asking to do there,” he said. He said to “fight the Goliaths of our daily lives,” Mary “gives us the stones to fight [with], … which are prayer, fasting, Scripture, confession and the Eucharist.” †

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