March 18, 2022

Planting seeds of grace

E6 Catholic Men’s Conference returns to full force with 1,200 men attending

Some 1,200 men fill the auditorium of East Central High School in St. Leon on Feb. 26 for the seventh annual E6 Catholic Men’s Conference, sponsored by All Saints Parish in Dearborn County. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Some 1,200 men fill the auditorium of East Central High School in St. Leon on Feb. 26 for the seventh annual E6 Catholic Men’s Conference, sponsored by All Saints Parish in Dearborn County. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

ST. LEON—On Feb. 22, 2020, 1,500 men packed the auditorium of East Central High School in St. Leon for the fifth annual E6 Catholic Men’s Conference, sponsored by All Saints Parish in Dearborn County.

Within a few weeks, such a gathering quickly became unthinkable because of the coronavirus pandemic that swept onto the world stage in early March of that year.

With the virus becoming largely under control earlier this year and many safety protocols related to the pandemic being loosened or disbanded, this year’s E6 Conference was much like it was in 2020.

Some 1,200 men filled the auditorium on Feb. 26 to hear presentations by Father Vincent Lampert, Gus Lloyd and Matthew Kelly. They worshipped together at Mass and eucharistic adoration. More than 450 men experienced the sacrament of penance in which 17 priests heard confessions.

In adddition to 1,200 in-person participants, approximately another 1,200 took part virtually.

The “E6” in the conference title refers to the sixth chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians in which the Apostle calls believers to take up “the armor of God” in the spiritual fight against the devil (Eph 6:11).

Joe Yunger, an organizer of the conference since its beginning, was glad to see so many men return to the conference after only 150 men were able to attend in-person in 2021 when it was held at St. Joseph Parish in St. Leon.

“It’s great to be back doing live experiences,” said Yunger, a member of All Saints Parish. “Live brotherhood is very important and difficult to find nowadays in this COVID environment. It’s uplifting. I think we’re all ready to be back and experience brotherhood again.”

Father Jonathan Meyer spoke to the attendees before the conference Mass about the changes in society that took place shortly after the event two years ago.

“Our world is changing faster than we could ever have imagined it,” said Father Meyer. “Sin, hatred, rejection of religion are all having ripple effects and ramifications that we can’t even imagine.

“Don’t take lightly what’s happening here today. God is preparing you for something. God has you here for a reason. … Let’s be grateful that we’re here today. The fact that there’s a brother next to you right now is awesome.”

That fact was important for participant Walter Grassi, who had attended three previous E6 conferences.

It’s huge,” said Grassi, a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. “It’s a great factor. To be among other men worshipping together is very powerful. I have chills just saying that.”

He was especially glad to be back taking part in the conference with so many others after two years of COVID-19 restrictions.

“It strengthens my hope,” Grassi said. “I’ve always been hopeful. But now it’s like the reward of being hopeful.”

Father Vincent Lampert, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Brookville and St. Peter Parish in Franklin County, sought to strengthen the hope of his listeners, even if his presentation was focused on the wisdom he’s gained in his 17 years of experience as the archdiocese’s exorcist.

Even though he’s seen up close the activities of the devil—both in extraordinary actions like possession and in ordinary ones like the deception, division, diversion and despair experienced by so many people—Father Lampert said our faith in Christ can keep the devil at bay.

“All of us have to contend with the devil. He has extraordinary and ordinary activities,” he said. “But he is nothing compared to the power of God. Being here today, hopefully each and every one of you will unite yourselves even more deeply to the power of God and, in doing so, grow in holiness, faith and virtue.”

Gus Lloyd, host of “Seize the Day,” a morning radio show on Sirius XM’s The Catholic Channel, reflected on Christ’s parable of the sower of the seed, inviting his listeners to consider how seeds of God’s grace have been planted in their own lives and how they can sow them in the lives of others.

“I want you to thank God for everyone who has ever planted a seed of grace in your life,” Lloyd said. “Start with your parents, the priest who baptized you, the priest who gave your first holy Communion—whether they’re with us or not.

“From this day forward, I want you to view every interaction with another person as an opportunity to plant a seed of grace. You’re going to have so many of them just today in being with your fellow brothers here.”

Lloyd had a specific message for the husbands and fathers in his audience.

“We have abdicated being the spiritual leaders of our households,” he said. “That stops today. It stops today. If you’re a married man, I want to assure you of one thing. Your wife wants you to be the spiritual leader of your household. She wants to pray with you.”

Matthew Kelly, a native of Australia and a Catholic writer and speaker who has been heard by more than

5 million people in more than 50 countries, was another speaker at the conference.

He called the participants to have “the heart of a lion” and went on to describe various qualities of “lionhearted men.”

Kelly noted that too many men in contemporary society are more like sheep than lions.

“I’m talking about being sheep in a culture that has no vision for you,” he said. “I’m talking about being sheep in a culture whose only dream for you is that you become good, little obedient consumers and consume more and more with every passing day.”

Kelly called on his listeners not to fit in with the crowd but instead to seek the approval of an “audience of one.”

“There’s only one audience that matters,” he said. “And there’s only one person in the audience. And that’s God.

“When God is the only audience I care about, I’m at peace and I have more courage to live the life I’m called to. When I don’t care what anyone thinks about what I do or say or write, when I only care what God thinks, I’m a better man.”

In his homily during the conference’s Mass, Father Meyer reflected on how the Eucharist can help the attendees be better men.

He did this by explaining the most important reason to go to Mass. It’s not, Father Meyer said, because of the music, preaching, being part of a community, or even receiving Communion.

All those things, he pointed out, people can experience outside of Mass.

The only thing that is exclusive to the Mass, Father Meyer emphasized, “is the re-presentation of Calvary.”

“The Mass is Calvary itself,” Father Meyer said. “There is no difference among the Last Supper, Calvary and the celebration of Mass. They are one and the same.

“The reason that Jesus celebrated the Last Supper was that we could gain access to the cross at the holy sacrifice of the Mass for the rest of our lives.”

And in going to Calvary at the Mass, Father Meyer said, worshipers “learn how to love.”

“How does Jesus teach us to love?” Father Meyer asked. “ ‘For God so loved the world that he gave us his only begotten Son’ [Jn 3:16]. How did God give us his Son? In the flesh. How did Jesus redeem the world? In the flesh. Where did Jesus redeem the world? On Calvary. And what did Jesus say? ‘This is my body given up for you’ ” (Lk 22:19).

Father Meyer also put his reflections on the Eucharist in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began two days before the conference.

“My brothers, our world is at war,” he said. “What is the antidote to war? Jesus. And what does Jesus say? ‘This is my body given up for you’ (Lk 22:19). What is the antidote to war—revenge and hatred? ‘This is my body given up for you. This is my blood poured out for you’ (Lk 22:19-20).

“Not revenge. Not hatred. Not grasping. Not taking. But offering oneself to another. This is my life. This is my body. And I give them away to you in service. We need Calvary in our world.”

Near the end of the Mass, Father Meyer called forward seven seminarians in formation for the priesthood at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis.

“Gentlemen, we need a lot more of these,” said Father Meyer to the conference attendees. “And right now, they are your grandchildren or your children. For some of you, it is the man sitting next to you right now. We need to be inviters.”

He then made a heartfelt, emotional plea.

“For any of you men who are out there right now who have felt any tug in your heart, I would tell you from the bottom of my heart that I wake up every single day with eagerness and joy for my vocation,” Father Meyer said. “I love being a priest. I love it. And if God is inviting you to that, do not be afraid.”

Chase Bright, 25, was a married young adult attending the conference, coming to it from his home in Fort Thomas, Ky.

“It’s amazing to see the number of men and the high school age kids taking the faith seriously,” Bright said. “It’s good to have a bunch of men in the building willing to go out and spread the word.” †

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