Men’s Conference encourages wonder, intellect, and action
The annual Catholic Men’s Conference held on March 26 at Terra Sancta Retreat Center was an opportunity for men throughout the diocese to be encouraged with the theme of restoring a Catholic culture in their homes, parish, and communities. The keynote speaker, Dr. Richard Meloche, is the president of the Alcuin Institute for Catholic Culture in the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma. The Alcuin Institute for Catholic Culture seeks to cultivate the forgotten, and often forbidden, realities — such as virtue, chivalry, valor, self-denial, a fondness for things of the past, and the real mirth found in friendship in order that truth, goodness, and beauty may prevail. In doing so we hope to become a bastion for authentic Catholic culture.
The conference revolved around an essay from John Henry Cardinal Newman on the ways that God built the church during different ages of history using the particular gifts of St. Benedict, St. Dominic, and St. Ignatius. Saint Benedict issued in an age of wonder inviting men to be attentive to their leisure and allowing time for the perception of the natural world to make us either artists or philosophers. The final challenge was a call to “smash the tv,” to return to a primitive encounter with being, and to encounter a tactile experience of worship.
Moving from St. Benedict’s model of labor with our hands to St. Dominic’s model of the labor of the mind Dr. Meloche invited men to consider and search for truth by conforming our intellect to God’s through a life of intentional study. He encouraged men to carve out a space in their homes for the pursuit of knowledge, making a library and setting time in the home for the whole family to read together and to discuss all things with a heart for finding the truth.
Finally, he encouraged men to take St. Ignatius as a model for a mode of acting, calling the Jesuits an order of actors. He outlined the ways that the modern culture encourages effeminacy in men and how the pursuit of virtue is the way for modern man to engage in this final age of action. Appropriate to our Lenten journey, he showed how embracing the cross and following Jesus will heal our modern vision of masculinity.
To conclude Dr. Meloche gave the men a vision of what this might look like lived out in a home. Citing Pope Benedict XVI in a question and answer session following a 2012 general audience at the World Meeting of Families the pope shared what his home life was like hitting all the major elements of these three ages in a succinct vision of how men might restore a Catholic culture in their homes, parishes, and communities:
“The most important moment for our family was always Sunday, but Sunday really began on Saturday afternoon. My father would read out the Sunday readings from a book that was very popular in Germany at that time, which also included explanations of the texts. That is how we began our Sunday, entering into the Liturgy in an atmosphere of joy. The next day we would go to Mass. My home is very close to Salzburg and so we had plenty of music – Mozart, Schubert, Haydn – and when the Kyrie began it was as if Heaven was opening up. Then once we were back home, naturally our Sunday meal together was important. We sang a lot together. My brother is a fine musician; he was already composing pieces for all of us as a boy, and the whole family would sing them. My father would play the zither and sing. These were unforgettable moments. Naturally, we would go on journeys and walks together. We lived near a forest and it was so enjoyable to walk and have adventures and play there. In a word, we were one in heart and soul, enjoying so many experiences together, even though times were hard, as this was during the war: first, we had the dictatorship and then poverty. But the mutual love that we shared, our joy, even in simple things, was so strong that it enabled us to endure and overcome these things. I think it is very important to understand that even little things were a source of joy because they were an expression of warm-heartedness. And so we grew up convinced that it was good to be human because we saw God’s goodness reflected in our parents and our brothers and sisters. And indeed when I try to imagine what Heaven will be like, I think it must be like the time when I was a small boy. In this environment of trust, joy, and love, we were happy, and I think that Heaven must be rather like those early years. So in a way, I am hoping to return ‘home’ when I leave for ‘the other part of the world.’”