Brian T. Olszewski, The Catholic Virginian
Many of those attending the annual Catholic Men’s Conference, Saturday March 17, left, if they took the keynote message to heart, spiritually armed in order to combat evil in their personal lives and throughout the culture.
They heard that call to arms from Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, aka the “Dynamic Deacon,” during the event at St. Bede Parish, Williamsburg.
He opened the day by explaining what men must combat and how they are to prepare for that spiritual combat.
Focusing on the first chapter of Genesis, Deacon Burke-Sivers said God gave men a specific vocation.
“Your job is to serve, protect and defend everything I’ve entrusted to you,” he said, explaining what God expected of Adam and of all people.
Noting that God made man in God’s own image, he said, “When man uses woman for his own pleasure and gratification, that is not who we are, not who God made us to be.”
When God said man should not be alone, according to the deacon, he made a “helpmate that stands parallel to him, not a maid or a cook.”
“He gave him a battle partner,” Deacon Burke-Sivers said, adding that this person was someone who completes him, complements who he is.
“They are looking at each other the way God looks at them — as beautiful,” he said.
‘Voice from the pit of hell’
Speaking rapidly, then slowly, varying volume from monk-like quiet to TV preacher loud, Deacon Burke-Sivers spoke about Satan and his intentions to “destroy our covenant relationship with God,” and why he targeted Eve.
“The woman is at the heart of God’s love, the heart of the home, the family,” he said. “The woman, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, is life giver and life bearer.”
Noting that Satan wanted to plant seeds of confusion and doubt in Eve’s mind not only about what God said, but who God is in her life, he said the same thing is happening among people who don’t go to church every Sunday.
“(They say) ‘Besides, I’m a good person. I don’t need the Church to tell me how to live my life. I don’t need to hear about contraception and masturbation, I don’t have to serve the church,’” he said, continuing, “That’s the voice from the pit of hell! Jesus talks more about hell than he does about heaven. Why? Because he doesn’t want us to go there!”
Noting Adam wasn’t there when Satan was tempting Eve, thus failing to “serve, protect and defend,” the deacon drew a parallel to today’s men.
“Too many men are sitting around doing nothing while Satan is trying to destroy your family, trying to destroy our Church, either from inside or outside, and trying to destroy our culture,” Deacon Burke-Sivers said.
‘We’re not playing games’
In explaining the need for them to go to confession, in a section he titled “Mortal Sin 101,” Deacon Burke-Sivers said, “Let’s not play games here, gentlemen. Mortal sin is serious.”
Referring to Jesus sending the cured leper to the priest and giving the apostles power to forgive sins, the deacon added, “Do not be cut off from God’s life.”
Speaking about the story of David and Goliath, he noted that by human standards Goliath’s size, strength, experience and armor created a mismatch, but that David was able to defeat him because God was with him.
“What is the Goliath in your life? What is the Goliath that has you so scared? Is it something you did in college, or maybe you were bullied, maybe your father beat the hell out of you?” he said.
Noting that “Satan laughs in your face,” when one is unable to fight those “Goliaths,” he said, “You can’t fight Goliath with the weapons of man; you must use the weapons of God.”
Among those he listed were prayer, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, novenas, Eucharistic adoration, and the rosary.
Deacon Burke-Sivers instructed, “Get on fire with the Lord. Choose to have that encounter with Christ, to go from sorrow to joy, despair to hope, death to everlasting life.”
Establish balance in life
During the opening afternoon session, Michael School, director of the Diocese of Richmond’s Office for Evangelization, picked up on the image of God theme presented by Deacon Burke-Sivers.
“If I am created in the image of God, then I should be good, but something happens,” School said. “Sin happens. The serpent happens, the Tree of Knowledge happens. All of these things happened and brought us to where we are today.”
Despite people’s sinfulness, he said, the Lord continues to draw people closer to himself and to be redeemed.
“He says, ‘I am here and I’m with you now; I am picking you up.’ Sometimes we’re not willing to be picked up – for whatever reason,” School said, noting God continues to call “regardless of what we do as men.”
He termed mental, physical and spiritual balance “essential” to how men live.
“The Church understands balance,” School said. “God is fully man, fully divine. It’s about faith and works. Balance is critical.”
Where to take control
He said there were three areas in which a man must take control, the first of which was leading the family.
“It is not domineering. It’s setting up a vision, a course, with others,” School said. “If you are not leading your family in prayer, that needs to be remedied. As leader of the household, set expectations for prayer.”
He noted in the often-quoted verse in Ephesians 5 about wives being submissive to their husbands, the preceding verse says they are to be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.
“It says wives be under the mission of your husband,” School said. “It does not say wives do whatever he tells you, but wives be under the mission of what your family is called to do, what that marriage is called to do, what that marriage is called to witness in a world today.”
He said men must take leadership and ownership of their families’ financial situation.
“As a man in your house, if today you are in debt, outside of a mortgage, that’s ridiculous,” School said. “If you have credit card debt, it’s time to step up and lead your family because that is something that will hold you back.”
He noted that while money is a “great tool,” “It is also one of the ways the Evil One enters into our relationships,” as it is the number one reason for divorce in marriages.
The last are in which men are to take control, he said, is pornography and masturbation.
“Eighty-five percent of men are addicted to pornography. It destroys marriages, it destroys the way we look at women, it destroys ourselves,” School said. “Anytime we have to go into a place where we have to close the door and close the window blinds, there is never anything good that can come out of that situation.”
He said all three areas are problems that can be solved.
“If you want to walk out of this conference and really want to change something in your life, allow God to reach in and pull you out of the muck and crap you are involved with,” School said. “You have to make a commitment, you’re going to have to trigger some things that are going to motivate you, that will allow you to change this.”
He encouraged the men to make that commitment.
“The fact that you came here today you made a statement that you do want to change. There’s something in your life you want to change,” School said. “We are called to conversion.”
Prayer powerful ‘weapon’ for attendees
Brian T. Olszewski, The Catholic Virginian
Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers’ message about employing weapons of God to combat one’s “Goliaths” resonated with first-time attendees at the Catholic Men’s Conference.
Ferdinand Hallare, a member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Newport News, who teaches math at Thomas Nelson Community College, said he is comfortable sharing his faith with students.
“God is good; he’s there to guide us in everything,” he said. “If you have the faith, the trust, everything will be good.”
He said the rosary is “a good weapon for me. We (my family) pray the rosary every night.”
Albert Erandan, also from Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and a math instructor at Tidewater Community College, said he sees the value of the rosary, which his wife and children pray.
“I have to join my wife and kids in praying the rosary more,” he said. “The next time they ask me to join, I would be more willing since it is a weapon.”
Jim Jenifer Jr., a member of St. Ann, Ashland, and retired letter carrier, said his weapons are prayer and the rosary.
“Even if I don’t go to bed until 2 o’clock in the morning, I’m going to pray the rosary and read my missal,” said the life-long Catholic, who attends Sunday Mass and Mass on weekdays when it is celebrated in his parish.
Hal Burns, a member of the Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Community at Langley Air Force Base, said everybody has Goliaths — “maybe multiple Goliaths.”
He deals with them by celebrating Mass daily and through prayer.
Bill Walters, a member of Holy Cross, Lynchburg, said, “I see Goliaths in our culture and a lot of forces trying to secularize the world.”
The father of six children prays, celebrates Mass, and engages with the Catholic community. He recommends “Bible studies to keep yourself going.”
Peter Puzio, a neurologist, and Don Lee, a family practice doctor, were among seven men from St. John the Evangelist, Waynesboro, to attend the conference. The group prayed the rosary on the trip to Williamsburg.
“We talked about this being spiritual weaponry,” Puzio said. “So the talk (by Deacon Burke-Sivers) fit right in.”
He sees Goliaths “everywhere in culture.”
“Men have a lot of issues — the ease of pornography, the ease of adultery, the ease of having an online relationship, alcoholism,” he said. “And prescription drug abuse is wrapped around so many people’s lives.”
As “weapons,” he cited Mass, sacraments, rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, and eucharistic adoration.
“They fortify us,” he said.
Lee, a convert to Catholicism, said he sees Goliaths every day.
“I liked his (the speaker’s) use of the rosary as a weapon since last year was the 100th anniversary of Fatima,” said Lee, adding he tries to say the rosary daily.
For both doctors, prayer is part of their professional lives.
“I don’t pray with patients, but I will tell them I pray for them,” Lee said, noting that he will say a prayer before entering the examining room.
Puzio makes the Sign of the Cross before seeing a patient.
“It is very important to try and integrate God into everything we do,” Lee said. “Not just on Sundays.”