Men’s conference offers key to a balanced life

COLUMBIA—Joseph Lombardi says three things were most important to his late grandfather, legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, “faith, family and football … in that order!”

Replace that sport with any other career or job, and that simple list offers the key to a balanced life, Lombardi told hundreds of men packed into St. Joseph Church on
March 1.

Lombardi, the current offensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions, was one of the keynote speakers at the first South Carolina Catholic Men’s Conference, “Building Men of Faith.” Sponsored by the South Carolina State Council of the Knights of Columbus, with help from the offices of Family Life and Youth Ministry, organizers hope the event will become an annual tradition.

It combined the spiritual and the practical, offering workshops along with the chance to go to the sacrament of reconciliation, participate in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and attend Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone.

All the speakers focused on ways men can build better marriages and families through a deeper relationship with God.

Lombardi said many of the traits he looks for in football players are the same things that make a good Catholic. A solid quarterback, for instance, is committed to his team, follows the fundamentals of the game, and is coachable. In turn, he said strong men of faith need to commit themselves to seeking Christ, look for guidance in the moral and sacramental basics of the faith, and also be willing to listen to the teachings of Scripture and the Church.

“Players also need to have physical and moral toughness, and we as Catholics need that,” he said. “You have to be able to rebound from adversity, from falling short. That’s why we have confession, which offers a chance to start over and start fresh.”

People also should consistently try to live their faith to the fullest each day and be willing to talk about it with others at every opportunity,
Lombardi said.

Father Dwight Longenecker, administrator of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, spoke on the rule of St. Benedict and how its vows of stability, obedience and conversion could be useful to men in their daily lives.

Steve Wood, author and director of Family Life Center in Greenville, offered a session on becoming a stronger father through studying scriptural examples. He reminded the men that strong families are key to combatting a growing tide of secularism in popular culture.

“Parents are the primary educators of their children, and the strength of the faith conveyed to the child is directly proportional to the parents’ faith,” Wood said. “Remember that the family is the ‘domestic church.’ We can’t control what goes on outside, but we can make a decision to be a happy, faith-filled cell within society.”

Men who might not know how to discuss the faith with their children can begin by talking about the Gospel readings from Sunday Mass with them, Wood said.

“Share one intelligent thing from the Gospel every week,” he said. “It’s important your children hear you proclaim God’s word.”

In an intense afternoon session, Wood talked about pornography addiction, a fast-growing problem he said is one of the greatest threats to marriages, families and youth. Since the internet has made sexually explicit material instantly available, he said, more and more men of all ages are addicted to the constant stream of images, often viewing the damaging material at work.

“Pornography doesn’t just stimulate the brain, it alters it,” he said. “When a man uses pornography, neurochemicals put an imprint of the images in a man’s brain. There have been men in their 70s who say they can still vividly see the images of pornography they viewed as a teen. In order to get back the feeling they get from a first viewing, they
have to view more and more. It’s an addictive cycle.”

Like any other addiction, it requires accountability and commitment to stop, he said. He urged men who feel they have a problem to seek out counselors or spiritual advisors for help, and also to find fellow men of faith who will stay in communication and help keep them accountable.

Strong faith and commitment to Christian values can also prevent addiction in the first place, he said. He urged men to stay away from movies, music and other cultural influences that might lead to impure thought.

Developing a strong prayer life and reading Scripture daily can also help men avoid the cycle of temptation and lust that leads to an urge to view adult material, he said.

Wood said one of the main stumbling blocks for many Catholics when dealing with issues such as pornography is that the men focus too much on the details and practice of the faith instead of full awareness of God’s love and grace.

“When we put the emphasis on what we do rather than God first, that’s backwards,” he said. “Keep the emphasis on God, His goodness and His mercy. Ask Jesus to reveal His love to you. If you become aware of Christ’s love, you’ll have the power to overcome sin.”

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