Honing skills to battle Satan

Bishop Carl A. Kemme speaks to the hundreds of men who filled the St. Catherine of Siena Church in Wichita. (Photos courtesy of McAfee Studios.)

The only entity former UFC Heavyweight Champion Bas Rutten was slamming at the Man Fully Alive Catholic Men’s Conference was Satan. Ready to assist just outside the tightropes was Fr. Mathias Thelen, the co-founder, and president of Encounter Ministries.

The devil-fighting duo were the keynote speakers at the conference Saturday, March 4, at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Wichita. About 700 attended the event.

Joel McGill said he was awestruck at the sight of so many men seeking spiritual growth and an encounter with Jesus.

McGill, a member of St. Catherine of Siena Parish, said another highlight was the harmony of the men’s voices singing hymns a capella at a Mass celebrated by Bishop Carl A. Kemme.

Fr. Mathias Thelen

One point Fr. Thelen made that impressed McGill was his admonition to remember the Holy Spirit and to remember to call upon the underappreciated third person of the Trinity. Another point the priest made, he said, was how men don’t always “have full faith in God’s ability to perform miracles: miracles of healing, miracles of transformation in our lives.”

“Bas Rutten is very much a man’s man and a great example of authentic Catholic masculinity,” he said, adding that Rutten talked about his battles with sin and gave advice on how he was able to win those battles.

Bas Rutten

McGill said the conference was a shot in the arm for his faith and a way to energize his spiritual growth. “If you’re not growing you’re moving backward. Events like the men’s conference are an opportunity to get that boost of energy to grow in the faith.”

He added that he was also impressed by the long line of men waiting to confess their sins.

“That was awesome,” McGill said. “There’s something life-giving about being around so many other faithful men who are striving to be better husbands and fathers…and trying to get to heaven.”

Jeremy Lezniak comments

Jeremy Lezniak, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Wichita, remembered Fr. Thelen’s call for those attending to be men of the Eucharist and the points he made about the presence of the Eucharist, its sacrificial nature, and its link to community.

The priest made his points from the perspective of masculinity in a way he had never heard before, he said.
He said Fr. Thelen reminded the men that the same Holy Spirit that was accessible to the Apostles is accessible to them and to call upon the Holy Spirit.

“Bas Rutten spoke on living the faith courageously as men,” he said. “He gave what I would call a crash course on moral theology as he understood it as a fighter. It was a challenge to men as to how we know we should live, how we ought to live, and how we can live courageously and boldly within our Catholic faith.”

Bishop Kemme urges men to remain strong

Bishop Carl A. Kemme told those attending the conference that as their spiritual father and bishop, he would not want to be anywhere else.

“St. John Paul II once said that as the family goes, so goes the world,” he said. “I might add this: as the father goes, so goes the family. Your lived faith, your dedication to your faith, and your leadership in your family are so vital to keep your marriage, your children, and your whole family within the graces of God and on the path to holiness. God looks to you to take this leadership seriously and to recommit yourselves to it each day.”

Bishop Kemme said his father was quiet, strong, and uncompromising when it came to the faith. There was an expectation of attending Mass, serving at Mass, taking part in parish activities, and being utmost respectful to priests and religious sisters. Although the parish didn’t have a school, the bishop said, the faith was nonetheless observed at the public school by the Kemmes.

Complaints were raised by the children who sometimes tried to circumvent the family rules, the bishop said. “I thank God for those boundaries and that both my father and mother had set them for us.”

Be men of virtue

Bishop Kemme told the church full of men at the Mass that he recognized how hard it was for them to be men of virtue, strength, and integrity and how challenging it is to raise children in an increasingly secular culture.

“I understand the many temptations you must face in allowing a more permissive spirit in your families,” he said. “I beg you to remain strong and convicted in your leadership, which must be marked by a loving but strong presence, a willingness to let your family see you pray and worship on Sunday, and a determination to live by the Commandments as Moses urged the people in today’s first reading.

“We must return to being men who live the law of God without compromise, which gives the children of today the fine example the men in my life gave to me and which everyone needs so much today.”

Reclaim Sunday

He urged the men to reclaim Sunday as the Lord’s Day for their families because Sunday is a day that belongs to God, a day the faithful are obligated to worship at Mass.

“The remainder of the day should be dedicated to family life, recreation, rest, and leisure. So much turmoil, anxiety, and disease can be largely avoided – I am convinced – if we lived this one day a week as it was meant to be lived. Fathers and husbands, if you decide that this is how your family will go, I promise you it will make an incredible difference. Let us all be bold and take back and reclaim for ourselves Sunday.”

Most of those attending were from the Wichita area but some attending were from as far away as Olympia, Washington; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Fort Collins, Colorado