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Forgiveness And Faith

Legate’s friendship helped traumatized man find healing

Y.G. Nyghtstorm had experienced a difficult life: poverty, an abusive and broken home, sexual abuse, homelessness, suicide attempts, employment struggles, failed marriages, and a child’s death.

As a result, he struggled deeply with depression, anger, and lack of forgiveness for those who had wounded him.

But a chance meeting with North Georgia legate Mike Drapeau developed into a bond of friendship that led Y.G. on a path toward healing and full embrace of the Catholic Church.

And it all began with a cup of lemonade.

A TROUBLED JOURNEY

Y.G. – for Yahanseh George, but Y.G. “is easier for people to remember” – grew up in the Atlanta area as an only child of bickering parents. His father left while he was very young, only to return periodically for another violent fight. His mother grew increasingly hostile to Y.G. because he resembled his father.

In 1985, Y.G. attended a summer camp. There a counselor befriended the socially awkward 11-year-old, made sure he got involved in camp activities, and spoke with him about God and Catholicism. On the camp’s final day, he took Y.G. into a cabin and raped him, quoting Scripture as he did and telling Y.G. God would kill him if he ever told anyone.

Y.G. came away from the abuse hating himself. His relationships deteriorated. And he kept silent. Above all, he hated Christianity and especially the Catholic Church for what that “wicked man” had done to him.

At 18, Y.G.’s mother kicked him out of the house. He lived on the streets, surviving hunger, beatings, and muggings. He attempted suicide more than once. One day, a wealthy and elderly Good Samaritan stopped, took off his own argyle socks, put them on Y.G.’s bare feet, and told him: “As sure as these socks are covering your feet, young man, God will cover your life. Embrace God and go make a difference.”

That single act of kindness “ignited my soul for God,” Y.G. said. But sustaining faith was much more challenging.

Y.G. got off the streets, “got saved” in a Pentecostal church, and married a pastor’s daughter. That marriage dissolved after a few years and a couple of kids, and so did his faith. Depression made it difficult to keep a job. He married again, had more kids, and together he and his wife raised a blended family of seven children.

After his oldest stepson was killed in a workplace accident in 2008, his faith began to return. “I felt powerless and needed strength to support my family during this very difficult time,” Y.G. recalled. “My children needed their dad to be strong, and leading my family back to Christ helped us so much.”

Over the next several years, Y.G. and his wife, Toby, established a foundation in their late son’s name, opened a business, and became motivational speakers and radio co-hosts on life management, marriage, and parenting. But the issues of his past still haunted him. He knew he had to forgive those who had hurt him but could not bring himself do so.

Yet a small, still voice was speaking to him. “God was planting seeds in me about becoming Catholic,” Y.G. said. One night as he slept, he heard the voice of Christ tell him plainly: “I want you to become Catholic and help others who have been hurt in my Church.”

The experience startled him. “I jumped out of the bed drenched in sweat, and I was angry,” said Y.G. “I was livid that Christ would tell me to go to the very place that nearly destroyed me as a child. I literally cussed at God and said that he was lucky I didn’t burn down Catholic churches.”

LEMONADE DIPLOMACY

Several months later, in 2015, Y.G. was driving through a subdivision in Cumming, GA, when two little girls stepped into the street and flagged him down to sell him some lemonade.

Y.G. couldn’t resist the hard sell. He produced a quarter and drank a cup. Impressed by the girls’ entrepreneurship, he asked to meet the father who taught them such skills.

That’s when he met Mike Drapeau.

“He invited me into his home,” Y.G. recalled. “I am a large, 330-pound black man driving in a prestigious neighborhood, a little white girl beautifully smiles at me while selling me lemonade, and her dad invites me into his home while our country is still bickering over race relations. I am an open and inviting person, and it impressed me that Mike was the same way…. And he just happened to be Catholic.”

The two men talked about lemonade, work, life, and faith. At some point, Drapeau invited Y.G. to a meeting of his Regnum Christi prayer group. Y.G. graciously accepted.

Mike’s friendship “allowed me to open up to the possibility of learning more about Catholics, whom I had been hating for decades,” Y.G. said.

Y.G. returned home, prayed, and apologized to God for the bitterness he had felt. “I was still adamant about not becoming Catholic, but I agreed to be open-minded,” he said.

Within that Catholic prayer group, he found compassion, acceptance, and healing. He also began drawing closer to the Church.

“Mike and the other good men of the faith showed a lot of love to me,” he said. “Their families embraced my family while Christ was ministering to me and comforting me the entire time. I had to finally put down my ego, let go of my pain, trust God, and forgive the Church.”

Drapeau said that although the group was “a pretty stable group of guys” that had been meeting for more than 15 years, they welcomed Y.G. with open arms. “He was definitely a breath of fresh air,” he said.

Drapeau marveled at Y.G.’s progress through the group.

“Part of the methodology is to not only break open the Gospels but also to study aspects of Catholic history, spirituality, theology, and apologetics,” he explained. “So week by week he encountered that. Sometimes he listened. Sometimes he reacted. Sometimes he was stupefied. But always he came back. And, little did we know, he was systematically knocking down his prejudices and misperceptions about the Catholic Church as he interacted with us.”

RESTORATION

Ultimately, Y.G. did more than just forgive the Catholic Church: in January 2018, he was received into the faith at St. Brendan’s Church in Cumming.

“It was an amazing Mass,” recalled Drapeau, who was Y.G.’s confirmation sponsor. “The entire parish appeared to know him, and they all clapped. It was a powerful moment for those in attendance.”

Drapeau said he and Y.G. have a “close personal relationship” and have participated together in charitable endeavors, mission trips, and the National March for Life.

Y.G. said that with his Catholic friends’ encouragement, he has reached out to his mother in reconciliation. He has even forgiven the “wicked man” and what he came to represent.

“I carried around unforgiveness in my heart against the Catholic Church for over 30 years,” he said. “What started with one wicked Catholic man snatching away my self-worth and power when I was a child has transcended into a life of unimaginable power as I am loved by a group of Catholics that helped me in more ways than I can count.”

Gerald Korson is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Truth needs beauty

In Aquinas’ extensive treatment on depression [in the Summa Theologica], he at one point suggests a number of remedies. One of them is simply the contemplation of truth, since that is “the greatest of all pleasures.”

. . . Knowing the truth is delightful. It’s beautiful. Why? Because we were made for truth, but also because the truth about things is really good. God has made a good world with a good story that will have a good ending. “And therefore in the midst of tribulations men rejoice in the contemplation of divine things and of future happiness [Aquinas].”

In other words, we can put transcendentals together by saying, “Truth is beautiful because being is good.” Because reality is so good, it’s delightful to think about and to know.

Tragically, the secular world increasingly looks for delight by trying to forget about truth, trying to disconnect the mind from reality. Just think of all the energy that has gone into the legalization of recreational marijuana and getting it into the mainstream. The whole marijuana movement – and ultimately all recreational drug use – makes sense only if reality isn’t delightful. Those who don’t see that reality is delightful seek to stimulate their passions independently of truth . . . they manipulate themselves.

So, it is of vital moral importance to highlight the beauty of reality – or, in other words, the delightfulness of truth.

Why?

First of all, to convince people that truth is the truth. People may not have any well-defined theory of the transcendentals, but they do have an instinctive, though usually unconscious, recognition that beauty and truth go together. Fr. Thomas Dubay wrote an influential book called The Evidential Power of Beauty, whose point is to show that beauty has the power to convince people of the truth. . . .

At the beginning of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited, two college friends are talking about Catholicism. At one point in the exchange, we read this very fine bit of dialogue:
“I suppose they try and make you believe an awful lot of nonsense.”
“Is it nonsense? I wish it were. It sometimes sounds terribly sensible to me.”
“But my dear Sebastian, you can’t seriously believe it all.”
“Can’t I?”
“I mean about Christmas and the star and the three kings and the ox and the ass.”
“Oh yes, I believe that. It’s a lovely idea.”
“But you can’t believe these things because they’re a lovely idea.”
“But I do. That’s how I believe.”

Showing the beauty of truth not only draws people to the truth; it makes believers happy. It causes the faithful, who accept the truth . . . to rejoice in the truth again and thank God for their Faith.

Excerpt by John-Mark L. Miravalle, from Beauty: What It Is and Why It Matters (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2019), from Chapter 4 “Truth and Beauty,” pp. 44-46. www.SophiaInstitute.com

JOHN-MARK L. MIRAVALLE is a professor of systematic and moral theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland. He received his doctorate in sacred theology from the Regina Apostolorum in Rome.

Fruitcake reaches back 2000 years – to Christ

As this season of faith, family, and food approaches, I reminisce not only about holiday seasons past, but also about the original Christmas day so many centuries ago. On a 2013 trip to Israel, I had the privilege of standing in Shepherd’s Field, once traversed by Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, still cradled in His mother’s womb. This was the field where shepherds first saw the rising Christmas star and angels heralded the birth of the newborn king. This was Bethlehem. In Hebrew, “Bet Lehem,” meaning “House of Bread.”

While it may have been wanderlust that brought me to Israel, it was wonder that overcame my senses at every turn of this journey. How can you stand at the genesis of salvation history and not be overcome with wonder? In Bethlehem, I knelt in amazement, as a child does on Christmas morning, when placing my hand on the site of the nativity. I thought of the Magi’s gifts: gold for the child’s kingship, frankincense representing His priestly role, and myrrh foreshadowing the God-man’s destiny on Calvary. There is no greater gift that any of us receive than redemption through the sacrifice of the Bread of Life.

We receive the body and blood of Jesus every Sunday; we break bread with family and friends at meals; we give gifts during the Christmas season in the form of cookies, cakes, and breads. My favorite holiday bread – to give or receive – is fruit bread, which you may know as fruitcake.

According to some researchers, fruit bread was first made 2,000 years ago with pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins mixed into barley mash. In the Middle Ages, fruit bread consisted of spices, honey, and fruit preserves. In the 19th century, fruit bread became the traditional wedding cake of England. Fruitcake by any other name is still fruit bread: Italian Panettone, German Stolen, Bulgarian Keks, Mexican Three Kings Bread, Spanish King Cake or Twelfth Night Epiphany Bread, Dutch Ontbijtkoek, Norwegian Julekake, Czech Vanocka, Provence Pompe de Noel, Slovenian Potica, Greek Christopsomo or “Christ Bread,” and Romanian Cozonac.

My gift to you this Christmas season was actually bequeathed to me from my maternal grandmother: her recipe for Super-Moist Fruitcake. Don’t laugh! There is no doubt that this humble yet remarkable dessert will make you wonder why you never tasted such a delicious fruit bread before.

CHEF JOHN D. FOLSE is an entrepreneur with interests ranging from restaurant development to food manufacturing, catering to culinary education. A cradle-Catholic, he supports many Catholic organizations including the Sister Dulce Ministry at Cypress Springs Mercedarian Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, LA.

MICHAELA D. YORK is vice president of communications for John Folse & Company.

 

MAMÈRE’S SUPER-MOIST FRUITCAKE • prep time: 3 hours • yields: 1 cake

Ingredients

4 oz. each, candied red and green cherries
8 oz. candied pineapple, coarsely chopped
8 oz. packaged pitted dates, coarsely chopped
1 c. raisins
1 c. Craisins® Original Dried Cranberries
1 c. each, chopped pecans and walnuts
3 c. self-rising flour, divided
4 large eggs
1½ c. sugar
1 c. melted butter
2 tsps ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 c. pineapple juice
½ c. brandy
6 each, candied red cherries and green cherries, optional
additional brandy or cognac for flavoring, optional

Method:

Preheat oven to 275°F. Grease one (10-inch) tube pan, set aside. In large mixing bowl, combine fruit and nuts with 1 cup flour until well coated. Set aside. In separate bowl, combine eggs, sugar, and melted butter, blending well with spatula. Continue to stir, while slowly adding remaining flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pineapple juice. Whip ingredients thoroughly until well blended. Add fruit-nut mixture and ½ cup brandy; then mix until thoroughly combined. Pour batter into greased tube pan and bake approximately 2½ hours or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.
NOTE: After 1½ hours of cooking, you may wish to gently press 6 candied red cherries and 6 candied green cherries into the top of the fruitcake for decorative purposes. Continue to cook for the remaining hour. Once cake is done, remove from oven and cool. Once cooled, cover with aluminum foil and store in refrigerator. From time to time, ladle 1 or 2 tablespoons brandy or cognac over cake for a spiked flavoring.
NOTE: You may wish to bake 4 or 5 of these cakes at a time and offer them as Christmas gifts to family and friends.

Rallied By Rock-Solid Faith

Pittsburgh Steelers great “Rocky” Bleier — the January Summit East’s opening night keynote speaker — relied on his Catholic foundation as he struggled to overcome war injuries, to become a four-time Super Bowl champion.

In the stifling heat and humidity of Vietnam, Rocky Bleier walked through the grass and brush of the remote Hiep Duc Valley, 35 miles from Da Nang, stirring up memories of a half-century before. It was August 20, 2018, 49 years to the day since Bleier was badly wounded when his Army platoon, vastly outnumbered and surrounded By Viet Cong, came under intense fire there. Four U.S. soldiers were killed in the attack, and Bleier was among the 25 wounded.

Revisiting the battle scene for the first time as part of an ESPN special, The Return, which aired earlier this year, Rocky found himself overcome with emotion.

“I think about those guys that got killed,” he said. Among them was a 19-year-old infantryman nicknamed Hawaii, engaged to be married, whom Rocky had come to know well. “He’s down, and he’s not moving,” Rocky remembered. “He took two rounds…and he dies.”

Bleier, who was drafted into the U.S. military during his rookie season as a running back with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was among the fortunate ones who returned home alive. But his wartime injuries, said doctors and everyone else, would prevent him from ever playing professional football again.

Rocky was determined to prove them wrong. Aided by the strength of his faith, he would do just that.

A Catholic Upbringing

Robert “Rocky” Bleier – the nickname dates to his infancy – grew up in Appleton, Wis., the oldest of four children of Bob and Ellen Bleier. The family lived above the tavern his father owned, Bleier’s Bar, just a halfblock from St. Joseph’s Parish. His paternal grandparents belonged to that parish, and so his father and siblings all attended St. Joe’s grade school.

“When I was growing up there were only two kinds of kids in my world, public school kids and Catholic kids,” Bleier recalled, “so being Catholic was the only thing I knew.”

Rocky sang in the choir, served at the altar, and learned “some of the toughest lessons” from the Notre Dame Sisters at St. Joe’s and, later, the Christian Brothers at Xavier High School. That Catholic education and upbringing “set a foundation and belief that became essential throughout my life,” he said. “It set an order and discipline that got me through the toughest of times.”

Bleier was a three-time all-state selection at running back at Xavier, and although not a “blue chip” recruit he garnered interest from a number of college coaches. After visiting three campuses, he made his decision. “I did what every good Catholic boy was taught to do, and that was to go to church and pray for guidance,” he said, “and then like every good Catholic boy I did what my mother wanted me to do — and that was to go to Notre Dame.”

It proved to be a good choice for him. “College can be an age of question as you are trying to figure who you are, where are you going, what is important in life, what you believe. During this period you need solitude, a time for reflection, a place to go,” Bleier said. “I found that solace in walking the lakes on campus and ending up at Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine,” the famous grotto near the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. That’s where he would stop to pray in preparation for every Notre Dame football game and at countless other moments in his years in South Bend.

At 5-10 and 177 lbs., Bleier was small for a Fighting Irish halfback, but in his junior year he became a starter for Notre Dame’s undefeated 1966 national championship season – the year the #1 Irish tied #2 Michigan State 10-10 in the season’s penultimate game to secure the title in what has been dubbed “The Game of the Century.”

In 1967, he was a team captain as the Irish went 8-2. Although injury forced Rocky to miss the final game — a 24-22 win over the University of Miami — his team and coach Ara Parseghian awarded him the game ball.

Pittsburgh … And Vietnam

Selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 16th round of the NFL-AFL draft, Bleier made the final roster in 1968 but played sparingly his rookie season. Then his life took a dramatic turn: with the Vietnam War raging, he was drafted into the U.S. military. At season’s end, he was inducted into the Army, and following advanced infantry training his unit was shipped out to Vietnam in May 1969.

The following August, Bleier’s unit was on a recovery operation in Hiep Duc when they were ambushed by Viet Cong soldiers. Several of his platoon mates would be killed or wounded in the attack, and Bleier himself was shot in the left thigh. After crawling 200 yards behind a hedgerow, “I said the most fervent prayer of my life,” he wrote in his 1975 memoir Fighting Back. A short time later, an enemy grenade landed near him and blasted shrapnel into his lower right leg, blowing away part of his foot and leaving him in agonizing pain. It would take several excruciating hours and heroic efforts from some of his fellow soldiers to carry him two miles to a helicopter for evacuation.

While Bleier was undergoing treatment for his injuries in Tokyo, doctors told him it would be “impossible” for him to play football again. But soon he received a postcard from Art Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers: “Rock, the team’s not doing well. We need you. Art Rooney.” With several surgeries and a long rehabilitation ahead of him, Rocky was determined to “fight back” and return to the gridiron, even in the face of near-unanimous skepticism.

Field Goal: Back To The Team

But return he did, through sheer determination, perseverance, and hard work. In 1970, the Steelers placed him on injured reserve. He was waived twice, but always re-signed by Pittsburgh. He spent the next three seasons playing on special teams, amassing just four carries from scrimmage and eight kick returns in that time. In 1972, he was on the sidelines when Franco Harris scored on the controversial “Immaculate Reception” play in the closing seconds of a playoff game against the Oakland Raiders. When he signed his one-year contract for the 1973 season, Rocky briefly contemplated retirement, but instead focused on strength training and bulked up to 216 lbs. In 1974, he became a starter alongside Harris. In 1975, he won the first of his four Super Bowl rings with the Steelers.

During the 1976 season, Bleier and Harris became only the second backfield duo ever to rush for more than 1,000 yards apiece in a season. Perhaps his greatest moments came in Super Bowl XIII against the Dallas Cowboys, when he caught a second-quarter touchdown pass from quarterback Terry Bradshaw and later recovered the Cowboys’ last-minute onside kick attempt to seal the 35-31 victory.

The Rooney family was Catholic, as was Steelers head coach Chuck Noll, which gave a certain ethos to those years in Pittsburgh. “There is a certain belief foundation of doing what is right that prevailed,” Bleier said of the Steelers organization in the 1970s. “No one wore their religion on their sleeves, but it made it easier to feel a part of the family.”

Bleier retired after the 1980 season, ending his career as the fourth-leading rusher in Steelers history. His remarkable story and his grit on the playing field had won him the admiration of football fans everywhere. That same year, his book was made into a TV movie, and last spring it was reissued with two new chapters. Today, Bleier is a popular motivational speaker and operates a retirement planning firm in Pittsburgh.

Amid all the daunting challenges of his life, Bleier credits the “foundation” of his Catholic faith for carrying him through.

“I didn’t have to ‘turn’ to my faith, it was always there,” he reflected. “As a famous football coach once said, ‘You pray to God as if it is up to Him, and you prepare as if it is up to you.’ Praying, wishing, wanting, and hoping aren’t enough to succeed, although they are an essential part of that foundation. One still has to put the time and effort into it.”

Return To Hiep Duc

Bleier’s return visit to Vietnam was unexpectedly emotional, as the ESPN special reveals. In the muggy Vietnam heat he remembered the events of August 20, 1969, and wept openly for the men who died that day.

“After 50 years, I saw the changes in Vietnam — the growth, commerce, buildings, townships, cities, the natural progression of time,” he said. “Not as I left it: villages, jungles, rice paddies, trails.”

Vietnam is “still a police state, a communist country, so I asked myself: ‘for what?’” he said. “We lost that war, [but] more importantly we lost 58,000 soldiers…. Not that they died in vain, but we should never had been there to begin with.”

Yet his takeaway from that visit was positive, too. “I am more proud today of having the opportunity to serve my country,” Bleier said, “because no matter what injustice one might feel they have to endure, there is not a better country to live in.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer

WHAT TO SEE: Coping with challenge-seasons through faith, reliance

Catching Faith 2: The Homecoming
Lorena Segura York, Alexandra Boylan, Garrett Westton, Bill Engvall
Run time: 94 min • Not Rated

Change is a fact of life, but we would more easily weather inevitable challenges and transitions if they would line up politely and come at us one at a time. Unfortunately, that’s not always how it works. Sometimes multiple challenges hit concurrently, and in attempting to cope with them all we are pushed to our limits or beyond.

That’s the situation facing empty-nesters Alexa and John Taylor in the sequel Catching Faith 2: The Homecoming, released directly to DVD and streaming services this past September. Already caring for Alexa’s dementia-stricken mother and with Alexa about to return to the workforce to take on an exciting new job, the Taylors learn their grown twins are returning home: their daughter, Ravyn, announces a surprise engagement, while their son, Beau, must rehab from a serious leg injury that ended his budding pro-football career. As if that’s not enough of a game-changer, Alexa must contend with her daughter’s prospective mother-in-law — Alexa’s own ex-best-friend — who takes the lead on planning Ravyn’s wedding, much to Alexa’s indignation.

Stung by the rivalry and a “fear of missing out,” Alexa insists on doing it all. John urges Alexa to accept some help with the wedding planning and her mother’s care, as do the women in Alexa’s Bible study group, but her strong will and “I got this” attitude prevail until it becomes clear she doesn’t “got this” at all. Meanwhile, Beau’s old high school coach invites him to be his offensive coordinator, but Beau must learn a few lessons in true leadership after his brash arrogance diminishes his respect among his players.

Catching Faith 2 is a squeaky clean family film with some positive things to say, but it tries to accomplish much amid a meandering script. Its key takeaway, however, is on point: while faith and good intentions can carry us far, it’s not a sign of failure to ask help from

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

The high stakes of Catholic education

Our mission is to study, live and spread the Catholic faith. Each year, the September issue of our magazine is dedicated to Catholic education… not only because September marks the beginning of another academic year, but also because this is a topic of critical importance to the Church. It is of course the mission of our Catholic schools to provide an environment where the truths of the Church (along with the array of other academic disciplines) are faithfully taught to the next generation. Thus we see a very practical means of our promoting the studying and spreading of our Catholic faith.

Tom Monaghan

Along with the expansion of Legatus, this area of Catholic education has been where I have felt called to devote the vast majority of my time and resources since selling Domino’s Pizza more than 20 years ago. We all know that if you want to impact future generations, the battleground is in our schools. I was blessed to receive a faithful Catholic education when I was in grade school; it was a firm foundation for which I am very grateful. While I did not always live my faith the way I should have, the gift of this Catholic education served me as an unwavering guide.

As my time and resources permitted, it was natural that Catholic education became an area of focus. I started by getting involved in the local Catholic high school, and later built a series of private Catholic grade schools. During this time, I received a crash course regarding some of the struggles going on in Catholic education from a well-respected Catholic who was a good friend. For example, I had never heard of the 1967 Land O’ Lakes Conference or the statement issued by these leaders of Catholic universities from across the country. Obviously, this conference did not take place in a vacuum and was in a sense a sign of the turbulent time the Church and our society was going through in the ‘60s. With that said, this conference in many ways opened the doors for secular influences to creep into Catholic universities and a move away from the Church in the name of academic freedom and secular prestige. 

Thankfully, in 1990 Pope St. John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the apostolic constitution for Catholic universities, finally began a renewal of Catholic identity in some Catholic universities. Almost 30 years later, we continue to wrestle with this issue, not only in our universities, but also in our Catholic schools at every level. So, as this new school year begins, I encourage you to pray for our Catholic schools and ask the Lord if there is anything He wants you to do to help them to be places where our future generations are formed according to the Truth.

TOM MONAGHAN is Legatus’ founder, chairman, and CEO.

Evangelizing extended family hands on life-enriching gift of faith

Today, even secular media are heralding the importance of family to the well-being of children. We see advertisements advocating for the family dinner table. While they may also be trying to promote certain food products, the message is clear: the wellbeing of children rests on the well-being of the family. The Church always has known this: each of us is part of the Body of Christ and if one of us suffers, we all suffer (1 Corinthians 12:26). She also speaks of the family as the domestic Church, and of parents being the first preachers of faith to their children (Lumen Gentium, II, 11). But so much seems to be getting in the way: school projects; soccer and basketball games and practice, even on Sunday; both parents needing to work long hours, missing family meals and the opportunity to say grace before meals together; faith-filled grandparents being hundreds of miles away; cell phones disrupting family time together; and social media even replacing family as the source of faith and strength for children.

Faith, the cornerstone for living, always has been passed on by one generation to the next. But in today’s mobile society the standard form of family is the nuclear family. And that family size continues to get smaller, and children can be denied the great gift of another brother or sister. This can breed a false sense of self-sufficiency with the resulting sense of social isolation, despite parents and children being thoroughly exhausted from efforts to be members of the local and business communities. The gift of being part of the healing Body of Christ is not recognized. What can be done to build up the family, the domestic Church, and to support the family’s role in passing on the faith?

Methods of social communication can help, with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins using such communication media as Skype and FaceTime. But are they ever used to pass on the faith? Do families use them to pray together while miles apart? We are encouraged to tell each other we love each other, as we end conversations, but do we bless each other? Are diverse vocational roles recognized among family members: married, single, clergy, consecrated life? Is the rich potential of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, with their ability to be evangelizers to young family members, recognized, or are they also socially isolated, even by choice? They also need to experience the gift of being part of the Body of Christ.

We may fear to speak of faith to family members and others because of fear of being alienated by loved ones. There are simple ways to pass on the gift of faith. And who can object to a simple, “God bless you; I am praying for you”? Efforts need to be made to be present to each other, if possible, even if only at some holidays. A strong witness is a beloved grandparent going to church at such times.

When family members are present in our homes, there is evangelization in saying grace before meals with each other, even if family members choose to be silent witnesses to it. And the most important is the gift of love we share with each other, as each baptized person is part of the Body of Christ, even when not recognized by some. And what children experience, they will mimic in adult life and in their own nuclear families. That is how they will or will not pass on the life-sustaining and life-enriching gift of faith.

MARIE HILLIARD, MS, MA, JCL, PH.D., RN, is senior fellow at The National Catholic Bioethics Center. She has an extensive background in nursing, medical ethics and public policy (and is the former director of the CT Catholic Conference). She is a canon lawyer, co-chairs the Ethics Committee of the Catholic Medical Association, is president of the National Association of Catholic Nurses USA, and is a Colonel (Ret.) in the U.S. Army Reserve, where she served as RN for over 20 years. Having published extensively, she has likewise won Catholic Press Association award recognition.

WHAT TO SEE: Men of faith on the rise

Kingdom Men Rising
Dr. Tony Evans, Kris Franklin, Lecrae, Tony Dungy, Jonathan Pitts
Run time: 116 min
Rated PG

Tony Evans gets right to the heart of what it means to be a real man.

“You can be a male but not a man,” he says. Evans explains: “Malehood has to do with your biological gender. Manhood has to do with your submission to divine authority.”

By that, Evans means that each man is called to be a “Kingdom Man.” In his new documentary, Kingdom Men Rising, he calls upon men to stop being “lame,” rise up, be men of Christ, and fulfill their God-given responsibilities as husbands, fathers, and living examples to others.

It’s what Evans — author, media personality, and pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas — calls “biblical manhood,” and he knows it’s a tall order given today’s broken culture. Yet the culture can only heal if more men live for the kingdom and pass along that heritage of faith to their own children.

Kingdom Men Rising features interviews with Evans along with his sons and daughters, each of whom is successful as a performing artist, author, or preacher. There’s also award-winning Gospel singer Kris Franklin, Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae, pastor Jonathan Pitts, Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy, and ex-NFL players Jon Kitna, Troy Vincent, and Tim Brown. Each offers insights and life experiences affirming the need for men to emerge as committed and responsible Christians.

The film, which had a two-day theatrical release before being marketed to churches, touches upon many issues involving men today, including fatherless homes, pornography addiction, promiscuity, abortion regrets, and life balance. The cast is almost entirely African American, as is Dr. Evans’ preaching style, but the message applies to all men, even if the language and theology is distinctly evangelical at times and might require clarification for Catholic viewers.

“This life is a spiritual battle, [and] you better be ready for a fight because there’s Satan on the other side [and he] wants to take you down,” Dungy says at one point, channeling his best Pope Francis. The devil might try to take men down, but Kingdom Men Rising invites them to stand strong and walk by faith.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Knowing and spreading your faith

As I have shared in past columns, I enjoy reading books. Every now and then, I come across a special one. Recently, I came across such a book. I was getting ready to go on vacation, so I stopped by the Catholic bookstore next to our chapel to find something for the trip. The title of a book on display caught my Attention: Forty Anti-Catholic Lies, A Myth-busting Apologist Sets the Record Straight, by Gerard Verschuuren, Ph.D.

Tom Monaghan

After a couple of chapters, I knew it was going to be a great book, and on finishing it I think it is a book every Catholic should read. It is very clear and well written, packed full of useful and interesting information, and it is understandable for a layman like myself.

As I read each chapter, I was impressed by the author’s knack for taking complex topics and explaining them in a clear and non-threatening fashion. When I travel, I try and strike up conversations with those I sit next to and after listening to how they are doing or letting them talk about their interests, I try and bring up something about faith. If they seem open, I will sometimes ask if I can mail them a book. Most of the time, they are open to the gesture. I think this book will work well for this type of evangelization, which I believe comes across as non-threatening because they get to read the book in the privacy of their own home. There are many former Catholics who have stopped practicing their faith and just need a little nudge to come back to the Church.

I am excited because I also believe this book will help Catholics who want to better understand their faith or to assist those who regularly experience anti-Catholic rhetoric being thrown their way. Another reason I think this book is well suited for ministry in the skies (the abovementioned practice of sharing one’s faith while flying) is because while Verschuuren presents the uncompromising truth about what the Church teaches, he does so in charity. I believe this will go a long way in not alienating non-Catholic readers because I do not think they will feel attacked.

To give you a flavor of some of the topics addressed, this book set the record straight regarding accusations about the Catholic Church ranging from the Church being oppressive to women to rejecting science… And accusations that Catholics worship statues and Mary to the Church inventing purgatory and many other commonly misunderstood subjects.

I will be giving copies to all the members of the board of governors at our meeting later this month, and I have already ordered plenty of copies to have on hand in my office to give away… all a part of studying, living, and spreading the Faith!

TOM MONAGHAN is Legatus’ founder, chairman, and CE

Return to faith – overcoming scar of clerical abuse

Paul Zsebedics could never bring himself to throw away the T-shirt with a picture of Christ’s face that his mother gave him years ago.

Zsebedics was barely a practicing Catholic when he agreed to chaperone a group of high school students on a weekend retreat at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He wore that old T-shirt.

In a metaphorical and literal sense, Zsebedics put on Christ for the first time.

Encountering Christ anew

“I think I did it because I knew I was going with others to this retreat who had something that I didn’t, and I was sort of hiding behind Jesus,” said Zsebedics, 52, a member of the Tampa Bay Chapter, and CEO of VoloForce, a software company.

On that weekend retreat several years ago, Zsebedics met Jesus in a deeply personal manner. Encountering Christ in a Eucharistic Adoration gathering, Zsebedics said the Lord physically intervened in his interior life.

“This was miraculous, not a metaphor,” Zsebedics said. “Jesus Christ reached into my chest with His hand. I actually felt it. He grabbed my heart. I gasped. That was it. My life was changed forever.”

As he later knelt down and wept, Zsebedics felt a peace envelop his entire body. Nothing in that moment would have been able to take that consolation away from him, not even the pain of being a sex abuse survivor.

Betrayed altar boy

“There is no amount of money that can ever heal the way that Jesus Christ can,” said Zsebedics, who was an altar boy in the third grade when he was sexually abused by one of his parish priests in Queens, New York.

After finishing their altar service training, Zsebedics said the priest escorted each of them separately into a bathroom in the sacristy, where he abused them. Not even 10 years old, Zsebedics and the other boy did not understand what had happened.

“Being in the third grade, you don’t know much about the world,” Zsebedics said. “At the time, it was confusing. The older you get, you see what’s going on and you begin to know what’s happening.”

Growing up with that horrible memory turned Zsebedics off to the Catholic Church, which he saw as having no moral authority, especially since his childhood parish — Our Lady Queen of Martyrs – turned out to be “an epicenter” of clergy sex abuse. Zsebedics’ own sister was abused by one of the parish priests.

“A lot of bad priests were brought there,” Zsebedics said. “A lot of altar boys and others who worked in and around the rectory were abused in one way or another by those priests, and the diocese covered it up for many years.”

Damaged view of Church

The horrible experience also shaded Zsebedics’ view and understanding of sexuality for many years.

“Looking back, you bring this garbage everywhere you are in your life. You look at sexuality differently,” he said. “Back then in the 1970s, nobody talked about what sexuality is and how one is supposed to look at sexuality in general. You become numb. You try to figure it out and understand.”

As an adult, Zsebedics fell in love with Ellen, a young Pan Am flight attendant in New York with whom he would later elope. Ellen’s mother, a devout Catholic, arranged for the couple to meet with a priest and have their civil marriage convalidated.

Though he attended Catholic schools for 12 years, Zsebedics said he was “poorly formed” in the faith, and was not very supportive when Ellen, who was baptized Catholic but never received her other sacraments, enrolled in RCIA. When Ellen received Holy Communion for the first time, Zsebedics watched in bewilderment as she started crying.

Powerful return to faith

“All I can think of is why is this woman crying over this Jesus cookie?” Zsebedics said. “At the time, I was thinking, ‘She should be crying because she’s marrying the greatest man on earth, which is me.’”

Their parish priest subsequently encouraged the couple to complete “St. Louis de Monfort’s Way of Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary.” Our Lady’s promise of drawing the soul closer to her son had its desired effect. Both had powerful conversion experiences.

“It changed the direction of our family,” Zsebedics said, adding that he and Ellen, who have been married 23 years in the Church, developed a prayer group with other families. Their family also grew.

Today, they have six children whose ages range from 9 to 27. Their 18-year-old son, Andrew, recently told them he plans to enroll in seminary to discern the priesthood.

Priceless gift of healing

“My wife and I were joyful that we had a son who was open to discernment,” said Zsebedics, who, though he was abused by a priest, encouraged his children to be open to the Lord’s call, even if that meant the priesthood.

Zsebedics also said he regularly prays for his abuser, who died in 2016. Zsebedics added that he has spoken with diocesan officials in New York to erect a shrine to St. Maria Goretti at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church to aid in the healing of sex abuse survivors.

“Bishops will often ask, ‘What can I do to help you heal?’ It’s very difficult when you tell them, ‘Absolutely nothing,’” Zsebedics said. “There’s not a dollar in the world that can actually make up for this priceless gift of faith and healing that we received through the Blessed Mother and her son, Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.” L B

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.