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2019 President of the Year had life-changing reversion to his faith

HANK CHRIST OF THE HARRISBURG CHAPTER CREDITS BIBLE STUDY FOR ENLIVING HIS LOVE FOR THE LORD

Legatus’ 2019 National President of the Year is Hank Christ, who in December completed a two-year term as president of the Harrisburg Chapter.

Christ, 69, lives in Wrightsville, Pa., with his wife, Edna. Together they have three grown children, one who lives nearby and two who reside in Chicago. Christ enjoys playing golf and traveling with his wife to the Windy City to see their grandchildren.

Christ is also chairman emeritus of McConkey Insurance and Benefits, a company he joined in 1976. He is an active volunteer in his community and in the Harrisburg diocese, for which he helps organize a ministry for young adults. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How does it feel to be named the 2019 National President of the Year?

I’m a team guy. So to me, this is an award for the chapter. We put together a strong board and basically paid attention to things. We set goals, monitored those goals, and had a plan for recruiting new members. When you pay attention to things, good things happen. We have a good team and everybody did a great job.

Our chaplain is Bishop Ronald Gainer. He is an incredibly dynamic man, and we all love him. It’s a big part of our success. We’ve been awarded for growth each year.

How did you get acquainted with Legatus?

I got a letter from the bishop back when they wanted to start the Chapter about four years ago. He asked me to come up for a dinner and a meeting, and when the bishop asks you to come, you come. Afterward he asked me if I would like to belong to Legatus, and I said, “Yes, I would.” 

Has the Catholic faith always been an important part of your life?

I never faded away from the Church, but my relationship with the Church and the Lord changed in the early 1990s. I had a conversion experience. I started studying the Bible, and it had an impact on me. A friend of mine encouraged me to study The Bible Timeline by Jeff Cavins, which is a 24-week program on the story of salvation history. Basically, you learn the story of salvation through reading 14 books of the Bible. If you take it seriously, it’s life-changing. It’s quite a commitment, but it’s worth it.

How did that program change your life?

I used to go to Mass on Sunday to get my ticket punched. That program made me want to go and have a relationship with the Lord. So it started getting me into things like cultivating more of a prayer life, going to daily Mass several times a week, and going to adoration at least once a week. 

How has your deepening faith impacted your professional life?

 Our company has about 100 employees. Everyone knows I’m a Catholic. Every one of my customers knows I’m a Catholic because I talk about the faith. I let them take from those conversations what they want.

What you like to do in your free time?

We’re involved in the Harrisburg diocese’s Theology on Tap program, which is for young adults in their 20s and 30s. We get together, have dinner and a speaker. I work out the details with the restaurants. I book the speakers. I get the marketing data together and advertise the program through Facebook. We basically try to stay behind the scenes when the meeting occurs. The young adults who go to it have started their own Bible study programs, are going to Mass together, and are forming good Catholic relationships. We’re privileged to be involved in that.

Bending back the sword of fear

With the long-held American tenet of separation of church and state, it would seem that wearing one’s faith on his sleeve in business might be ‘imprudent.’ After all, by the late 19th century, non-Catholic governments became the norm in Europe and in the Americas – and certain principles were instilled to keep Catholics ‘in line’ with dictates of civil authority. Catholicism and its unique teachings were to be granted no special treatment. And so an intolerable intimidation has trickled down to this day.

Christine Valentine-Owsik

It is the sword of fear pointed particularly at Catholics – in business, in government, in education, in everything.

The virtue of fortitude lets an executive act unapologetically and with confidence that God has his back. It’s the grit that lets him follow Divine instinct. It’s what prompts the CEO, judge, university professor, or administrative assistant to state plainly what he or she personifies as a Catholic – whether derided for it or not. High-octane guts trump human respect, and make some of the greatest leaders what they are.

But fear is the great underminer of fortitude, and there are reasons why.

Living in a continual state of moral compromise gives rise to fear – leading to heightened anxiety about others’ opinions or of being exposed. It’s been said the more one runs from God, the greater his unrest.

Next, the Church today is less likely to have her princes and shepherds draw clear boundaries clarifying longstanding right and wrong. Rather, many clerics pursue affirmation of the culture. The perception of losing centuries-old Church support makes Catholics more fearful, and more lax.

Third, among man’s deepest instincts is self-preservation, which kicks into high gear amid fear of loss – of business, income, stature, loved ones, health – even death. It takes supernatural muscle to go beyond the limitations of self-preservation and forge ahead for the selfless purposes of God.

Fourth, many contemporary Catholics recoil from living sacrificially or embracing hardship – errantly perceiving it as a lack of self-sufficiency. This exacerbates their fear of pain or even mild discomfort – making them ‘soft,’ less able to stand immovably firm on the tougher aspects of faith.

Finally, a close ‘relative’ of fear is uncertainty – which makes people queasy about circumstances and imagined outcomes. It keeps them inert, unable to take bold steps. The early 20th-century communists and Nazis exploited uncertainty, and kept people in constant suspicion of each other so they’d remain fearful and easily controlled.

Years ago when I was a legal writer, the attorney who owned the firm hosted Christmas parties at his spectacular country estate. He was devout Greek Orthodox, and one year gave us a special house tour. Matter-of-factly, he led us into a glorious room with a large spotlighted Bible on an ornate brass bookstand, flanked with candles in gilded holders, fresh poinsettias, and a spectacular gold-carved cross. Illuminated paintings of Christ and saints’ icons lined the walls. His wife led us in religious Christmas carols around their piano.

A godly leader, he made his faith evident in every setting. Many of us are still affirmed by his example.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.

Caterer for Christ cooks for most needy

2019 Ambassador of the Year serves with palatable faith

Craig Henry, a founding member of Legatus’ Lafayette-Acadiana Chapter, was honored as the 2019 Ambassador of the Year at the Legatus Summit East in January.

Henry, 51, runs Holy Trinity Catering, a ministry that serves meals for church groups, civic organizations, the poor, and those who find themselves in need during a disaster.

A married father of three, Henry is also the managing owner of Bradford Food Group, a U.S.-based food distribution company that co-owns multiple bakeries in Mexico. He sits on Legatus’ Board of Governors. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How does it feel to be the 2019 Ambassador of the Year?

It’s a fantastic feeling. I think I’m receiving the award because I’m trying to truly live out the mission statement of Legatus. I’m just trying to be an ambassador for Christ in all areas of my life, especially in the aspect of helping the poor and helping kids stay Catholic, especially high school and college kids. A lot of the work I do with Holy Trinity is tied to keeping folks connected and involved with the Catholic faith.

How did you get into the food business?

I went to work for several national chains right out of high school. I started out with Sonic Drive-In and ended my career with a company called Old Country Buffet.

When did you venture on your own?

I always did a lot of cooking for different charity things, but I was kind of piece-mealing it from the back of my truck. In 2017, when Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas, Acadiana [in Louisiana] was home to many of those who were evacuated or displaced. I was approached by Catholic Charities to help coordinate and feed some of those evacuees. I rounded up a bunch of volunteer help, and we ended up serving 600 to 700 people. The love and appreciation we were shown brought me pure joy. That’s when I realized I needed to be more organized.

What is the mission of Holy Trinity Catering?

To keep people focused on what Christ has called us to be and do. Cajun people are known for their culture and their food, and it’s a good way to bridge the gap and brings folks together. I cook traditional Cajun food. Many are dishes my grandmother cooked for our family. I even came up with a little slogan: “Made with faith and seasoned with love.”

Where does your strong Catholic faith come from?

I attribute it to my late grandmother, my dad’s mom. She and my grandfather were the epitome of the Catholic faith. I grew up in a very small town. They were the keepers of the little mission church in town. It wasn’t uncommon for me to walk into her house to see her sitting at the table praying the rosary. I didn’t understand her dedication to the rosary as a younger guy. Once I joined Legatus, I was on a Men’s Enclave with Tom Monaghan and others. Tom challenged me to say a rosary every day for the rest of my life. I made that commitment, and now I understand why my grandmother was so faithful to it.

How has Legatus impacted your spiritual life?

We attended the Legatus Summit in 2014, where I had a life-changing moment in Confession. It reignited my faith like nothing else. Legatus does so much in helping you be secure with what your faith is and how to live it. It gives you so many tools and opportunities to grow. Our circle of friends is all tied back to the Church because of our commitment to Legatus.

Craig Henry truly personifies the mission of Legatus through all aspects of his life and example. He is exemplary of the role the New Evangelization plays in the Church, as evidenced through his Legatus experience and transformation that resulted in his embrace of the faith. He has become the Ambassador of Christ in the marketplace that we all strive to be.

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.