By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator  

Getting up and leaving one’s comfort zone to follow Jesus is perhaps one of the most difficult challenges a person can face. 

immaculata conference photo 1.tif

Bishop Michael G. Duca and Bishop Emertus Bishop Robert W. Muench prepare to give each other the sign of peace during Mass at the 3rd annual Men of the Immaculata Conference on March 9 at St. George Church in Baton Rouge. Photo by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator

 

But doing so helps one become the man God called him to be. 

That was Bishop Michael G. Duca’s message during his homily at the 3rd annual “A Call to Battle” Catholic Men’s Conference presented by the Men of the Immaculata on March 9 at St. George Church in Baton Rouge. 

“I can’t tell you how important it is in the spiritual life to just get up,” he said, following up on the Gospel reading when Levi got up to follow Jesus. “The hardest thing to do is to get up because it means leaving the comfortable, leaving the familiar. It means taking on the yoke of responsibility.” 

Bishop Duca admitted getting up and saying you’re sorry is never easy, and but said those who trust in the Lord and take that first step find “grace upon grace, answers that we never imagined. </span id=”5″>

“We find hope, we find the courage to move forward, we find ourselves come alive spiritually.”

A sold-out crowd of 1,200 men attended the conference, which included Mass, confessions heard throughout the day and a lineup of entertaining and spiritually inspiring speakers that featured popular author Father Don Calloway MIC, Tim Staples and Father Josh Johnson, pastor of Holy Rosary Church in St. Amant.

Bishop Duca began his homily, which was as challenging as it was inspiring, by praising the men, saying everyone in attendance was there for a reason, whether being a bit broken, grieving the loss of a loved one, dealing with illness, suffering through the feeling of being lost or other issues.  

He acknowledged it’s difficult to let go of one’s sins, especially if they have become familiar, addictive, or a part of one’s life.  

“Look at your life; what are the things you run to?” he said. “What are the things you look forward to? Does it have to with prayer or service to others? 

“Let us pray the Lord fills our souls to get up so that we might know the joy, the joy Pope Francis keeps talking about. Tomorrow morning think about getting up and beginning anew.”

Father Calloway’s pre-sentation provoked laughter, curious stares and a few tears along the way. He spoke of his troublesome childhood, one that included enduring his mother’s three marriages, becoming a teenage gang member in Japan and eventually being expelled from that country and escorted back to the United States as a teenager. 

During those years of spiritual turbulence, he thought the Catholic faith was rather odd. But as he grew older, two events would shape his future. One night while staying at his mother’s house at the Naval base in Norfolk, Virginia, he was unable to sleep and went downstairs looking for something to read. He stumbled across a book called “The Queen of Peace Visits Medjugorje” and found it so captivating he stayed up all night reading about the Virgin Mary.  

To his mom’s astonishment, that same morning Father Calloway told her he needed to talk to a priest. During the subsequent conversation with a priest, Father Calloway was encouraged to stay for Mass.  

It was during Mass when Father Calloway, on two occasions, heard a voice, that he acknowledged was God, say to him “Worship.”  

“I was injected with knowledge. I thought I was going to explode with what was happening in me,” he said, adding that he had spent his life looking for what could only be found in the Catholic Church. 

“(Working too much), addiction to pornography, whatever it is, you will waste so much time, energy and money in your quest for happiness and you’ll never find it until you humbly surrender to the truth,” Father Calloway said.

He said he went through a radical conversion and “fell madly in love with Jesus.” He cut his hair, got a job and went into what he called “serious battle mode” trying to get his manhood back. He signed up for RCIA classes and at one point even admitted he had to “duke it out with the devil,” before eventually becoming an ordained priest. 

Father Johnson admitted growing up he did not always love Jesus because he didn’t know Jesus. He said he began to drift even further away from God through his teen years but also began to experience an ache in his heart.

Father Johnson said his conversion came during a spiritual retreat in Alexandria when he came face to face with Christ and dropped to his knees to pray, and also began to cry. </span id=”20″>

He asked God what was his will. 

“God looked at me, all my brokenness and he saved me,” Father Johnson said. “He had me; I was done.” 

Bishop Duca ended the conference by asking the men to go to confession, take the time during Lent to read one of the Gospels from beginning to end, and pray the prayer of St. Patrick, which he prayed as the final blessing of the day.