By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator 

The Virgin Mary is the new church, born without original sin, full of grace and assumed into heaven body and soul. She is also to be viewed as the mother of all.  

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Father Mark Beard, pastor of St. Helena Church in Amite, speaks during the 19th annual Men of the Cross Men’s Conference on Aug. 10 at Holy Rosary Church in St. Amant. Photo by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator  


Welcoming Mary into one’s heart was the message Father Mark Beard delivered during a pair of stirring keynote addresses at the 19th annual Men of the Cross Men’s Conference on Aug. 10 at Holy Rosary Church in St. Amant.  

The theme of the conference, which attracted nearly 170 men on a sun-drenched and quite warm Saturday, was Reaching Jesus through Mary. 

Father Beard, pastor of St. Helena Church in Amite, and Holy Rosary pastor Father Joshua Johnson each spoke about the Virgin Mary, the importance of praying the rosary and how trips to Medjugorje have made a difference in each of their lives.  

Father Beard, who attended Catholic schools but admittedly “knew nothing of our faith,” said Medjugorje made him thirst to learn more of not only what it means to be a Catholic but to join the priesthood after spending several years in the family’s construction business. 

“I went to several churches (of different faiths); I did it all,” Father Beard said. “I wanted somebody to tell me the truth. What Medjugorje did for me was put me on a mission to do the right thing the right way. It taught so many things I never thought possible.”  

He emphatically stated that Mary was born without original sin, recalling the words of the angel Gabriel, who said to Mary, “Hail full of grace.”  

“From the very beginning she was full of grace, therefore she did not have original sin,” Father Beard said. “If you do not have original sin, you could not have died. She could not have had relations with Joseph because Joseph had original sin.  

“That means the child (Jesus) would have had original sin.”  

After visiting Medjugorje Father Beard said he was filled with grace and started going to confession, which he said there is no greater gift in the church outside of the Eucharist.  

“Let me tell you something, my brothers in Christ; don’t miss a Mass,” he said, the passion in his speech reverberating off of the Holy Rosary walls. “You break one of the (10 Commandments). I don’t want to hear about the duck blind, the Saints were playing. (Don’t say), ‘Father I found Disney World but I could not find church.  

“You were either in the building or you’re not in the building,” he added. “It is important to me that you go to confession and move on so that you can receive him. Stay close to him, for every day you fall further away from him, the more things will get in your way.”  

Father Johnson, who said he always found peace with something he was struggling with or holding onto on each of his three visits to Medjugorje, said one of the Blessed Mother’s consistent messages is to come back to Jesus through the rosary.

“She does not say come back to my son Jesus Christ by trying out this new yoga meditation, and she does not say come back to Christ by using new age spirituality,” Father Johnson said. “She says ‘Come back to my son Jesus Christ through the rosary, over and over and over.’ ”  

Father Johnson pointed out that one of the commandments is to honor your mother and father, and Mary is our mother.  

“So what should we be doing? Praying the rosary,” he said.  

Father Johnson encouraged those gathered to pray to the Blessed Mother to help each person to see Christ in the same way she saw him, to see him through her eyes, to hear him speak through her ears.  

He added that adoration must lead to the imitation of Christ.  

“If I can spend time with Jesus through the rosary, then I will begin to speak, act and think like Jesus,” Father Johnson said.
“In this season of my life, am I thinking like Christ throughout the day? Or not?” he asked as he challenged the men. “In this season of my life am I speaking the words of Christ or am I not? Am I acting in union with Christ in work, at home, in my neighborhood, with my friends or not?  

“If I’m not, then there is something that is off, and what’s off is my prayer life.”  

He said prayer suppresses vices and stressed that if one’s prayer life is off, then that person will likely be indulging in bad habits.  

“If you are not men of prayer, you will not be virtuous men, you will not be holy men, you will be men who are negative, cheat, steal, lie, curse, gossip, brood,” he said.  

He said people must be focused on Christ more than anything else and the rosary is a means to that end.  

“I think the conference is very important because it gives you someone else that you can lean on in times of need as opposed to when you are not surrounding yourself with other men of Christ,” Cody Melancon, a parishioner at St. John the Evangelist Church in Prairieville, said. “A very large part (of the conference) is relatable. It’s absolutely a sign of encouragement to see 170 other men here. You know you are not alone.”  

Melancon said he found Father Beard’s story about wondering through a spiritual desert before finding his faith at Medjugorje inspiring.  

“Doesn’t that remind each of us of our own individual past and how we’re seeking to build our faith and also to realize who we are?” he said.  

Van Browning, a member of Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Baton Rouge, said he enjoyed Father Johnson stressing the important of the Eucharist. Browning acknowledged that in the absence of prayer, a person will return to doing things “you are not proud of.  

“Prayer is important and needs to be a part of your daily life,” he said.  

Father Beard offered encouragement to the men, saying salvation can be achieved by following what he called the “seven signs” (sacraments). He said a person gets on the interstate to heaven at baptism, confirmation is one stop along the spiritual highway. He said marriage is in one lane, but single life in another and the ordained life in another.  

He said there are other stops along the way, including confession, but they are all built on the Eucharist.  

“How hard can it be” he asked. “All you have to do is follow the seven signs. Can you get there another way? Why would you? The church is the truth.”  

Father Beard also stressed families to pray together, saying “it makes all of the difference in the world.”  

He said if a family or married couple is not praying together “we will be doing your annulment.”  

The day included Mass and a period of eucharastic adoration.