With Lent starting this Wednesday, I wanted to do something that would help prepare me for the holy season. Luckily, there was an event this past weekend that did just that.
On Saturday, I attended the South Carolina Catholic Men’s Conference. Held this year in Columbia, the conference is put on by the South Carolina State Council of the Knights of Columbus in support of the Diocese of Charleston. I registered to attend about three weeks ago and had enthusiastically looked forward to the event since then.
I woke up at 4 a.m. on Saturday and met two gentlemen from our local Knights of Columbus council (Myrtle Beach #5086) in the Kroger parking lot. From there we drove together to Cardinal Newman High School in Columbia where the conference was held. The camaraderie I was able to share with my brother knights from my own council was one of the best parts of the trip! I had the privilege of traveling with our Grand Knight, Tom McElligott, and Paul Jenkins. Both men have been knights for years and are so strong in their faith. I was honored that they included me.
When we arrived at Cardinal Newman we checked in and then went inside the cafeteria for breakfast. Another great part of the conference that didn’t necessarily relate to the content covered was the opportunity to meet other male Catholics from across the state. It was a joy to chat with other guys my age who are just as dedicated to the principles of Catholicism as me.
The conference kicked off in earnest with mass. We filled the chapel at Cardinal Newman High School to hear the holy word and partake in the Eucharist. The gospel was about Jesus rebuking the elders who tried to keep children from approaching him (Mark 10:13-16) and Msgr. Richard Harris preached about the necessity of letting God form us in the way glassmakers creatively form their own work. Although I believe women have much better voices than men, it was unique and special to hear a gathering of only males singing the hymns with sincerity and reverence.
After mass we headed to the theater for the speakers. Father Dwight Longenecker, a priest and author from the Diocese of Charleston, spoke about the root of sin. From the beginning with Adam and Eve up until now, all sins (lower case) originate from one Sin (upper case), pride. Father Longenecker explained that people base their existence on being right and persecute those who deviate from their world construct.
My eyes were opened and spiritual battery re-charged when the next speaker gave his address. Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers is a celebrity in the Catholic world, appearing constantly on EWTN (total geek-out moment for me). The conference was able to book him and boy did he deliver! He spoke about how to be a better husband, a better father, and a better man. Some of what he said brought tears to my eyes and I saw Sidney and Sloan in a different light after he was done speaking.
When the morning concluded, we headed to the cafeteria for lunch. It was another chance to talk with fellow Catholics and make connections.
The afternoon portion of the conference opened with holiness and grace. Father Flores, a priest from St. Mary in Aiken, led Eucharistic Adoration in the chapel. Through word, song, and plenty of sacred silence, us men adored the Blessed Sacrament. To be in the presence of Christ during Holy Hour was the perfect way to break up the two halves of the conference.
After adoration, it was back to the theater. We were blessed to hear from both Father Longenecker and Deacon Harold again. Both men discussed ways to fight against Satan. Father Longenecker counseled us to speak truth, accept responsibility, pray, and defeat evil.
When Deacon Harold came back up to the podium, he used David vs. Goliath as a metaphor for the modern man vs. the devil battle. He reminded us that the Catholic Church gives us plenty of “slingshot ammunition” to keep Satan away. Saying the rosary, receiving the sacraments, going to mass, and showing up for adoration are just a few of the “weapons” in the Catholic “arsenal” for protecting ourselves. Deacon Harold spoke about temptations that men face and reminded us of our duty to always put the women in our lives first. If only you could hear his preaching style…
Aside from what I briefly outlined, a lot of other things went on during the conference. Confession was offered, songs were performed between sessions, vendors sold spiritually enriching materials, and the chapel was always open if you wanted to go pray. As I mentioned above, it was a day that allowed you to re-charge.
I want to thank the South Carolina State Council of the Knights of Columbus for holding the conference. I also want to thank the Knights of Columbus Council #6847 for handling the event logistics. Most of all, I want to thank Tom and Paul of my own council for allowing me to go with them to this awesome conference. I really enjoyed hanging out with both guys. I can’t wait for next year! If you have any questions about becoming Catholic, or if you have been away from the faith and want to return, never hesitate to reach out to me. Don’t Blink.