Sunday, February 19, 2017

(105) Matthew Leonard: Highlights of the 2016 Steubenville Diocesan Men's Day of Renewal

Matthew Leonard was our 2016 Men's Conference Speaker at St. Stephen's Church in Caldwell, Ohio.  He is the Director of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology in Steubenville.  He continues to give talks on prayer all over the country.  As shown by the feedback, those who did not come missed a lot.  We can cover only some of the main points and its richness here.  Don't pass up another great opportunity in 2017!  His e-mail address is <mattleonard@salvationhistory.com>.  His website is www.matthewsleonard.com/.    

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 2016 STEUBENVILLE DIOCESAN MEN’S DAY OF RENEWAL

The 2016 Steubenville Diocesan Men's Day of Renewal at St. Stephen’s Church in Caldwell, Ohio on February 27 opened with a formal Holy Hour with Benediction.   Don Coen, the master of ceremonies, introduced a lot with a few words of wisdom……..”Be open to the Holy Spirit.  Be open to God’s plan for your life”.  That’s what it’s all about. 

Deacon Lee proclaimed St. John the Baptist’s words in the desert:  “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is is at hand” (Matthew 3:2).   Christ repeated that proclamation in the same words in Matthew 4:17.  Repent means to turn back to God, perhaps many times during the day.  We do things that are self-destructive.  Let us strive for the joy of a clear conscience. 
       
Matthew Leonard’s two talks to 216 men went over very well as reflected by the reaction of the men and their written evaluations at the end of the day.  Some of the men shared the day with their sons.

Bishop Jeffrey Monforton presided at the Mass.  In his homily the Bishop related that his father spent time with him.  But with each succeeding kid, he received less attention.  Each kid has a different personality.  In his explanation of the Gospel about the Prodigal Son, the Bishop noted the difference between the two brothers.  In demanding his inheritance, the prodigal effectively stated his wish that his father be dead.  However, the faithful brother was guilty of self-righteousness, also a sin.  He quoted Mother Theresa: “If you want peace in the family, love your family”.  The father must treat each member with compassion, concern, and mercy.

Matthew Leonard communicates the love of a father to a new addition to his family.

The featured speaker of the day was Matthew Leonard, the Director of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology.  He gives talks all over the country on prayer.  His morning and afternoon talks are summarized below.  I hope that my notes are accurate and complete.

The Art of Being Catholic

In his morning talk, Matthew Leonard observed that saints are not born; they are made.  For example, St. Augustine at first led a very sinful life.  At 17 he had a mistress and made her pregnant.  After his conversion, the future saint said: “Only grace keeps me chaste”.   After her speech before the United Nations, St. Mother Teresa cleaned toilets so that pride would not get hold. 

Mr. Leonard challenged us by quoting Christ: “Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).   That is by grace.  We are created to be saints.  Eternity is already here.

The Church is God’s family.  Matthew Leonard, as a son of Pentecostal minister, had an anti-Catholic upbringing.  He converted to Catholicism in 1998 at Franciscan University.

He exhorted “Give Christ everything you have; He gave us the Eucharist, the path to immortality”.  The best of this world, the most beautiful is only a hint of Heaven.  But we don’t give much attention to Heaven.
 
St. Thomas More, the Lord High Chancellor of England in the 16th Century, was very much rooted in this world.  He had a family and held the highest position in the Government after King Henry VIII.  Yet he strived for holiness.
 
We must strive to get others into Heaven.  The biggest thing that you can give to your family is prayer and love.  Lead them to Heaven.  Everything that we do on Earth must point to Heaven.  The only people in Heaven are saints.

Don’t aim for Purgatory.  You may miss.  So aim for holiness; live to be a saint.  He emphasized three major points:


1)      Learn how to love……true love as Christ loved by giving Himself on the Cross.  Love is sacrificial.  Put the other person first, starting with family.  Giving talks all over the country, being on the road, being very busy with job…….he saw that it’s very easy to forget family.  Love your wife as Christ loved the Church.  If you really love a person, you want to be with that person all the time.  Be willing to make sacrifices for your wife.

2)      Love the Eucharist.  If you really love Christ, you will want to be with Him in the Eucharist and in Adoration.  The Eucharist is the medicine of immortality….the source, the center, and the summit of everything Catholic.  God has a plan for your life; so does the devil.  God became man so that man would become like God.  As the baby shares the nature of the family, God shares His divinity with us.  The Eucharist helps us to become a greater part of it.

3)      Pray.  Slow down!  Shut up and listen!  We’re made to be in communion with God…….to move our hearts to God.  St. Paul said that the stuff of the earth is all crap.  Go to church early and often to be with Christ.  Our mission is to get people around us to Heaven.  God loves you more than you can imagine!
                                                                          
                                                                            Prayer

            He prefaced his second talk with the observation that it’s difficult for Protestants to cope with the Catholic culture.  The focus of his talk was to explain what prayer is and to teach us how to pray.

            The goal of prayer is to establish a relationship with God.  Try to grow to be more and more like Him.  We are created according to the image and likeness of God.  But Adam and Eve lost it.  We get it back by becoming more holy.  There’s enough grace in one consecrated host to save the world!  We must get out of ourselves to others and to Heaven.  We are made to pray……to be in communion with God.  Graces are available to us all day long.  We pray the “Our Father” as a son to a father.  God wants to give us everything.

1)      Will to pray.

2)      Learn how to pray.

a)      Vocal – the “Our Father”, the “Act of Contrition”.  Prayer depends not on words, but on the fervor of the soul.

b)     Meditation is interior reflective prayer (i.e, Lectio Divina).  It is mental that strives for deep understanding.  It can be done through scripture, through the Divine Officespiritual reading, etc.  Even vocal prayer can become meditative.  The center is Christ.  The best place to meditate is in Adoration.  Eliminate distractions from inside and outside.  The goal is quality and quantity to develop a relationship with God.  Keep it simple.

c)      Contemplation is the highest form of prayer.  St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross was the best at it.  God pours Himself into you and draws you into Himself.  It’s for all of us.  It’s not emotional.  St. John of the Cross had dark nights of the soul; St. Mother Teresa had it for 40 years.  They would feel abandoned by God.  Yet they kept the faith and kept going.
 
Make God’s will your will……..that His desires are your desires.  You can’t really hear God unless you are close to Him.  The more you pray, the more you will be fulfilled, and the happier you will be.  Make your prayer deeper.  For more detail on these three forms of prayer go to the Matthew Leonard’s books (available on amazon.com) and Catechism of the Catholic Church (2700 – 2724).  Every home should have the Bible and the Catechism.  It’s available on the internet at

A Beautiful Comment By Bruce Davison on the 2016 Men’s Conference
            Matt Leonard spoke as only a convert can speak…..full of love, joy, and passion.  The trials and tribulations of life and the struggle to overcome faults and vices can sometimes wear one down.  So to hear Matt speak on why we as Catholics, are so lucky or blessed because of what we have been given, through no merit of our own, had my spirit soaring.
            He first introduced us to God by way of pointing, quite dramatically, to the tabernacle and saying: “God is there!!”  Then he said that only one consecrated host has in it the power to save every soul on earth.  Amazing!
            He went on to explain how each one of us can tap into that power by prayer.  Prayer is as essential to the spiritual life as breathing is to the physical life.
            He told of the different types and modes of prayer and praying; how the saints were masters of prayer; how the saints received graces abundantly; grew in their love of God and because of that love were able to demonstrate that love by extraordinary loving deeds to their neighbors.  Oh how I long to be a saint!  The only failure in life is to not be a saint.
As you can see Matt had a huge impact on me.

Matt Leonard’s Reply

Paul - Thanks for the feedback about the conference.  More importantly, thanks be to God!  How it must please the Lord to hear someone say, "Oh how I long to be a saint!" Love it!

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