Esto Vir speakers urge men to pray, work against threats to Christianity

By Steve Wideman | For The Compass | March 12, 2015

APPLETON — The vacant eye sockets of a human skull greet Steve Ray as he sits at his desk, morning coffee in hand, to begin his evangelizing work spreading God’s words around the globe.

Steve Ray, keynote speaker at the 10th annual Esto Vir Men’s Conference at St. Pius X Church in Appleton, urged the estimated 800 attendees to defend their faith in a time when the church is being persecuted. (Steve Wideman | For The Compass)
Steve Ray, keynote speaker at the 10th annual Esto Vir Men’s Conference at St. Pius X Church in Appleton, urged the estimated 800 attendees to defend their faith in a time when the church is being persecuted. (Steve Wideman | For The Compass)

“The skull talks to me every day. It tells me that 30 years from now I’ll look like him,” said Ray, who, with his wife, Janet, leave their Michigan home for six months a year to act as certified guides in the Holy Land and to lead pilgrimages throughout Rome and the Midde East.

“The skull reminds me I have to make an accounting to God someday. It reminds me of my mortality and that I am not so important as I think I am,” Ray said.

Ray, a former Baptist who became Catholic, was one of two keynote speakers at the 10th annual Esto Vir Men’s Conference March 7 at St. Pius X Church. It attracted 800 men for a day-long event of prayers, speakers, confessions and Mass.

The theme of this year’s conference was engaging men to effect changes in a world posing increasing threats and challenges to the Catholic faith.

“You have to be willing to swim upstream and reject what the world is trying to stuff down our throat,” Ray said. “If we all change course and swim the same way against things like government making wrong decisions, we will win.”

Ray turned to examples of many early saints of the church martyred for their beliefs as Greco-Roman and paganism beliefs ruled the world of Christ.

“The first 32 popes died as martyrs,” Ray said, noting that for the first 300 years after the resurrection of Jesus, church and Christianity were illegal. You could be killed if you said you were Catholic. Churches were seized and used as barracks for Roman soldiers,” Ray said.

Over the next 1,700 years Christianity slowly grew to today’s major religions.

“Today, I fear we’re slipping back to the times of Greek and Rome and paganism,” Ray said. “We are raising our children in a culture that is losing its Christianity, where certain things are right and certain things are wrong.”

Ray said moral values found in Christianity are falling away, especially in several European countries.

“Ten percent of the gross national product in Holland is sex,” Ray said. “It’s a scary thing that is facing America. We are living in a culture of relativism (where truths depend on an individual’s thoughts). That is bad. People are confused today because there is a lot of noise out there. Every religion is trying to get their attention, trying to get their money and trying to get them to join.”

So how can we reverse the slide away from a Christian culture?

“We need to conduct our lives like the early Christians and turn the pagan world upside down to bring our culture back to the Lord,” Ray said. “If we can give them some clarity and bring them the church that has been around for 2,000 years and is still growing strong, then I am happy to help do that.”

That may not be so easy, noted the other main conference speaker, Curtis Martin, founder and CEO of Focus, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, among the fastest growing movements in the Catholic Church.

Martin said 30 million of this country’s 300 million Catholics have renounced their faith while only 15 million go to Mass on a weekly basis.

“That is not healthy,” Martin said.

Quoting Luke 6:46, “Why do you call me Lord, and not do what I say?’” Martin said there is no option to picking the side of God or Satan.

“You will spend eternity in heaven or hell,” Martin said.

In his homily during the afternoon Mass at Esto Vir, Bishop David Ricken said more people are using Jesus’ name in vain and are not going to Mass while the culture of death continues to grow.

“We’ve got to turn this around, brothers and sisters, and Jesus is waiting for us,” Bishop Ricken said. “The least we can do is observe the Big 10 (Ten Commandments).”

Bishop Ricken said the truth will set us free.

“Each of us is living on borrowed time. What are you waiting for?” he said. “What would happen if a foreign force took over our country? We’d get our priorities straight pretty fast.”

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