Monday, June 3, 2024

(290) Larry Haas (1961-2021) From Operating Room Nurse to Cancer Patient.......Care Giver to Care Receiver

 AMDG


A photo of Larry Haas in his prime as an operating room nurse in Columbus and later St. Mary’s Hospital in Huntington. 

            It’s three years this April that we lost Larry Haas.  Jaga and I brought him Holy Communion every Sunday during his fight against cancer.  His closeness to God continues to inspire.  He shared a lot with us and gave me some photos and other materials.  I promised that I would use it in an article that I would share with the members of our parish community and the knights. 

When he seemed to be winning his battle with cancer, Larry wanted to become a knight and in anticipation of becoming one attended a meeting.  If he had recovered his health, Larry would have been one of our most active members.  Thus I believe it is appropriate to write his story in our Knights of Columbus Newsletter.  We all can learn from his experience because sooner or later the time will come when each one of us will have to confront a serious medical problem and we all will pass into eternity.


The operating room where Larry Haas worked.

Larry Haas devoted his life to serving others as an operating room nurse first in Columbus and later at St. Mary’s Hospital in Huntington.  Larry Haas was instrumental in saving the lives of many a patient and helping them to recover.  His work included operating a heart-lung machine as a specialist in Perfusion Science.  He had considerable contact with anesthesia, disinfectants, etc. over many years.  

Finally, a carcinogen got to Larry and he fought cancer (multiple myeloma) with frequent doses of chemo, initially once a week and later once a month depending upon his blood level.  The doctor tried to keep a delicate balance of drugs to maintain a stable blood level.  He still suffered from severe pain and fatigue.  

The former health care worker made a career of serving others and trying to follow in the footsteps of the great healer.  Reminiscent of St. Damian who died of leprosy, Larry became a cancer patient himself and had to go through much of the turmoil and struggle, physical and  spiritual that his patients had to go through. 

Despite a prognosis of only 3-5 months, he depended upon doctors and nurses serving him for the next 18 years…..radiation, chemo, new forms of chemo, and more treatments…….progress, hope and then setbacks. He was hospitalized for pneumonia, caught Covid, and got over them both.  He never gave up and continued to trust in the Lord with faith and courage.  What a valiant fight!  

Larry would still make it to Mass when he could, wearing a mask even before the Covid-19 Pandemic because his immune system was compromised by the chemo.  He even attended one of our Diocesan Men’s Conferences.

     

Larry is with a former nurse, his beautiful wife Lee Ann who faithfully stood by him and cared for him until the end even though she herself had cancer.  Really they gave care to each other.  She had a video prepared for his funeral.  On the cover are the words: “No matter what the distance is, I will be with you…” from the song by Wolfgang Van Halen. That perhaps is being echoed by Lee Ann to Larry today.

      His wife Lee Ann, a beautiful person, has three different cancers and continues to fight on.  Both had a tremendous faith and trust in God through it all.  It’s beautiful how Lee and Larry took care of each other while Patty Hays regularly took him to the Cleveland Clinic for treatment.  Their faith, courage, and determination to continue on is exemplary.  They are unsinkable. 

Jaga and I brought Communion to Larry every week to complete the Mass on EWTN until Covid-19 hit.  We told them that suffering is a mystery and can be very productive.  That is by uniting their crosses with the Lord’s cross and offering it all up to the Lord as a dynamic prayer for the Church, our country, and for loved ones can be most effective.  Accepted in that way with trust in the Lord can make one a saint.  The Church calls it "Redemptive Suffering".  They were doing that and it gave them strength to continue on.

       Mother Theresa was “especially keen on the tremendous value of redemptive suffering.  Once a  journalist asked, “Mother, to what do you attribute the tremendous success of your order, over 400 nuns all over the world .  She explained that they have a corps of sick, suffering, and invalid people, each of whom are matched with one of her nuns.  Each is called the particular nun's “other person”.  The other person's mission is to offer up his/her cross for the work of the nun.  

Permit me to share some thoughts from Larry Haas himself in his own words from notes he left with me “with the prayerful and humble intention of possibly helping others suffering from cancer”.  In October 2003 he received the diagnosis of  Multiple Myeloma which has a six month life expectancy.  “I was immediately crushed.  My wife and I took a two week spiritual pilgrimage to Rome to see St. John Paul II as he was offering his sufferings up to God.  I came back with a better sense of the purpose of life”.  Our time on earth is really a preparation for eternity.

Then a patient instead of a health care worker giving care, “I learned to humble myself and let others help me.  My parents suffering showed me how to suffer for the good of others.  Larry quoted St. John of Avila: “You may well be content to serve our Lord in illness; for when He calls people to suffer instead of working for Him, He is calling them to a higher state.  It is most fitting that we should carry the cross with Christ.” 

“God’s plans and our plans aren’t always the same, but in the end God knows best.  He has a reason for all of us to be here even if we don’t see it right away.  God doesn’t always give us what we ask for, but He gives us what we need ”. 

Larry had a tremendous admiration for his parents, who “learned to rely on God for His help and guidance especially through the Great Depression.”  His father Don served in World War II at the age of 17 as a marksman and frogman (today Navy seal) who often dove without scuba gear.  “Don entrusted everything to God and made it home alive.”  This Navy veteran continued to serve our country by suffering for the rest of his life due to the severe mental effects of PTSD.  

His mother, “Rose Mary’s health was not very good.  She had many surgeries, including fibroids that left a quarter of an ovary.  She was told she had less than a 5% chance of having kids.  With God’s help Barbie, Larry, and Carolyn were born.  In 1980 Rose Mary developed breast cancer and died in 1987.  She; offered her prayers and sufferings to God for others as she went through her treatments. This trust in God was such a gift handed to us kids.  Our parents are also our heroes.”  This shows the legacy that parents give to their children that has effects for eternity……for good or bad.

Thank you brother knight (certainly in spirit) for your inspiration and for sharing your thoughts with us.  Thank you for making your suffering, your cross a prayer by offering it all to God for us and for praying for us now from eternity.  May we put into practice what we learned from you until we meet again in Heaven.  Let’s all make sure that we get there.  You made it; so can we with God’s grace!  

This thought gives the prayer….“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now AND at the hour of our death.”…renewed meaning and importance especially when we see others go through a passion before death and can anticipate our own passion sooner or later.  We can’t say that prayer too many times.  Pray the Rosary and offer up every cross for peace and for the conversion of sinners.

APPENDIX

AMDG (Delivered at His Memorial Mass at St. Louis Church on April 27, 2021)

A EULOGY FOR LARRY HAAS (1961-2021)

        The prayer….“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now AND at the hour of our death.”…….never had as much meaning to me than when we had the privilege of bringing the Eucharist to Larry three days before he died.  He was very restless and in severe pain, perhaps undergoing spiritual warfare.  He was going through his personal passion as we all will have to go through sooner or later.  So I learned that we cannot say that prayer too many times and in the rosary.  We all will very much need Mary’s prayers at the hour of our death.

       Larry Haas followed in the footsteps of the great healer as a respiratory therapist and perfusionist in open heart surgery for over thirty years until cancer forced him to retire.  Since 2003 with a prognosis of 3 to 5 months to live and a trip to Rome with a papal audience, Larry fought a valient battle…..radiation, chemo, new forms of chemo, and more treatments…….progress, hope and then setbacks.  He never gave up and continued to trust in the Lord with faith and courage.  He faithfully attended the Sunday Vigil Mass while he was able.  We would often talk after Mass.  Larry even attended a few of our men’s conferences despite feeling very tired.   He wanted to join our Knights of Columbus and attended a meeting with great enthusiasm.  Too bad that cancer would not permit his formally becoming a member. 

        Later, as Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers, Jaga and I had the opportunity to know Larry well.  It was an awesome privilege to bring Christ Himself and His love to Larry in Holy Communion on Sundays when he could not attend Mass, to pray with him, and to help him in a little way prepare for his encounter with the Lord in eternity.  

Jaga and I were supposed to minister to Larry, but he ministered to us as much or more than we did to him.  He placed great value on the Eucharist and it gave him strength to continue on.  

One priest commented that “Those who die of cancer die like saints.  That statement is certainly true in regard to Larry.  He taught us how to live and he taught us how to die.  He was resigned to the will of God with great trust in His Providence……..that no matter what, it would somehow work out for the best in the long run.

        We prayed that the Lord would use all that Larry was going through to make him a saint and we believe He has.  We could see him grow spiritually.  Towards the end, Larry was ready, resigning himself to the will of God, knowing that the Lord is with Him.    

At Fatima Mary not only asked for repentance; she also asked us to “Make of everything you can a sacrifice and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended and in supplication for the conversion of sinners.”  Indeed, Larry offered up his aches and pains of his 18 year ordeal, the effects of chemo, and all of his suffering for that intention. 

Larry united his cross with the Lord’s cross and offered it all up to God through Mary as a dynamic prayer for the Church in crisis, the missions, for our country, for a better world and for his loved ones.  God knows how much our country and our world need prayer.  The prayers of the sick and the suffering are most valuable and very effective.  Thus Larry was very productive until the moment he died.  May we follow his example now and when our time inevitably comes.

Lee Ann, his wife, also has cancer and the couple took care of each other as it should be in marriage.  After all, marriage is supposed to be mutual sanctification and Larry taught Lee Ann much about the Church.

According to Lee Ann: “Last December Larry went to the Cleveland Clinic, but despite precautions somehow caught Covid.  Larry was on the list for a new chemo treatment that could have saved his life, but it had to be delayed because of Covid.  Larry was determined to return to me and he beat Covid!  But the cancer became uncontrollable.  That last month with him was precious”.

Towards the end it was much more difficult for Lee Ann.  “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”  She followed her marriage vows to the end even to the point of exhaustion.  However, Patty Hays was there as an angel to help and to comfort.  She drove him many times to his doctors throughout the area.  Thank you Lee Ann, family, Patty, and Mario for the faithful support and love you have given.  

We love you, Larry.  Good-by until we see you again.  I know that you will be waiting for us when we’re all together again for that most joyful reunion in Heaven.  Let’s make sure that we all get there by being faithful practicing Christians with our lives and cooperate with God’s grace……every one of us!  I’m sure Larry will be praying for us along the way.

 Lawrence Haas Obituary

GALLIPOLIS — Lawrence Joseph Haas, 59 of Gallipolis, Ohio, passed away at home on April 13, 2021. He was born on December 21, 1961 in Ironton, Ohio. He was the son of Donald C. and Rose Mary Schweickart Haas who preceded him in death.

Larry graduated from St. Joseph's Catholic High School in Ironton in 1980, then attended Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia; Ohio University, Athens, Ohio; The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Allied Medical Professions Respiratory Therapy in 1985, working there until 1989.

He then attended and graduated from The Christ Hospital School of Perfusion Science, Cincinnati, Ohio in 1992. He returned to Ironton to help care for his father, working at St. Mary's Medical Center as a Certified Clinical Perfusionist until retirement in 2015.

He is survived by his wife Lee Ann Baker-Haas, daughter, Heather Baker, sisters, Barbie Staggs and Carolyn (Eric) Edwards, brother-in-law's, Charles (Odelia ) Baker and Ryan (Ann) Baker, many nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephews and many beloved friends.

Larry lived to help other people, remaining active in the Catholic community as long as possible. He enjoyed learning, reading, teaching, biking, exercising and spending time with his precious cats.

Due to COVID-19, a funeral liturgy with Mass will be held for the family only. Burial will be at the Catholic Cemetery on St. Rt. 141 in Gallipolis.

A memorial Mass will be on Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 11 a.m. at St. Louis Catholic Church.

In lieu of flowers contributions can be made to Catholic Relief Services, Billy Two Shoes, St. Louis Catholic Church or a charity of your choosing.

Arrangements are conducted by Waugh-Halley-Wood Funeral Home.

An online guest registry is available at www.waugh-halley-wood.com

To plant trees in memory, please visit the Sympathy Store.

Published by Ohio Valley Publishing from Apr. 19 to Apr. 20, 2021.

 

 






Monday, May 27, 2024

(289) The Harrison Butker Controversy: National Football League Star Speaks Out for Traditional Values and the Latin Mass

 AMDG

    Harrison Butker, the Kansas City Chiefs star kicker, who kicked the tying field goal in the Super Bowl that sent the game into overtime, was hammered in the  secular press and social media by the feminists and other liberals for his speech on traditional values and the Latin Mass in his commencement address to the students, faculty, and staff of the Catholic Benedictine College.  It hit the secular television networks in a negative way for the next several days. The National Football League disowned it.  EWTN, the Catholic television network defended it.  

    A former ESPN sports commentator even used foul language on Fox News in criticizing him.  At the same time she belittled motherhood and raising kids as something mundane, demeaning, and below her dignity.  For many the term "homemaker" is a pejorative term even though the family and its home are the foundation of society.



They're clamoring for the Kansas City Chiefs to fire Harrison Butker.  Of course that won’t happen.  He’s their star kicker.  Furthermore, Tavia Hunt, wife of Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, publicly defended his comments on motherhood via Instagram. "Validating motherhood and commending your wife, alongside acknowledging the sacrifices and dedication required for motherhood, does not constitute bigotry," she stated.

 Interesting is the reaction of current and former students of Benedictine College.  Elizabeth Abramo opined that he recognized the uniqueness of femininity:  "As a graduating student who is about to get married and become a mother has been diminished by my professors, neighbors, and even some family members, who say I should wait or 'live my life before I'm tied down'.  Harrison affirmed this desire that the Lord placed on my heart.  He commended our academic achievements, congratulating our success.  However, he said we don't need to feel stuck under the pressure to work the same lifelong careers as men.  Our gifts are different; they are unique to our feminine genius, and the vocation of a wife and mother is so intentionally catered to those God-given gifts."

Thomas Doyle, another Benedictine College graduate, added: "So often, people tell us that believing is enough or going to Mass is enough.  Harrison's speech was an excellent reminder that there is more to Catholicism than going to Mass or praying once a week.  

Genevieve Henry, another grad, said that "He reminded us that the world is confused and what it preaches only leads to unfulfillment....we, the students, have been learning and growing in our femininity and masculinity, so when we leave, we can change the culture in our own unique, God-given way" (From the June 2 issue of Our Sunday Visitor).    

What’s all the commotion about?  Below is the link to his 20 minute speech on youtube.com.  The written text is in the Appendix.  Judge for yourself.  What do you think?  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JS7RIKSaCc

      What about freedom of speech?  It was his opinion that he wanted to share with an audience of primarily Catholic students at a very traditional Christ centered college very faithful to its original mission.  Only a few such Catholic colleges are left as Franciscan University of Steubenville, Christendom College, Thomas Aquinas College, University of Dallas, and Ave Maria University.  He praised and thanked his wife for being a full time mother.  Is there anything wrong with that?

      Yes, Butker encouraged the women to be full time mothers as the ideal for a family.  The women were not indoctrinated.  They had the freedom to accept or reject Butker’s views, which are very common among traditional Catholics.  After all, motherhood is the most important job in the world.  The children they raise are the next generation who will build and lead our country and the Church.  Each child is created according to the image and likeness of God for eternity.  A loving, nurturing mother generally can do a much better job than a hired nanny or workers at a day care center.   Many agree, including some of the experts, that a full time mother is better for the intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and moral development of the child.

      A full time mother can do much more than a working mother for the family.  Establishing the home as a domestic church becomes easier.  She can home school, belong to a parish Mom’s group with baby sitting, teach the Faith, etc.  It was beautiful to see mothers with their young children at daily Mass, one mother doing the stations of the cross during Lent with her brood after Mass in Front Royal, Virginia.  She can get together with other mothers for tea and playtime for the kids.       

      Having a full time mother is the ideal if the father alone can support the family.  Even then the mother needs the help of her husband.  For example, taking care of a toddler and a baby the entire day can be exhausting.    

    For most of American history, full time mothers were the norm in the United States.  It was part of our culture, but that has changed.  In 2021 the labor participation rate of working moms was 71.7% of those eligible to work while it was 92.5% for working dads.  Our four children were privileged to have a full time mother for most of their childhood and their families have or expect to have a full time mother.  But today this is often not possible especially in the case of a single mother or if the father’s income is insufficient to support a family. 

      The tremendous contributions of women in almost every professional field cannot be overlooked  and women must be given the same opportunities as men.  The female students have many choices in utilizing their great talents and pursuing a very successful career while raising a family.  She can resume her career after raising her children.  Sandra Day O’Connor took seven years off from her lucrative law practice to raise her children until they reached school age.  Later she became a Justice of the United States Supreme Court.  The mother can work part time or on weekends.  She can work from home or help with a family business.  Grandma could help out.  House husbands are not rare when the mother can make a greater income.  Husband and wife often can stagger their work schedules so that both can work and take care of the children. 

Many women have received educations in the best colleges, but chose to become full time mothers, utilizing their knowledge to home school their children, foment a more intellectual environment, and be more articulate on many subjects in social circles.    When their children are out of the house, they may choose to return to the national work force or do volunteer work in their church or community.  

Mom may choose to pursue a career full time and deposit her children at a day care center.  However, it has happened in a few cases that much of the money that the working mother made was spent on a shrink (there generally are multiple factors in those cases).  In any event Harrison Butker did not deny any woman’s right to choose her future path.  

The bottom line….. it is the woman’s choice on how she wants to manage her career and no one has the right to impose his/her views upon her.  After so many NFL players have been arrested for domestic violence (about 27 per year), it is refreshing that a NFL star spoke out for traditional values.  After all, many of our youth look upon them as role models for good or bad.



      Butker also promoted the Latin Mass, a point of disagreement among some clergy and lay Catholics.  Really it’s a matter of individual preference.  Some Catholics young and old prefer the Latin Mass due to their love of historical tradition and for their belief that it better conveys the awesome mystery of the liturgy and a greater sense of the sacred.  I have attended the Latin Mass many times and was impressed by the greater attention of the congregation, greater respect by children and adults alike, its solemnity, and people wearing their Sunday best instead of their Sunday worst. 

      St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict had no problem with the Latin Mass, but Pope Francis does not approve of it.  However, he apparently has permitted Bishops to make a few exceptions.  The charism of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter is the Latin Mass and is often permitted by local bishops to operate Latin Mass parishes with a pre-Vaticn II liturgy as in Dallas and Phoenix.  Mater Dei in Irving, Texas is the largest in the country.   

    In the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, the priests of the very large and very vibrant St. John the Baptist parish in Front Royal are permitted to have a Sunday Mass in Latin, but not on parish property.  Thus they have a standing room only Sunday Mass in the chapel of a nearby traditional Catholic academy.  The Archdiocese of Chicago does not permit it at all.  This will pass as the most educated Jesuit Order was restored after being suppressed by the Vatican under pressure from the European monarchy from 1773-1814 for political reasons.  Through it all, regardless of our personal opinions, we owe obedience to the Pope and our local bishop.

      Except for the Latin vernacular, the differences are minor with the prevalent Mass in English (Novo Ordo).  The people use prayer books in Latin with the English translation.  Latin Mass parishes are very traditional…….the priest faces the altar (Ad Orientum) with his back towards the people to signify that the priest is offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with the congregation.  The people receive communion on the tongue at the restored communion rail. 

      Those in favor of suppressing the Latin Mass claim that members of Latin Mass parishes are elitist and divisive.  That simply is not true.  We have many rites in the Catholic Church because the apostles adapted the Church to the culture and language of each country without compromising doctrinal unity. Today the Eastern Rites of the Church have not caused significant problems.  Again it’s much ado about nothing.  May we respect in charity the preferences of each other without compromising doctrine.                     

            

APPENDIX 

 


 Commencement Speech In Full

James Farrell

Forbes Magazine Staff

James Farrell is a breaking news reporter on the Forbes news team.

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May 15, 2024,10:44am EDT

Updated May 18, 2024, 12:46pm EDT

TOPLINE

Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker is facing backlash over his commencement speech to the Class of 2024 at the Benedictine College, a Catholic school in Kansas, where he criticized President Joe Biden, suggested women focus on being mothers and wives instead of pursuing careers and took a swipe at Pride Month. (Update: Benedictine’s nuns are joining the criticism.)

FILE - Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker speaks to the media during NFL football Super Bowl ... [+]

COPYRIGHT 2024 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

KEY FACTS

Butker bemoaned an erosion of traditional Catholic values in daily life, claiming that things like “abortion, IVF, surrogacy, euthanasia as well as a growing support for degenerate cultural values and media” come from “the pervasiveness of disorder.”

He criticized Biden for proclaiming his Catholic faith while being “delusional enough to make the sign of the cross during a pro-abortion rally,” accusing the president of making it appear “that you can be both Catholic and pro-choice.”

Butker told the women in the class that they’d been told “diabolical lies” about pursuing careers, and that his and his family’s success is a result of his wife’s focus on being a wife and mother, claiming that “her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother.”

He accused world leaders of “pushing dangerous gender ideologies onto the youth of America,” and praised the students at Benedictine for embracing their religion with pride, but “not the deadly sin sort of pride that has an entire month dedicated to it.”

He also criticized the Catholic church and bishops and priests for “misleading their flocks” by prioritizing familiarity with their parishioners instead of being teachers, quoting Taylor Swift—girlfriend of teammate Travis Kelce—by saying “familiarity breeds contempt.”

The speech was largely criticized on social media and prompted a change.org petition calling for him to be released from the Chiefs.

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HERE’S THE FULL SPEECH

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2024, I would like to start off by congratulating all of you for successfully making it to this achievement today. I'm sure your high school graduation was not what you had imagined and most likely neither was your first couple years of college.

By making it to this moment through all the adversity thrown your way from COVID, I hope you learned the important lessons that suffering in this life is only temporary. As a group you witnessed firsthand how bad leaders who don't stay in their lane can have a negative impact on society. It is through this lens that I want to take stock of how we got to where we are and where we want to go as citizens, and yes, as Catholics.

One last thing before I begin I want to be sure to thank president Minns and the board for their invitation to speak. When President Minnis first reached out a couple of months ago I had originally said no. You see, last year I gave the commencement address at my Alma moer Georgia Tech and I felt that one graduation speech was more than enough, especially for someone who isn't a professional speaker. But of course president Minnis used his gift of persuasion and spoke to the many challenges you all faced throughout the COVID fiasco and how you missed out on so many milestones the rest of us older people have taken for granted.

While COVID might have played a large role throughout your formative years it is not unique. Bad policies and poor leadership have negatively impacted major life issues. Things like abortion, IVF, surrogacy, euthanasia as well as a growing support for degenerate cultural values and media all stem from the pervasiveness of disorder. Our own nation is led by a man who publicly and proudly proclaims his Catholic faith but at the same time is delusional enough to make the sign of the cross during a pro-abortion rally. He has been so vocal in his support for the murder of innocent babies that I'm sure to many people it appears that you can be both Catholic and pro-choice.     He is not alone. From the man behind the COVID lockdowns to the people pushing dangerous gender ideologies onto the youth of America, they all have a glaring thing in common: They are Catholic. This is an important reminder that being Catholic alone doesn't cut it.

These are the sorts of things we are told in polite society to not bring up. You know, the difficult and unpleasant things. But if we are going to be men and women for this time in history we need to stop pretending that the “Church of nice” is a winning proposition. We must always speak and act in charity but never mistake charity for cowardice. It is safe to say that over the past few years I've gained quite the reputation for speaking my mind. I never envisioned myself nor wanted to have this sort of a platform but God has given it to me so I have no other choice but to embrace it and preach more hard truths about accepting your lane and staying in it.

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Bottom of Form

As members of the church founded by Jesus Christ, it is our duty and ultimately privilege to be authentically and unapologetically Catholic. Don't be mistaken: even within the church, people in polite Catholic circles will try to persuade you to remain silent. There even was an award-winning film called “Silence” made by a fellow Catholic wherein one of the main characters, a Jesuit priest, abandoned the church, and as an apostate, when he died is seen grasping a crucifix quiet and unknown to anyone but God. As a friend of Benedictine College, his Excellency Bishop Robert Barron said in his review of the film it was exactly what the cultural elite want to see in Christianity: Private, hidden away and harmless.

Our Catholic faith has always been countercultural. Our Lord along with countless followers were all put to death for their adherence to her teachings. The world around us says that we should keep our beliefs to ourselves whenever they go against the tyranny of diversity, equity and inclusion. We fear speaking truth because now unfortunately truth is in the minority. Congress just passed a bill where stating something as basic as the Biblical teaching of who killed Jesus could land you in jail.

But make no mistake, before we even attempt to fix any of the issues plaguing society we must first get our own house in order, and it starts with our leaders. The bishops and priests appointed by God as our spiritual fathers must be rightly ordered. There is not enough time today for me to list all the stories of priests and bishops misleading their flocks, but none of us can blame ignorance anymore and just blindly proclaim that that's what father said. Because sadly many priests we are looking to for leadership are the same ones who prioritize their hobbies or even photos with their dogs in matching outfits for the parish directory. It’s easy for us lay men and women to think that in order for us to be holy, that we must be active in our parish and try to fix it. Yes, we absolutely should be involved in supporting our parishes, but we cannot be the source for our parish priests to lean on to help with their problems just as we look at the relationship between a father and his son, so too should we look at the relationship between a priest and his people. It would not be appropriate for me to always be looking to my son for help when it is my job as his father to lead him.

St. Jose Maria Escriva states that priests are ordained to serve and should not yield to temptation to imitate lay people but to be priests, through and through. Tragically, so many priests revolve much of their happiness from the adulation they receive from their parishioners, and in searching for this, they let their guard down and become overly familiar. This undue familiarity will prove to be problematic every time, because as my teammate’s girlfriend says “familiarity breeds contempt.” St Josemaria continues that some want to see the priest as just another man. That is not so they want to find in the priests those virtues proper to every Christian and indeed every honorable man: understanding, justice, a life of work, priestly work in this instance, and good manners. It is not prudent as the laity for us to consume ourselves in becoming amateur theologians so that we can decipher this or that theological teaching unless of course you are a theology major. We must be intentional with our focus on our state in life and our own vocation, and for most of us, that's as married men and women.

Still we have so many great resources at our fingertips that it doesn't take long to find traditional and timeless teachings that haven't been ambiguously rewarded for our times. Plus, there are still many good and holy priests and it's up to us to seek them out. The chaos of the world is unfortunately reflected in the chaos in our parishes and sadly in our cathedrals, too. As we saw during the pandemic, too many Bishops were not leaders at all. They were motivated by fear: fear of being sued, fear of being removed, fear of being disliked. They showed by their actions, intentional or unintentional, that the sacraments don't actually matter. Because of this countless people died alone, without access to the sacraments, and it's a tragedy we must never forget.

As Catholics, we can look to so many examples of heroic shepherds who gave their lives for their people, and ultimately, the church. We cannot buy into the lie that the things we experienced during COVID were appropriate. Over the centuries there have been great wars, great famines, and yes, even great diseases, all that came with a level of lethality and danger. But in each of those examples, church leaders leaned into their vocations, and ensured that their people received the sacraments. Great saints like St. Damien of Molokai, who knew the dangers of his ministry, stayed for 11 years as a spiritual leader to the leper colonies of Hawaii. His heroism is looked at today as something set apart and unique, when ideally, it should not be unique at all. For as a father loves his child, so a shepherd should love his spiritual children, too.

That goes even more so for our bishops. These men who are present day apostles, our bishops once had adoring crowds of people kissing their rings and taking in their every word, but now relegate themselves to a position of inconsequential existence. Now, when a bishop of a diocese or the Bishops Conference as a whole puts out an important document on this matter, nobody even takes a moment to read it, let alone follow it. No. Today, our shepherds are far more concerned with keeping the doors open to the Chancery than they are saying that difficult stuff out loud. It seems that the only time you hear from your bishops is when it’s time for the annual appeal. Whereas we need our bishops to be vocal about the teachings of the Church, setting aside their own personal comfort and embracing their cross. Our bishops are not politicians, but shepherds. So instead of fitting in the world by going along to get along, they too need to stay in their lane and lead.

I say all of this not from a place of anger as we get the leaders we deserve. But this does make me reflect on staying in my lane and focusing on my own vocation, and how I can be a better father and husband and live in the world, but not be of it. Focusing on my vocation while praying and fasting for these men will do more for the church than me complaining about our leaders. Because there seems to be so much confusion coming from our leaders. There needs to be concrete examples for people to look to, and places like Benedictine, a little Kansas college built high on a bluff above the Missouri River, are showing the world how an ordered Christ-centered existence is the recipe for success. You need to look no further than the examples all around this campus, where over the past 20 years enrollment has doubled, and construction and revitalization are a constant part of life and people, the students, the faculty and staff are thriving. This didn’t happen by chance. In a deliberate movement to embrace traditional Catholic values, Benedictine has gone from just another liberal arts school with nothing to set it apart to a thriving beacon of light and a reminder to us all that when you embrace tradition, success, worldly and spiritual will follow. I am certain the reporters at the AP could not have imagined that their attempt to rebuke and embarrass places and people like those here at Benedictine wouldn’t be met with anger, but instead with excitement and pride. Not the deadly sin sort of pride that has an entire month dedicated to it. But the true God-centered pride that is cooperating with the Holy Ghost to glorify Him.

Reading that article now shared all over the world, we see that in the complete surrender of self and a turning towards Christ, you will find happiness. Right here in a little town in Kansas, we find many inspiring lay people using their talents. President Minnis, Dr. Swofford and Dr. Zimmer are a few great examples right here on this very campus that will keep the light of Christ burning bright for generations to come. Being locked in with your vocation and staying in your lane is going to be the surest way for you to find true happiness and peace in this life. It is essential that we focus on our own state in life, whether that be as a layperson or priests, or religious.

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2024, you are sitting at the edge of the rest of your lives. Each of you has the potential to leave a legacy that transcends yourselves and this era of human existence. In the small ways by living out your vocation, you will ensure that God’s Church continues and the world is enlightened by your example. For the ladies present today, congratulations on an amazing accomplishment. You should be proud of all that you have achieved to this point in your young lives. I want to speak directly to you briefly because I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you, how many of you are sitting here now about to cross the stage, and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you’re going to get in your career. Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world. But I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world. I can tell you that my beautiful wife Isabelle would be the first to say that her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother.

I’m on this stage today and able to be the man I am because I have a wife who leans into her vocation. I’m beyond blessed with the many talents God has given me. But it cannot be overstated, that all of my success is made possible because a girl I met in band class back in middle school would convert to the faith, become my wife and embrace one of the most important titles of all: homemaker. She’s a primary educator to our children. She’s the one who ensures I never let football or my business become a distraction from that of a husband and father. She is the person that knows me best at my core. And it is through our marriage that Lord willing, we will both attain salvation. I say all of this to you because I’ve seen it firsthand how much happier someone can be when they disregard the outside noise and move closer and closer to God’s will in their life. Isabelle’s dream of having a career might not have come true. But if you ask her today, if she has any regrets on her decision, she would laugh out loud without hesitation and say, “heck no.”

As a man who gets a lot of praise and has been given a platform to speak to audiences like this one today, I pray that I always use my voice for God and not for myself. Everything I am saying to you is not from a place of wisdom, but rather a place of experience. I am hopeful that these words will be seen as those from a man not much older than you who feels it is imperative that this class, this generation, and this time in our society must stop pretending that the things we see around us are normal. Heterodox ideas abound, even within Catholic circles. Let’s be honest, there is nothing good about playing God with having children, whether that be your ideal number or the perfect time to conceive. No matter how you spin it, there is nothing natural about Catholic birth control. It is only in the past few years that I have grown encouraged to speak more boldly and directly, because as I mentioned earlier, I have leaned into my vocation as a husband and father and as a man.

To the gentleman here today, part of what plagues our society is this lie that has been told to you that men are not necessary in the home or in our communities. As men, we set the tone of the culture. And when that is absent disorder, dysfunction and chaos set in this absence of men in the home is what plays a large role in the violence we see all around the nation. Other countries do not have nearly the same absentee father rates as we find here in the US. And a correlation can be made in their drastically lower violence rates as well. Be unapologetic in your masculinity. Fight against the cultural emasculation of men. Do hard things. Never settle for what is easy. You might have a talent that you don’t necessarily enjoy. But if it glorifies God, maybe you should lean into that over something that you might think suits you better. I speak from experience as an introvert who now finds myself as an amateur public speaker, and an entrepreneur, something I never thought I’d be when I received my industrial engineering degree.

The road ahead is bright, things are changing, society is shifting, and people young and old are embracing tradition. Not only has it been my vocation that has helped me and those closest to me, but not surprising to many of you should be my outspoken embrace of the traditional Latin Mass. I’ve been very vocal in my love and devotion to the TLM and its necessity for our lives. But what I think gets misunderstood is that people who attend the TLM do so out of pride or preference. I can speak to my own experience. But for most people I have come across within these communities. This simply is not true. I do not attend the TLM because I think I’m better than others, or for the smells and bells, or even for the love of Latin. I attend TLM because I believe just as the God of the Old Testament was pretty particular and how he wanted to be worshiped, the same holds true for us today. It is through the TLM that I encountered order and began to pursue it in my own life. Aside from the TLM itself, too many of our sacred traditions have been relegated to things of the past. When in my parish, things such as Ember Days — days when we fast and pray for vocations and for our priests — are still adhered to. The TLM is so essential that I would challenge each of you to pick a place to move where it is readily available. A lot of people have complaints about the parish or the community, but we should not sacrifice the mass for community. I prioritize the TLM even if the parish isn’t beautiful, the priest isn’t great, or the community isn’t amazing. I still go to the TLM because I believe the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is more important than anything else. I say this knowing full well that when each of you rekindle your knowledge and adherence to many of the church’s greatest traditions, you will see how much more colorful and alive your life can and should be. As you move on from this place and enter into the world, know that you will face many challenges.

Sadly, I’m sure many of you know of the countless stories of good and active members of this community who after graduation and moving away from the Benedictine Bubble have ended up moving in with their boyfriend or girlfriend prior to marriage. Some even leave the church and abandon God. It is always heartbreaking to hear these stories, and there’s a desire to know what happened and what went wrong. What you must remember is that life is about doing the small things well. So setting yourself up for success and surrounding yourself with people who continually push you to be the best version of you. I say this all the time, that iron sharpens iron. It’s a great reminder that those closest to us should be making us better. If you’re dating someone who doesn’t even share your faith, how do you expect that person to help you become a saint? If your friend group is filled with people who only think about what you’re doing next weekend, and are not willing to have those difficult conversations, how can they help sharpen you? As you prepare to enter into the workforce, it is extremely important that you actually think about the places you are moving to. Who is the bishop? What kind of parishes are there? Do they offer the TLM and have priests who embrace their priestly vocation? Cost of living must not be the only arbiter of your choices. For a life without God is not a life at all. And the cost of salvation is worth more than any career.

        I’m excited for the future. And I pray that something I’ve said will resonate as you move on to the next chapter of your life. Never be afraid to profess the one holy, Catholic and apostolic Church. For this is the Church that Jesus Christ established, through which we receive sanctifying grace. I know that my message today had a little less fluff than is expected for these speeches. But I believe that this audience and this venue is the best place to speak openly and honestly, about who we are and where we all want to go, which is heaven. I thank God for Benedictine College, and for the example it provides to the world. I thank God for men like President Minnis who are doing their part for the Kingdom. Come to find out you can have an authentically Catholic College and a thriving football program. Make no mistake, you’re entering into mission territory in a post-God world. But you were made for this and with God by your side and a constant striving for virtue within your vocation, you too can be a saint. Christ is King to the heights.