TOMS RIVER, N.J. (CNS) — Most of the hundreds of men who attended the Catholic Men for Jesus Christ rally in St. Joseph Parish in Toms River have gone into the breach before.
If the breach is the culture of death that has permeated the defenses of everything that is known to be good, yes, these men have been there.
They’ve marched for life in the dead of winter; they’ve prayed before abortion clinics; they’ve stood up for God and morals in the public square. Many are among the most active members in their parishes.
Every now and then though, they need a recharge, and that’s what the morale-boosting speakers provided Feb. 25 during a rally in Donovan Catholic High School in Toms River and at a Mass celebrated by Trenton Bishop David M. O’Connell in St. Joseph Church.
In its 20th year, Catholic Men for Jesus Christ brings men together to support and challenge each other in their faith journeys. This year’s theme came from an apostolic exhortation by Bishop Thomas J. Olmstead of Phoenix, “Into the Breach.”
In his homily, Bishop O’Connell reflected on William Shakespeare’s story of King Henry V to encourage the men to charge “once more into the breach,” the king’s battle cry in the play. He described the many “breaches” Catholic men encounter every day and empowered them to not give up, no matter how many times they have gone into the breach in the past.
“We don’t need to be scholars of Shakespeare or Scripture to know that we’re confronted with evil in this world,” he said. “Evil is always there. God created the world good, yet for some inconceivable reason, evil has this allure.”
He continued, “Our war isn’t like King Henry’s. Our war is a more subtle conflict. It’s a war for our minds, for our hearts and for our souls.”
The enemies in this war, he described, are blindness from seeing what’s right.
“If you notice yourselves on any of these battlegrounds, I say, ‘Once more into the breach, Catholic men for Jesus Christ. If you stumble, get up. Look to the left; look to the right; see your brothers with you. Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more.”
At the rally, Catholic apologist Tim Staples’ talk covered a wide range of cultural issues and showed how important Supreme Court rulings of the past 70 years reflect what he called a slow decay of the culture of life in America. Yet he also gave the men hope that they can change the cultural climate.
“We are battling for the survival of Western civilization, and you guys are on the front lines,” he said. “I don’t think we understand because if we understood, it would affect every moment of our lives. … You men in this room are the hope of Western civilization.”
Staples said culture began to change after World War II. Before that “everyone went to church,” he said.
Of the court decisions he highlighted, he said the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade and the 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage put the government into the church’s territory.
“The greatest sin a nation can commit is to reject God and refuse to acknowledge him as God, because our human rights come from God,” he said, adding that government’s role is to protect people’s God-given rights.
In her remarks Legacy of Life Foundation director Marie Joseph told of young mothers in difficult circumstances choosing life. She also gave testimony about her own life, sharing how she turned to God in a time of crisis.
Joseph was abandoned by her husband after he chose to embrace a homosexual lifestyle, and she was left to raise their children on her own. She began a spiritual journey that led her back to the Catholic Church, and into the ministry she leads today.
Joseph recounted several experiences about women who chose life despite the difficulties, including that of a 16-year-old girl named Chelsea who didn’t want to tell her estranged father she was pregnant. When the Legacy of Life Foundation finally managed to talk to her father about the child, he reconciled with his daughter and worked toward helping her and rebuilding their family.
Joseph emphasized how the Legacy of Life Foundation encourages men to speak up about their concerns regarding the pregnancy of their partner or daughter, because oftentimes a man can provide a refreshing, practical and resolute point of view.
Republican Congressman Chris Smith, who represents New Jersey’s 4th District, talked about the human rights issues he takes on in Congress and around the world, including abortion, human trafficking and the harsh living conditions of Christian refugees.
“On protecting unborn children and their moms from the violence of abortion, I strongly believe that our church and highly effective organizations like the Knights of Columbus are part of the greatest human rights struggle on earth,” he said.
“With courage and faith, we enter the breach to pray, fast and work to protect those at risk of harm — both women and children,” he added.
He called women “co-victims of abortion” and noted that the Catholic Church “strongly supports pregnancy care centers — and the Knights of Columbus — among its many charitable works are equipping those centers with ultrasound imaging capabilities which will save even more lives.”
“Someday future generations of Americans will look back and wonder how and why such a seemingly enlightened society could have permitted 60 million children to be exterminated,” Smith said.
The congressman talked about measures he has introduced in Congress, including a bill to outlaw dismemberment abortion and a measure to end the federal health care law’s public funding for abortion on demand and to make the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life riders permanent. Next, he said, will be legislation to defund Planned Parenthood.
The Hyde Amendment, which has had to be approved each year as part of the budget for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, prohibits tax dollars from paying for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or threat to the woman’s life
“Our society is a target rich environment of persons in need,” Smith said.
“Human trafficking victims, service connected disable veterans, the homeless, those suffering the agony of drug addiction, persons with disabilities including autism, malnourished and hungry people and so many others — all command our prayers and tangible assistance,” he said.
Kilby is a correspondent for The Monitor, newspaper of the Diocese of Trenton.