Firming the Faith – Father Brian Woodrow, left, greets Bear Woznick, during the Call to the Wall Spirituality conference held May 13 in St. John the Baptist Parish, Allentown. David Kilby photo
Firming the Faith – Father Brian Woodrow, left, greets Bear Woznick, during the Call to the Wall Spirituality conference held May 13 in St. John the Baptist Parish, Allentown. David Kilby photo

By David Kilby | Correspondent

When he came to St. John the Baptist Parish, Allentown, to speak at Call to the Wall, a morning conference for men May 13 during which local and nationally known speakers shared their professional testimonies and challenged participants to delve deeper in their faith, speaker Bear Woznick focused on the meaning of masculine spirituality and how it can be misunderstood.

“We want men sold out for Jesus,” said Woznick, a world tandem surf champion,  certified ninja black belt, founder of Deep Adventure Ministries, and author of Deep in the Wave: A Surfing Guide to the Soul.

“The most radical thing you can do in your life is abandon yourself to the wild adventure of God’s will,”  said Woznick, who hosts a radio show called “Deep Adventure” and leads the motorcycle crew of “Long Ride Home,” a reality show premiering on Eternal Word Television Network  June 6.

Addressing several dozen men from the Allentown parish including Father Brian Woodrow, pastor, and participants from other area parishes, Woznick recounted how the “Long Ride Home” reality show was inspired by a road trip he took on his motorcycle from San Diego to Jacksonville. For the show he rode back to San Diego with his crew of manly, faithful Catholic bikers.

“This is a Rocky Balboa drama,” he said. “When riding out there, we felt like we were like the early Church monks in the desert. We were slaying dragons … We don’t tell people about masculine spirituality. We show them.”

Discussing the “Call to the Wall” theme of the conference, Woznick explained how there are walls between people and God, between people and others. Men don’t talk about how they love Jesus as much as they should. He talked about the rebuilding of the walls of Jericho as described in the book of Nehemiah. The book tells of how different men and families built different parts of the wall, and as a person rebuilt there was always a man with a spear guarding him. When someone went to retrieve bricks and mortar they did so with a sword drawn, Woznick explained.

He used this analogy to explain how the laity is called to help to rebuild the Church today.

In acknowledging Woznick’s presence at the conference, Father Woodrow reminded his guest that “What you do and how you do it, how you communicate God’s message, it really reaches so many people that we often forget to reach and that’s good Catholic men who just want to live out authentic masculinity.”

Coach John McKenna, who was defensive coordinator for the Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville football team for 16 years, also addressed the gathering on the importance of doing something they believe in and surrounding themselves with good people. “Life is about passion and relationships,” he said.

 “Men need to share their ideas, their visions, their heartaches. Men need to come back to Church,” he said.

Grady Dyke, a Catholic revert and member of the Long Ride Home cast, reflected on having enlisted in the Marines at age 17. While in the Marines he found a New Testament Bible in the dumpster as he was putting out the garbage. He reached for the Bible, started reading it and began to realize that God was working in his life.

After a long journey of soul searching in evangelical churches, he became attracted to a very stoic form of Catholicism in which he fasted and prayed excessively and joined a few seminaries, but just didn’t feel fulfilled. His suffering from severe depression and battling suicidal thoughts eventually brought him to a psychiatric hospital where he once again saw the hand of God in his life.

“In the Marines they break you down and then build you back up,” Dyke shared. “God had to break me, my false understanding of him, my ego,” he said.

After this prodigal-son-like journey, Dyke returned to the faith. He receives the Sacraments and he and his wife were married in the Church. He noted that he and his wife have nine children.

Other conference speakers included Dr. Lance Maki who is an obstetrician and is well-versed on St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, and Jason Jones, who is also on the cast for Long Ride Home and is well-known for his Movie to Movement ministry, his movie Bella and his book The Race to Save Our Century. At the conference, Jones reflected on the 100th anniversary of the first Our Lady of Fatima apparition and the message the Blessed Mother shared with the children she appeared to in Fatima.

“Through prayer and penance and consecration to Our Lady, we could transform our culture into a culture of love and peace for our posterity,” Jones said.

 “Our Lady visited powerless young children in Fatima,” he said. “That’s our faith, to live in solidarity with the vulnerable … As a Catholic man I have a choice: Do I sacrifice others to myself, or myself to others. I cannot choose to live in reciprocity. I must constantly make the choice of self-sacrifice. As Catholic men we are called to be vulnerable. “

Participants in attendance commented on the messages of the day.

“Masculinity has become largely misunderstood in society,” said Kevin Coleman of St. John the Baptist Parish. “Machismo and false bravado have taken the place of what God intended for men to understand as their true masculine role... Today’s conference really shows that there is any number of paths available in which one could live and defend the faith and still enjoy the world God has given to us.”