SPRUCE GROVE – Sexual abuse scandals have made headlines for years. But Father Bill Casey says there's another scandal that has gone unnoticed.
"Here's a scandal you never hear about. We'll sit for one, two, three, four or more hours in front of the television set, and say we have no time for prayer, no time for God - that's a scandal," said Casey.
No wonder we are in the moral mess we're in, said Casey, when the TV is allowed to rule our households.
Casey referred to TV as the "devil's Trojan horse." If a fraction of the time men spend watching TV was instead spent in prayer, the whole country could be transformed.
St. Elizabeth Seton, the priest said, had a vision of a black box that would be in every American home and corrupt millions of families. She had a vision of TV.
"The saints have taught us that prayer is an invisible weapon," Casey said.
He shared an anecdote about a Catholic church in Midwest America that had been rocked by scandal. Priests at the parish were involved in sexual misconduct and, consequently, many families abandoned their faith.
Then a young priest took over. He was a man of prayer, and he renewed the church. Those who supported him were people of faith and devotion. Casey credits the power of prayer for saving that parish.
Casey asked the men at the Men of Integrity conference if there were ever times when they should have been praying but did not, and how much they missed out on as a result.
He reminded them that one prayerful soul could save a family. A handful of prayerful souls could save a parish community. A prayerful diocese could save an entire country. Prayer is an open channel to God.
"True union with God comes only through a life of prayer. There's absolutely no way that individuals and families can make the long and arduous journey to the Father without a life of prayer, perseverance in prayer, public prayer, liturgical prayer, private prayer, family prayer," said Casey.
Prayer can transform human power, and one's natural gifts and talents into the supernatural power of God. The saints have taught us that prayer is life's most important activity, said Casey.
Yet the typical Catholic man does not pray enough. Perhaps he says a short prayer when he wakes up in the morning, says grace before meals and recites another brief prayer at bedtime. That sums up his daily communication with God - and that's not nearly enough.
"If prayer is so absolutely essential, both now and for all eternity, then the question is, gentlemen, why are so many of us praying so little? Why do we have time for everything but prayer?" said Casey.
The father and son who spend no quality time together will have a failed relationship. The same goes for a man's relationship with God.
Men have time for TV shows, movies, watching football and playing games on the Internet, but they claim that prayer is too much of a burden. God gives so much and we give so little back in return, he said.
Being a man of God means being a man of prayer. Don't seek and you won't find. Don't knock and the door will not be opened.
Casey quoted statesman Edmund Burke: "All that's necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing."
Yet many men are lazy, lack focus of their priorities and are reluctant to make positive changes. Casey sees men all the time doing nothing.
"Fathers, don't ever say, 'There's nothing I can do.' There's a lot you can do here and now," said Casey, urging men to pray and never lose heart, as Jesus suggested.
Casey's words resonated with Daryl Dittrich, who regularly attends the men's conference. He told the WCR that these conferences rekindle the flames of Christianity because they speak the truth that men don't hear enough.
"There's no excuse why this place shouldn't be packed. The first time I came here this place was packed to the rafters, four years ago, when Father Larry Richards was here," said Dittrich.
"He spoke the truth too, and that's what people want to hear. Any of these parishes where they speak the truth, you'll find that they're packed."
A priest friend told Dittrich that everyone hears so much about God loving us, but what do people do to show that they love God?
"That's the real question. How are we showing God we love him – by sitting on our hands at church, being Sunday Catholics? That's not enough. We have got to live that daily," said Dittrich.
Dittrich is active with the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Opus Dei, which he attends the first Monday of each month.
"We have a priest who comes in from the coast, and he talks like this (like Casey). He speaks the truth, tells it like it is. When you leave, it gives you something to chew on for the whole month. When I leave, I think, how can I be a better person on account of what he said?"
On average, 30 people come out to an Opus Dei meeting, but Dittrich would like to see more such groups focused on Catholic faith, the call to holiness and learning what it means to be charitable.