Fr. Eric Andersen raises the chalice during a pre-dawn Mass Dec. 7 to start the Holy League Men’s Conference at St. Stephen Parish in Southeast Portland. (Marc Salvatore/Holy League)
Fr. Eric Andersen raises the chalice during a pre-dawn Mass Dec. 7 to start the Holy League Men’s Conference at St. Stephen Parish in Southeast Portland. (Marc Salvatore/Holy League)
It was standing room only Dec. 7 at St. Stephen Church in Southeast Portland as the parish hosted the fourth annual men’s Holy League Northwest conference.

The day began with a pre-dawn candlelight Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrated by Father Eric Andersen, pastor of St. Stephen. Many men were moved by the early worship.

The conference, themed “Courage and Sacrifice,” focused on encouraging the more than 400 men in attendance to understand and embrace their calling to be disciples of Jesus Christ by living out their vocations as husbands, fathers and single men in the midst of a fallen culture.

“There is an urgent need for men to step up and embrace their duty to be the spiritual leaders of their families and church communities,” said newly ordained Deacon James Thurman, who organizes the Holy League, the name of which hearkens to medieval and Renaissance associations that worked to preserve Christian influence.

Today, leagues around the world provide opportunities for men to unite in prayer, especially monthly eucharistic Holy Hours with confession and fraternity.

“This conference is a way of waking men up to the spiritual combat they are called to live out daily,” said Deacon Thurman. “To be devoted men of prayer, the rosary, the sacraments and the church. Our priorities must be to help our wives and children get to heaven, for we will all be called to account one day.”

Speakers included Ralph Martin, Jesse Romero, Timothy Gordon and Deacon Thurman. Lines at the confessionals were steady throughout the day and Archbishop Alexander Sample joined the afternoon session to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet and speak to the men. The archbishop’s talk emphasized seeking out a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. He suggested that everyone start by spending a minimum of 15 minutes a day in personal conversation with the Lord, and in silence to listen for God’s will.

“It takes real honesty before our Lord, in quiet, in prayer, to know what he is really asking of us,” Archbishop Sample said. “What do I mean? I mean spending time with him, brothers, every day, not just when we need help — time spent in conversation with our God in the silence of prayer.”

The archbishop explained that Jesus should be thought of not only as a Lord and Savior, but also as a close friend, the truest friend possible. It is through a “heart to heart” relationship that we will find our true vocation and obtain the grace to live it out, the archbishop said.

The archbishop challenged some men in the audience, suggesting they may be called to the priesthood.

At the end of the day, Deacon Thurman said that this year’s conference was so well attended that he will consider seeking out a larger venue for next year.

The conference was recorded, and audio is available for purchase at holyleaguenorthwest.org.