Peter Herbeck, an evangelist with Renewal Ministries and a well-known Catholic TV and radio host, now lives in Michigan, but he is originally from New Ulm and made a quick connection with the 340 men who turned out for this year’s diocesan Men of Faith conference Feb. 17 at Marshall School in Duluth.
He was even joined for one of his talks by his daughter, Rachel Herbeck, who works for the Minnesota Catholic Conference.
|Peter Herbeck, the main speaker at the annual men's conference, was joined by his daughter, Rachel Herbeck, who works for the Minnesota Catholic Conference and became the first woman to present at the men’s conference. (Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)|
He began the first of his four talks with “identity and destiny,” reminding the men that they are beloved and chosen of God, sanctified by the Spirit, and bound for glory.
“The most important thing we can know is who God is and what God thinks of us,” he said. Knowing this in one’s heart can bring identity, confidence, and peace, and a path away from addiction, porn, alcohol and the other things people do in search of what the world cannot fill.
As evidence that the world is not enough, he offered the example of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who despite his historic accomplishments fell into addiction and depression before encountering God.
“Not even 22 gold medals and the adulation of the world” could fill his soul, Herbeck said.
Herbeck, in keeping with the recent men’s conference practice, gave his second talk twice, allowing half of the audience to have an opportunity to go to confession. In it, he painted a stark picture of the challenges of our times, quoting Pope St. John Paul II that these days are part of the “final confrontation” with antiChrist and Pope Benedict saying that humanity is pushing God to the horizon.
“What could be more fundamental than what is a person, what is a man, what is a woman, what is a marriage?” Herbeck asked.
He said a fundamental value emerging in the culture is a kind of self-created freedom in which we define who we are. But this is in contradiction to the truth, he said. That there is a design and meaning to creation, and defining truth on our own is a kind of idolatry.
He made clear that this battle is not against other people. “Our enemies are spiritual forces, not other people, no matter how much they disagree,” he said.
But he also said the church in the West has been “so weak and so cowardly” in the face of it.
“How many Catholics are genuflecting to everything that’s going on?” he asked.
“If men don’t stand up, our wives and our children are going to be in deep trouble,” he added.
He shared a story from his own life as evidence that turning to God can make all the difference. His father was a World War II veteran and a good man, but his alcoholism had damaged the family. However, his adult sister had an experience in prayer that led her to bring her mother and siblings together to recommit to Jesus. Soon after, Herbeck’s father came to him and asked for help, and the whole family found renewal and healing, with all seven children coming back to faith.
“It was the most transformative experience of my life,” he said.
He urged the men to lead their families in prayer and trust Jesus to be with them, knowing Jesus wants to heal mind and heart. “It’s fundamentally a spiritual battle,” he said.
Herbeck’s third talk was about “winning the battle at home.” He shared personal stories of his own marriage and parenting, and he was joined during part of the talk by his daughter, Rachel, who talked about her difficulties with the faith growing up and how she and her father persevered.
“Faith in our family was always personal, but it was never private,” she said.
In his final talk, Herbeck told stories from his mission work and how God was working in it. He urged the men to bring the Gospel to the people they meet each day, just by learning how to share simply what Jesus means to them and asking God to create openings with people they knew who might be suffering or in need.
“Then count on Jesus to be there,” he said.
— By Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross