Reeling Men In – Strategy for the Increase of Catholic Men in Number and Strength

by Fr Richard Heilman | November 8, 2019 1:09 pm

“To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).” -St. Augustine

Let’s Be Honest

I’ve devoted myself to “men’s ministry” for more than half of my 32 years as a priest. Early on, I recognized men withdrawing from the practice of their faith, and I knew the family would follow. A rather large and important study confirmed this[1]:

1. If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all.

 

2. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.

 

3. If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church!

 

What happens if the father is regular but the mother irregular or non-practicing? Amazingly, the percentage of children becoming regular goes up from 33 percent to 38 percent with the irregular mother and up to 44 percent with the non-practicing. This suggests that loyalty to the father’s commitment grows in response to the mother’s laxity or indifference to religion

This confirms the essential role of father as spiritual leader, which I would argue is true fatherhood. And, yet, men have been abandoning the practice of their faith in droves. Matthew Christoff compiled extensive statistics in regard to this mass exodus of men (HERE[2]).

In a monumental and powerfully worded apostolic exhortation[3], Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona, put a call out to all men to “not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you.” Here is an excerpt …

“Men, do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you, the battle that is wounding our children and families, the battle that is distorting the dignity of both women and men. This battle is often hidden, but the battle is real. It is primarily spiritual, but it is progressively killing the remaining Christian ethos in our society and culture, and even in our own homes.

 

The world is under attack by Satan, as our Lord said it would be (1 Peter 5:8-14). This battle is occurring in the Church herself, and the devastation is all too evident. Since AD 2000, 14 million Catholics have left the faith, parish religious education of children has dropped by 24%, Catholic school attendance has dropped by 19%, infant baptism has dropped by 28%, adult baptism has dropped by 31%, and sacramental Catholic marriages have dropped by 41%. This is a serious breach, a gaping hole in Christ’s battle lines …”

Beyond these statistics, we now know that 70% of Catholics no longer believe in the Real Presence of the Most Holy Eucharist, only 2% frequently go to Confession, only 20% go to weekly Mass and Holy Days of obligation, 56% of Catholics favor legalizing abortion (murder of innocent children), 75% of Catholics are in favor of cohabitation, and 65% of Catholic are in favor of same sex marriage.

We are in crisis!

I wrote an article[4] which posited that we are facing a monumental heresy in our times that equals or surpasses the greatest heresy of all times, which was Arianism. While Arianism openly denied the divinity of Christ, I called this modern heresy “Stealth Arianism.”[5] St. John says, “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). While not many today openly deny the divinity of Christ by their words, far too many deny His divinity by their actions.

“Over the past 50 years,” I wrote, “the Stealth Arians have done everything within their power to remove from our lived experience of Catholicism anything that would point to the divinity of Christ, and the supernatural quality of our faith. Everything has been stripped from our churches – sacred art, sacred architecture, sacred music, and the sacred elements of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – and we are left in the barren desert of the banal. It is no wonder many Catholics think nothing of approaching the Most Holy Eucharist dressed in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops, and grabbing the host like they’re reaching into a bag of chips. As Flannery O’Connor said, ‘If it’s a symbol, to hell with it.’ It’s more surprising that these individuals even bother to attend Mass at all.”

The latest grim Pew Research findings have been released[6], and Fr. Dwight Longenecker seems to double down on this idea in his recent article: “Why Are The Nones Leaving Religion.”[7] You can read the whole thing over there,[8] but this is the heart of the article …

People are leaving religion in droves because it’s not religion anymore.

 

It’s become a charity with meetings on Sundays, and the problem is modernism. Modernism is the idea that the supernatural is out of date and unbelievable. The “de-mythologizers” tried to weed out all the miracles and supernatural elements from the gospels. For the last hundred years their influence has gained in seminaries and pulpits across the world.

 

Tales of the supernatural had to be removed. They didn’t fit with the modern world. Doctrines about devils and angels, heaven and hell had to be quietly excised from the faith because they were primitive and medieval and incredible to modern folk. Transubstantiation? A pious medieval philosophical explanation of what we all know is really symbolic. Supernatural revelation? No. Religion is all man made. Miracles? We know they don’t really happen.

 

Religious leaders–and I mean Catholics and Protestants alike–turned the Christian religion into an organization that does good works. Instead of the wondrous bread of heaven they were content to hand out Wonder Bread. Instead of the feeding of the five thousand they spoke about the “real miracle” being the fact that everyone shared their lunch.

 

All the religious talk stayed in place but it was re-interpreted. Father Wooly and Pastor Fuzzy proclaimed on Easter Day, “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” but what they meant was “in some way the wonderful teachings of Jesus continued to be believed by his faithful followers. They said every Sunday that they believed in the Virgin Birth but what they meant was that “Mary was a very nice girl who was very courageous as she went through with her crisis pregnancy.” And so forth. And so on.

 

For Catholics? The necessity of the sacraments and a life of repentance and faith? Nah.

 

You only had to go to Mass if you really wanted to. Lay people who were married were just as able to be holy as priests and nuns. Confession? That’s only for people with low self esteem. Marriage? We can be flexible on that. It’s all about mercy after all.

 

Well, people aren’t dumb.

 

They concluded that if religion was really only about peace and justice and social work, then why did one have to get up early and go to church and sing dreary hymns and listen to a long, badly prepared homily by an uncomfortably over fed windbag? Why go to church anyway? If it was really only about social work, then why the early weekend pep talk with music? Why not sleep in?

We have all witnessed how the dry wind of the enemy’s militant secular propaganda campaign has hardened the hearts of so many of our family members, friends, and neighbors. Spiritually speaking, many have crossed into the dry and lifeless valley of the dry bones prophesied in Ezekiel 37. Dead in their sins, with the rigor mortis of indifference hardening their hearts, they are without the breath of the Spirit, destined for eternal damnation, unless some campaign of search and rescue is launched. Moreover, without supernatural grace, they are now being easily manipulated by the devil and his minions. It’s no wonder why so many Catholics agree with abortion, same-sex marriage, etc..

 

Strategy for the Increase of Catholic Men in Number and Strength

Men’s Conferences

There is an exciting movement occurring in the United States to establish annual “Men’s Conferences” in most or all dioceses. In my own diocese, we are planning our first Men’s Conference for the Fall of 2020.

I have, personally, witnessed how powerful these Men’s Conferences can be in igniting (or re-igniting) a new fire in men’s souls. While the speakers (usually 3-4 speakers) are incredibly inspirational, it is “the gathering” itself that inspires men to a new or renewed strength in their Catholic faith. Men are exposed to other men who are strong in their Catholic faith, and that “rings true” to them.

 

Belief and Beyond!

I purposely chose Jesus rescuing Peter from sinking as the feature image for this article. What is going on there? Peter, “with faith,” was walking on water. WOW! Then, Peter doubted, and he began to sink. After Jesus rescues him, He then rebukes Peter: “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).

Later, in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says,

He told them, “Because of your lack of faith. I tell all of you with certainty, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).

And, there it is. Men, all around us, are “drowning in their doubt” or, “drowned” (dead in mortal sin). Many (most?) are addicted to porn and, dead in sin, can barely find the energy to manage their worldly lives, much less enter fully into the supernatural life.

In the midst of this “worldly (anti-supernatural) wasteland,” we are met with cautions to “not propose a supernatural life,” because it may be “too scary” for men who do not understand things like the “supernatural.” In fact, this has been the “game plan” for the past 50 years (See Fr. Longenecker’s article above) … downplay, or even, destroy any sense of the supernatural, because proposing a “supernatural faith” does not resonate with the lost. Of course, sacred scripture and salvation history diametrically opposes the “watered down” approach. St. Paul, in today’s first reading, even says,

“For I will not dare to speak of anything
except what Christ has accomplished through me
to lead the Gentiles to obedience by word and deed,
by the power of signs and wonders,
by the power of the Spirit of God…” (Romans 15:18-19a)

“POWER!” This is EXACTLY what lost souls, dead in their sins, are searching for! In the very marrow of their bones, they want to discover there is a real power; a supernatural strength that is more powerful than the devil and all the ways he has laid hold of us. For all of salvation history, we have called that the power of “Supernatural Grace!”

In fact, look at the only successful program for healing souls of addictions. It’s called the “12-Step Program.” At it’s essence, it is a “spiritual awakening” that “finally” understands, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). The addict submits to a “Supernatural Strength,” and they are saved!!

Unless, and until, we lead men to this “Supernatural Strength,” we are only tinkering around the edges in our efforts to “reel men in.”

Any Men’s Conferences must inspire men to submit to this “Supernatural Strength.” So, inspiring talks that lead and train men in this “Supernatural Strength,” reverent/sacred Mass, Adoration and Confession.

 

Night of Knights

Beyond these amazing annual Men’s Conferences, men MUST meet on a monthly basis. Why? Because the world, and the prince of this world, is strong. If men do not gather with each other regularly, the devil will, more easily, win them back.

Title – The title, “Night of Knights,” is a suggestion. I think it appeals to the KCs, as well as giving men a greater understanding of their, as Bishop Olmsted says, “Call to Battle.” But, any name can be given to these evenings of inspiration. We call our evenings the “Knights of Divine Mercy.”

Sharing – I have found that men, generally, are not inclined to sit around and “share their feelings.” These evenings are designed to oblige this trait in men. They meet in church and, like knights, kneel before their King with other “knights,” but they are not asked to “share.” I know some see this resistance to “sharing” as a weakness, but I just find it to be “who men are.”

Monthly – I am a proponent of monthly gatherings, as I believe quarterly is too infrequent and, weekly, can be more than many men can commit to, and so, many may back away. Also, monthly will help men to develop the habit of monthly Confessions (nobody should go longer than a month).

Evenings – Also, I am a proponent of evenings versus other times of day. There is something mighty about meeting in the evenings, that can be diminished in daytime gatherings.

Fridays – I recommend Friday evenings for, at least, two reasons: 1) Fridays, traditionally, are penitential days in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus … powerful!!, 2) Most men do not work the next day (Saturday evenings would be an option, but Saturday evening parish Masses are usually a roadblock).

Location – I am a proponent of only having 1-4 locations for these monthly gatherings per diocese. Mostly because there is “strength in numbers.” Having men come from several parishes increases the number of participants that, in itself, is inspiring to all gathered. Also, it is easier on the priests. I believe the number of locations would be determined by the design of the diocese. If the square miles of the diocese is small, one location may be enough. But, if the square miles is large, maybe one in the north, south, east and west may be better.

Speakers – Speakers can be drawn from different priests from around the diocese. Inviting popular Catholic speakers is an option too, but may be pricey. In this case, maybe ask the men for a $10 free will offering.

Confessors – Confessors can be drawn from different priests from around the diocese.

 

Here is the design of a “Night of Knights” …

6:00pm – Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Priest(s) are then available, throughout the hour of Adoration, for Confessions.

7:00pm – Inspirational Talk (priests could still be available for Confessions, if needed). These talks can be given by a rotation of diocesan priests. The Eucharist is temporarily reposed during the talk.

7:45pm – Benediction. Just as men are inspired by a military honor guard, a reverent Benediction (with servers and incense) inspires the men.

8:00pm – Fraternal Social. This is a great fraternal bonding time for the men. We hold it in our parish gym. You are free to offer whatever you like. We order “meatless” pizza and offer refreshments. Good time had by all!!

Things can evolve, over time. We have been doing this in my parish for about 12 years. We now have a men’s schola, and offer chanted Vespers during these evenings (see below).

 

54 Day Basic Training in Holiness (Additional Option)

Beyond these evenings that help men to be “Supernaturally Strong,” other options may be offered, such as the “That Man is You” series. I’ve actually developed a 54 Day Bootcamp I call, “The 54 Day Basic Training in Holiness[9].” The 54 Day Basic Training in Holiness tracks with the 54 Day Rosary Novena. The daily reflections in this handbook are this basic training. Drawing from the truths found in the Holy Scriptures, the saints, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the first 27 days focus upon the qualities of excellence toward which we are all called to strive (Theological Virtues, Cardinal Virtues, Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Fruit of the Holy Spirit, etc.). The second 27 days contain excerpts from my book, Church Militant Field Manual: Special Forces Training for the Life in Christ[10]. The 54 Day Basic Training in Holiness can be done from home, and concludes with the St. Maximilian Kolbe Marian Consecration.

St. Paul reminds us that we are not entering this battle unaided, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Cor 10:4). This is why this training in holiness employs the very powerful 54 Day Rosary Novena as we embrace this imperative challenge. “With men this is impossible: but with God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26). We simply must call upon the power of God if we ever hope to conquer sin and evil, and this rosary novena has revealed itself many times over as a formidable weapon for defeating these strongholds. Trainees are asked to pray one rosary a day during this 54 Day Basic Training in Holiness.

Endnotes:
  1. study confirmed this: http://www.christianpost.com/news/fathers-key-to-their-childrens-faith-51331/
  2. HERE: https://www.newemangelization.com/man-crisis/the-catholic-man-crisis-factsheet/
  3. apostolic exhortation: https://intothebreach.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/INTO-THE-BREACH-ROMAN-CATHOLIC-DIOCESE-OF-PHOENIX.pdf
  4. I wrote an article: http://www.romancatholicman.com/stealth-arianism-the-pervasive-heresy-of-our-times/
  5. “Stealth Arianism.”: http://www.romancatholicman.com/stealth-arianism-the-pervasive-heresy-of-our-times/
  6. latest grim Pew Research findings have been released: http://www.onepeterfive.com/a-church-that-repels-instead-of-attracts-the-latest-pew-research-findings/
  7. “Why Are The Nones Leaving Religion.”: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2015/05/why-are-the-nones-leaving-religion.html
  8. thing over there,: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2015/05/why-are-the-nones-leaving-religion.html
  9. The 54 Day Basic Training in Holiness: https://romancatholicgear.com/collections/books-and-manuals
  10. Church Militant Field Manual: Special Forces Training for the Life in Christ: https://romancatholicgear.com/collections/books-and-manuals

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