by Fr Richard Heilman | April 11, 2015 11:04 AM
Drawing on the wisdom gleaned from centuries of devout Catholicism, St. Mary’s of Pine Bluff, WI, in 2005, sought to restore the treasure chest that is our Catholic faith. The full story of St. Mary’s will come at some time in the future but, suffice it to say, that it is all about something our ancestors knew so very well … there is no real life without a life lived in God’s good graces … we must be in a “state of grace.” Everything proceeds from this simple, yet profound, understanding. Unfortunately, this is an understanding that evades the vast majority of Christianity today.
Fr. John Hardon wrote:
“St. Thomas Aquinas believed that man is more than a composite of body and soul, that his is nothing less than elevated to a supernatural order which participates, as far as a creature can, in the very nature of God. Accordingly, a person in the state of grace, or divine friendship, possesses certain enduring powers, the infused virtues and gifts, that raise him to an orbit of existence as far above nature as heaven is above earth, and that give him abilities of thought and operation that are literally born, not of the will of flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
The U.S. Army ran a very effective “Army Strong” advertising campaign to recruit soldiers. The key message was: “There is strong, and then there is Army Strong.” The commercial goes on to say, “It is a strength like none other. It is a physical strength. It is an emotional strength. It is strength of character. It is strength of purpose. The strength to do good today, and the strength to do well tomorrow. The strength to obey, and the strength to command. The strength to build, and the strength to tear down. The strength to get yourself over, and the strength to get over yourself.”
These are warrior assets necessary to overcome the enemy. However, recall that our struggle is not against flesh and blood combatants, but against the much stronger and craftier spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm (Eph 6:11). This means it is not enough for you to possess the power of a warrior. You must discover what it means to be supernaturally empowered by God. You are to become not just Army Strong, but God Strong. You must know what it means to be in a state of grace. St. Ignatius of Loyola said, “Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.”
Thus, St. Ignatius wrote the Suscipe – “The Radical Prayer:”
Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.
At St. Mary’s, we understood that this “Catholic” Awakening must begin with the men. Men are the St. Joseph’s of their families, and they are mostly MIA (see here how significant it is for men to lead their family in the faith). Over the past 50 years, much of our Catholic faith had been feminized and weakened, asking very little, if anything, in the way of dedication or “devotion” (or “intentional”, which is a synonymous term that seems to be resonating with the folks today).
We called our men to that “sweet submission” or “devotion” by way of monthly gatherings (we chose first Fridays) that looked to reorder their worship to a more “vertical” form … we must come to know Christ as KING, or he is reduced to a mere buddy, or acquaintance, who is “cool” with all of our sins.
What better way could there be for this “reordering” than to get our men on their knees in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, while offering that sacrament of mercy: Confession? Add to this such things as an inspirational talk by a priest, and an opportunity to band together as brothers with a manly social, and we had discovered a combination that set men’s hearts on fire.
6:00 PM – Angelus, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Sung Vespers, Priest available for Confession
7:00 PM – Sung Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Priest Reflection
7:45 PM – Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament
8:00 PM – Manly social with pizza and beer (and other refreshments)
Why start here? We know that more man-centered (horizontal) Masses are mostly entrenched in our parishes. Moving that mountain will take many years, unfortunately. And, besides, if these men only knew of this more horizontal form of worship, what would compel them to seek anything else?
So, imagine a man who, like most men today, wakes up on Sunday morning and puts on “recreational attire” to go to Mass (if he goes to Mass at all … the statistics are staggering on how many men are staying away). Imagine this man walking up to receive Communion (in his tee shirt and jeans), as he takes the host in his hands in a very nonchalant and unreflective way (unfortunately, this is pervasive). After receiving our Lord, he gets back in his pew and checks his watch to see if he’ll get home in time for kick-off. I think if we are honest, most will not deny that this is the rule more than it is the exception today.
Now, imagine that man attending his first monthly gathering of Adoration and Confession. He walks into a dimly lit church, filled with candles. He witnesses the beautiful ritual – with incense – of Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. He hears chant played lightly in the background. He sees men on their knees, quietly adoring our Lord. He encounters a significant line of men, waiting to go to Confession. He hears an amazing reflection by a priest, calling them to this “devoted” Catholicism. He gathers with these men afterwards, and sees the authentic zeal in his brothers’ hearts. Let’s ask ourselves … After he has encountered all of this, how will that change what happens to him after he wakes up the very next Sunday morning? He now (as we like to say) “Get’s It!”
I could write so much more about how very important these transforming evenings have born fruit in the lives of so very many men, their families and the parish, but that will come at another time. Please consider collecting a core team of men in your parish and, pleasantly surprise your priest by requesting these monthly grace-filled evenings. For more information, go to the Holy League.
Here’s a short video of one of our monthly Holy League Holy Hour evenings (Yes, that is Fr. Z):
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