To reach our true potential and true vocations as Christian men, we need to support and fellowship of other Christian Men. Maurice Blumberg, Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men, suggests in an article he wrote that there are at least 10 reasons why men benefit from fellowship with other men:
"Do men Catholic men need the support of other Catholic men?"
Maurice Blumberg, Aug. 17, 2004
National Fellowship of Catholic Men
A few years ago, I asked this question of my friend, and fellow parishioner, Jack. "Of course they do," he replied. "I couldn't get my job done at work without the support of the men in my department. And I'd go crazy from all the stress I'm under if I didn't go out every Sunday with my buddies from St. Mary's and play golf. You know, 'All work and no play makes Jack a dull guy.'"
"I see your point, Jack," I responded. "But that's not what I mean. Do Catholic men need to share their lives with other men on a personal level? Do men need to be part of a group in which they can build close relationships by sharing their personal and common struggles, pray for one another, support one another, and hold one another accountable to live an authentic Catholic Christian life of integrity?"
"Well, now you're talking about a whole new ball game," Jack replied. "What you're describing goes against the whole grain of who we are as men. By nature, men are created to be individualistic, strong, independent, self-reliant, self-sufficient, and guarded. We keep our distance from other men. We have to. Remember, men have always been the protectors of their family. Why, the highest compliment a man can receive is to be called a 'self-made man.'"
"I agree with you, Jack, that men have certain God-given characteristics so they can fulfill their roles as protectors and providers of their family. But let me ask you a couple of questions: Have there been times in your life when you felt helpless or lacked the power or wisdom to change things? I'm talking about destructive behavior in one of your kids, grave disagreements with your wife, or a splintered relationship with a family member. Have you ever felt powerless to fight certain temptations or sinful habits?"
At this point Jack got very quiet. Then he said, "How about that home run by Cal Ripken in his last All-Star game. Wasn't that something?"
Jack is not alone in believing that when it comes to our personal lives, men are not called to share them with other men. Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we all know how difficult it is for men and their families to thrive in today's culture. The ever-increasing demands on men's time and energies and the collapse of traditional values and support structures underscore this challenge.
Times have indeed changed. We're working harder, our schedules are tight, and what little time we have is often used for television, sports, or activities that help us unwind. This has led, I believe, to men having even more superficial relationships with other men. In spite of this, I do not think most Catholic men even consider that they need to be part of a group that prays together, or to have committed brothers in Christ who could offer prayer and sound advice to help them through difficult circumstances.
Do men need other men?
I believe they do, now more than ever, especially in light of the heavy-duty pressures on men today. Here is my "Top 10 list" of why men need other men:
No. 10: Men need other men because they are social beings who need the companionship of other men.
No. 9: Men need other men so they can help one another sort through the current confusion about, and attacks on, masculinity and manliness.
No. 8: Men need other men to gain a more balanced perspective on life.
No. 7: Men need other men in order to help one another grow and develop, as God wants them to, in their roles as husbands, fathers, and Christian workers, through the give and take of trusted relationships between brothers in Christ.
No. 6: Men need other men to relieve the strain they can put on their wives to satisfy all their emotional and social needs.
No. 5: Men need other men to enhance their ability to make wise decisions in critical areas affecting major aspects of lives.
No. 4: Men need other men to help them through difficult circumstances and suffering that are part of being human, such as the death of a family member or serious illnesses.
No. 3: Men need other men so they can better serve the Lord, grow in holiness, bear fruit for God's kingdom, and be a sign of Christ's love to other people.
No. 2: Men need other men to help fight worldly temptations and sin, overcome sinful habits, and protect one another from attacks of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
No. 1: Men need other men to help them grow in their relationship with Jesus and to experience more deeply God's love for them. We can often experience God's love and wisdom through our relationships with one another, and God can sometimes speak to us through other men.
When a group of the Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment in the Law was, He answered, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt 22:37-39).
In John 13:34-35, Jesus elevated these Old Testament commandments to an even higher level by these words: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
What the Church needs, and what the world is waiting for, are men who will show that they are Jesus' disciples by taking these words seriously. Just imagine what God can do with a group of men who will follow the Lord Jesus and risk laying down their lives for one another in healthy Christian relationships.
All over the country, we are seeing the formation of many local and regional Catholic men's fellowships where Catholic men build relationships with one another, share their faith, and support one another through prayer and men's fellowship groups. I believe Catholic men standing together in Christ can change our families, our culture, and the whole world.
I encourage all Catholic men to seek other men who share their faith and who have some common interests. They may be fellow parishioners, co-workers, or neighbors. Begin meeting together regularly. You'll be surprised at what God will do through a small group of men who love Him and one another.
The National Fellowship of Catholic Men (NFCM) website currently offers 17 different resources for small Catholic men's fellowship. A good description of these resources are provided in the Catholic Man Channel article, "Solid Catholic Resources for Catholic Men." They can be ordered from the Resources web page on the NFCM website. The NFCM also offers several starter kits for men's groups and their facilitators. They can be ordered from the Training web page on the NFCM website.
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