Recently, I had the opportunity to go on a weekend Catholic men’s camping trip. During our time in the wilderness we had the opportunity to discuss masculine spirituality as well as use cross-cut saws to cut away trees that had fallen on the state park’s hiking trails. My friend Mike and I left the weekend refreshed in both mind, heart and body. Not only we had worked hard to clear the trail, we had some deep intellectual discussions about what it means to be a man of God, and to top it off, a priest hiked a mile into our campsite to celebrate the vigil Mass for us on Saturday night.
Throughout the weekend, we reflected on the ways that men are engaged by the Church and areas that need some improvement. For example, if there is any form of men’s ministry at a parish, it often consists of a weekly or biweekly discussion ranging from the Gospel, to the catechism, to what is going on in a man’s life. Frequently these meetings have good intellectual and spiritual content, but lack any sort of physical element.
On the other hand, men may be involved in service projects at the parish, such as cooking at the fish fry, setting up booths for the parish festival, or collecting clothes for the homeless without any sort of prayer or discussion in how the service they are performing relates to their spiritual lives. Because of this lack of a holistic approach of outreach to men, it is no surprise that there are few men involved in the Church.
So, what do we do to improve this? Well, first we need to pray and ask for God’s help in this task. However, on a practical level, I believe the area we need to improve on most is to incorporate physical challenges into men’s outreach.
There are quite a few different ways to do this. One way might be to take the small group on a hike, build a fire and discuss the Gospel of the week. Another way is to schedule a rosary march through town. Maybe adoration in the woods or a week long outdoor retreat with Wilderness Outreach clearing trails by day and discussing masculine spirituality by night is the thing for you to do. (more to come on Wilderness Outreach in the coming months)
One important thing to remember in starting these new initiatives is that we do not need to reinvent the Church. Creating flashy programs or fun physical challenges for men to accomplish is not our end, since these activities are meant to draw men into a deeper relationship with Christ. We have the fullness of truth in the Catholic Church, but as a part of the New Evangelization, we need to look at new ways to bring men to Christ.
So, what are your thoughts on men’s ministry in the Church? What has worked in your parish or diocese? What could be done to improve this?