In a session on life skills last week at Kenrick-Glennon Days, Father Ryan Weber asked a room of sixth- and seventh-graders what they thought it means to be a man.
The first camper called on replied: “My dad chopping wood.” Another hit the nail exactly on the head: “Taking care of your family.”
Father Weber later came back to the theme of caring for others: “Growing up is the gradual coming to the knowledge that other people exist,” he told them.
It’s inherent from a young age; as boys grow into young men, they begin to understand the importance of caring for others in their own, unique way. As we know from God’s creation of Adam and Eve, men occupy a special place in the world. God created man and woman in His own image, intending that each have separate and unique roles in the world and in the Church.
The Church is expected to foster opportunities for men to grow in their faith, and to serve as spiritual leaders within their vocations, whether that be as a lay single or married man, a permanent deacon, religious brother or as a priest. The ordination June 2 of 25 deacons in the archdiocese, as highlighted in this week’s issue, is one specific example of of how men are living their lives as disciples for Jesus and His Church. Their additional roles as husbands and fathers offer a beautiful perspective in their service as disciples of the Church.
Often, men are perceived as taking the backseat in the family’s spiritual growth, while mom is the one seen taking an active prayer and apostolic life. We talk often of a vocations crisis to the priesthood, and while that is crucial, we sometimes forget the need to cultivate devotion among the couples and families in the pews in their own vocation to marriage.
Instead of relationship with God being “mom’s thing,” Catholic married couples should see themselves as a dynamic team growing in the love of God both as individuals and together. If women find faith more naturally than men, it is only because man and woman are complementary, as St. John Paul II teaches us, and so each must learn from the other. Men need to take up the mantle and charge down that path of faith and love of God.
In order for this to happen, the Church also needs to continue its efforts to help men build on their understanding of the faith, through male-focused activities. Several special events serve as examples of this important ministry, such as the Catholic Men for Christ Conference, dedicated to building the Kingdom of God in the Archdiocese of St. Louis by engaging, educating, and encouraging Catholic men to live their faith and to lead their families in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church; and the Zechariah Men’s Ministry, a prayer breakfast and faith-sharing experience. Other male-focused ministries, like ACTS and Christ Renews His Parish (CHRP) retreats, are examples of how that fostering continues at the community level. The popularity of these gatherings show that men are hungry for fellowship and opportunities to strengthen their faith.
In the homily at the permanent diaconate ordination, Archbishop Robert Carlson called on them to have “the courage in your ministry to be a positive influence for change in the world so that our world might be renewed by Christ and transformed into the family of God.”
Men have a role in building the Kingdom of God, and we must do all we can do further encourage them to fulfill that role in holiness and faith. Our boys are counting on us to do that, so that they will become our future disciples of Jesus.