Sadly, despite the great tradition of drawing men together in parishes to build unity and deep fraternity, there is a grave Catholic “man-crisis” in the Church today which has been worsened by a lack of fraternity among men in many parishes. Research shows that large numbers of Catholic men have left the faith and the majority of Catholic men who remain are lukewarm in the faith. One of the key drivers of the decline of the faith lives of Catholic men is that few are finding the deep bonds of brotherhood and fraternity in their parishes. When Catholic men do find bonds of brotherhood in parishes they pray more, go to Mass and Confession more frequently, read Scripture more frequently and are more engaged in their parishes and in the faith lives of their children. Catholic fraternity is critical for men to grow in faith.1
The same approach which the Apostles used to establish the early Church, can be used to build a culture of fraternity among Catholic men in parishes today:
Acts 2:42 is the model the Apostles used to build unity and fraternity
In the Acts of the Apostles, the model of how the Apostles build fraternity in the early Church is described: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).
Building a parish culture devoted to rebuilding fraternity among Catholic men
To evangelize and draw men into a greater fraternity requires a “devotion”, a strong and uncompromising commitment by the priest and deacon and a small group of men to increase the engagement of men in a parish, especially in the many parishes which have become de-masculinized. The priest and deacons, around whom men have always been drawn across the history of the Church, can have a great impact on the evangelization of men; priests who make the commitment to evangelize men and build fraternity can have a great impact on drawing men back into an active faith life. What’s critical is to come to a firm and unshakable mission to reach men and then simply begin to gather men together on a regular basis (at least monthly).
Focusing on helping men know Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith
As demonstrated by the Apostles’ teaching in the New Testament, the Apostles focused their attention on drawing men to encounter Jesus Christ as the Savior of Man and the need for men to recognize their personal need for salvation. A great majority of Catholic men who are lapsed or lukewarm in the faith have not had a conversion in Christ; helping men meet and know the heroic Jesus Christ Who came to save every man has always been and always will be how men are convinced to give their lives to Jesus Christ and His Holy Catholic Church.
The Every Catholic Man Daily Gospel Devotional is an excellent source of material for use in parish men’s groups including studies for meeting Jesus in the upcoming weekly Mass, or reading and discussing any of the topics on the Every Catholic Man website (e.g. Learning about the sacraments, prayer, virtue, etc.).
As a secondary priority, there are other additional topics of the “teaching of the Apostles” men need to learn, including: the mission and habits of Catholic Sons and Catholic Fathers; the truth that Jesus promises every man true and lasting happiness through His Church; the danger of sin and its consequences; the reality of Satan’s many attacks; the Four Last Things including the reality of Damnation and Sainthood; the truth of the Spiritual Combat; understanding the need and blessing of the Sacrament of Penance; coming to understand the truth and power of the Sacrament of the Eucharist in the Mass; the power of the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit; how to build virtue and vice; understanding the argument for being a member of the Catholic Church, how to pray, personal conversion testimonies of men, how to defend the faith; etc.
Drawing men together in fellowship
Just as the Apostles built the early Church based on fellowship, today, inviting men to meet and build friendships with other men is the key to drawing Catholic men into a more fruitful faith in parishes; this is especially attractive and critical because large numbers of men in parishes today don’t have any or only a few men they know on a first name basis and because there is a growing epidemic of loneliness among modern men. Creating a culture where men routinely gather together in fellowship is essential in the evangelization of men. At the core of inviting men is to make it personal: emails, texts and bulletin announcements don’t rally men; instead, personal invitations, one man to another, is what leads men to respond.
One of the most effective ways of drawing men together to build fellowship is through activities which serve the Church. Men are most likely to respond to events where there is an activity (clean up day, pancake breakfasts, serving the parish or parish school in some way) and having a regular series of opportunities for men to gather to do something productive is a proven way to build engagement of men. Many men also respond to engaging in religious events, including pilgrimages to nearby shrines, participating in Eucharistic Processions, going on men’s retreats, etc.
The priest and deacon and his small group of leaders need to understand and have a variety of ways to build fraternity among men because men are in different places in their faith lives; one size does not fit all. A “man-plan” should include a variety of approaches which place heavy emphasis on regular parish-wide events which require no commitment other than showing up, to period series (e.g. 4 weekly sessions for men on Catholic Fatherhood, or the Virtues) and ultimately to draw men into small “bands of brothers” of 4 to 6 men who gather regularly to grow to help each other in the spiritual combat.
Helping men understand and engage the Sacraments
The Apostles had a strong focus on the “break-in of the bread”, a direct reference to the centrality of the Eucharist, but also is understood to be a shorthand reference to all the Sacraments.
One of the great tragedies of the modern Church is that a significant majority of Catholic men are in danger of mortal sin (the majority of Catholic men are looking at porn every month) but few Catholic men receive the Sacrament of Penance, even once a year. While there are a number of reasons for this (not understanding mortal sin, the reality of damnation, the blessings of Confession), what is essential is to build a strong culture of Penance in parishes by building awareness of the need for Penance and offering the Sacrament of Penance often when men gather together (for example, holding events when men gather in Adoration and priests offer the Sacrament of Penance).
In addition, a large number of Catholic men are “bored” in the Mass and only a small minority of Catholic men fulfill their obligation to attend Mass every week. Again, there are a number of reasons why men don’t fully engage in the Sacrament of the Eucharist (the Mass is celebrated in a de-masculinized or irreverent way, lack of understanding of the true Presence, lack of understanding of the parts of the Mass, homilies which rarely speak directly to and challenge men, etc.). Because the Eucharist is the source and summit of the faith (CCC 2031), evangelization, catechesis and helping men grow to love and hunger for the Eucharist must be a major focus of the outreach to men. See Receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist
A key way to draw men into a deeper love of the Eucharist is to invite them to events where men gather together in Adoration with a strong masculine focus which has a proven appeal to men including chant, incense, multiple male servers, candle light, etc.; this perhaps may be one of most effective ways of evangelizing men, for if a man spends an hour in silence in the True Presence of Jesus Christ in Adoration, Christ Himself will take action in the heart of the cooperative man.
Drawing men together in prayer
Just as the Apostles passed on Jesus Christ instruction to always pray (Lk 18:1; CCC 2098), Catholic men need to be drawn into vibrant lives of prayer. A great number of Catholic men do not pray daily and many do not pray regularly. There are multiple reasons why men fail to pray (do not know the power of prayer, do not know many types of Catholic prayer, discomfort in leading prayer, etc.). See “Drawing closer to God in Prayer” p __.
A major goal of getting men to grow in the faith is to simply get men to begin to pray to God on a daily basis by building a culture of prayer among men in a parish. Every event which draws men together should have a portion of the time where men pray together. Men should also be encouraged to grow in their understanding of the rich legacy of prayer in the Church (see the “Daily Prayer Routine” p __ for examples) and begin to pray for each other in their daily struggles and blessings. Men should also be encouraged as Catholic Fathers to be the leaders in the prayer lives of their family, including leading prayer before and after every meal, instituting a family Rosary, praying with wives and children at bedtime, regularly giving children a “Father’s Blessing”, etc.
Building fraternity through the Knights of Columbus and other emerging efforts
In these days of cultural decay and when parishes are struggling to grow and engage men, the Knights of Columbus has a heroic mission which can help draw men into a vibrant life of faith and every Catholic man should strongly consider becoming a Knight and vigorously supporting the Knights in their local parishes. In addition, there are a growing number of emerging Catholic men’s evangelization efforts which are evangelizing and mobilizing men to build fruitful faith lives, become more effective Catholic fathers and draw other men into fraternity in their dioceses and parishes.
Building fraternity through the Knights of Columbus
While most Catholic men have heard of the Knights or may have even become a Knight of Columbus, many men have misconceptions of the Knights and don’t understand the heroic work of the Knights of Columbus in the past and the great need for the Knights in these days of growing darkness and evil in the world to call and mobilize millions of Catholic men to build the Church; now, more than ever, the Church and the world needs the Knights of Columbus.
The heroic mission of the Knights in the past
The Knights of Columbus were founded in 1882 by Blessed Father Michael J. McGivney (beatified in 2020) to strengthen the Holy Catholic Church by drawing Catholic men together in faith and fraternity to battle against anti-Catholicism and to provide critical financial support so that widows and orphans of deceased Catholic men wouldn’t face abject poverty. Blessed Father McGivney organized men in his small parish in Connecticut, choosing the name Knights of Columbus to call men to heroic chivalrous service to their priests, their families, their brethren, their parishes and the Church (“Knights”), and to inspire Catholic men to continue to help build America into a great and holy nation (Christopher “Columbus” discovered America).
The heroic mission of the Knights of today
Blessed Father McGivney’s vision to establish the Knights to strengthen the Church has proven to be prophetic and today the Knights of Columbus are inspiring and mobilizing millions of Catholic men to step “Into the Breach” to build strong men, strong families, strong parishes, a stronger Catholic Church, and to help rebuild a flourishing society based upon our Lord and King, Jesus Christ, Savior of Man.
To counter the growing “man-crisis” in the Church and society, the Knights are actively drawing Catholic men together in faith and fraternity in thousands of parishes around the world to serve and support the priesthood and strengthen parishes. In response to the breakdown and struggles of families, the Knights are drawing men together to learn about the faith and how to be better Catholic husbands and fathers who can more fully love their wives and children and lead them to Christ and His Church.
To counter the growing darkness of the world and the persecution of those who hold true to Christ and His life-giving teachings of the Church, the Knights are unifying, strengthening, and mobilizing men to take action to defend the truth and serve those in need, particularly in the battle against abortion. The Knights also continue to help thousands of men provide financial protection for their families through life insurance.
Catholic men can be blessed by joining the Knights of Columbus
In response to the growing man-crisis in the Church and the world, Bishop Thomas Olmsted issued his Apostolic Exhortation, Into the Breach, a stirring call to action for every Catholic man to awaken and respond to the call of Jesus Christ to build His Holy Catholic Church; “into the breach” (Ezek 22:30) refers to the ancient call of God to men to fill in the battle lines to defend against an attack. The Knights of Columbus are leading the charge to rally all Catholic men to respond to the heroic call to action in thousands of parishes around the world through the Into the Breach video series, which is widely available.
By joining the Knights and living a life dedicated to “stepping into the breach”, every Catholic man can grow in happiness by growing in the faith, living in charity, standing in unity, building fraternity, and being a patriotic citizen.
Growing in the faith
The Knights of Columbus have always had a strong emphasis on helping Catholic men grow in their faith lives. Today, the Knights have a broad stable of inspiring materials to help men become better Catholic Sons and Catholic Fathers and are investing in new ways to help men grow in their spiritual lives, including efforts like the video series, Into the Breach. Building off the broad efforts of the Knights, many local chapters of the Knights of Columbus work with their bishops to organize diocesan men’s conferences and with local priests to evangelize and catechize men and boys in parish-based events. By joining the Knights of Columbus, every Catholic man can take action to deepen his faith by learning with, and from, other men so he can become a better Catholic Son and Catholic Father.
Living for Charity
The Knights of Columbus remain dedicated to living a life of charity to which Jesus Christ calls every Catholic man. The Knights help men practice “hands-on” charity through the tireless support of the Knights in service of the priests in parishes on many local efforts and by mobilizing men to take action on other broad-based efforts sponsored by the Knights of Columbus including: building a culture of life, supporting those persecuted for the Catholic faith or those suffering due to war or disasters, providing food and clothing for the poor, and funding vocations to the priesthood and the military chaplaincy. In addition to charitable programs, the Knights also extend charity by offering insurance to members to protect their families and by an established culture which rallies the Knights to support their brothers in times of difficulty and death. By joining the Knights of Columbus, every Catholic man can put his faith into practice and join with other men to help draw others to Jesus Christ and build His Holy Catholic Church through real works of charity.
Standing in unity
Every Catholic man, no matter his current personal capabilities and where he is in his spiritual ascent towards Heaven, has been called and is accountable to Christ to build His Holy Catholic Church in love and service to God and others (Mt 25:31-46; 28:16-20). Through the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic man can be united with an established and faithful group of Catholic men who share a common commitment and passion to serve Christ and build His Church.
In these days of growing division, confusion and darkness in which age-old truth and common sense is being suppressed, every Catholic man can find the blessing of gathering with other faithful men in the Knights who are unified in “one mind” in Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:10, 1 Pet 3:8) and His Holy Catholic Church; in this unity of belief in Christ, a man can find the peace and happiness of the truth, answers to every question, and the blessing of standing in unity and strength with millions of men in the Knights.
It is through drawing men together in unity that, as has been true across the ages, Catholic men will be ready and able to defend their families and the Church against any and all the attacks of Satan and the persecutions of the world.
One of the great failures of modern society is the growing isolation, loneliness and sorrow which has been caused by the breakdown of the family and by the retreat into the virtual world. Large numbers of men are alone and adrift, lacking a deep connection to their own fathers, the mentorship of older men, and true friendship with other men.
The Knights of Columbus is a fraternal organization of the Catholic Church which aspires to help men realize the truth that every Catholic man has many spiritual brothers in Christ and to draw men together in fraternity.
By joining the Knights, every Catholic man can come to know many men in his parish on a personal basis, spend time and grow in friendship, and build true and deep bonds of brotherhood with other men which are strengthened by a common commitment to Jesus Christ and His Holy Catholic Church; through his friendships with other Knights, Catholic fathers can also help his spouse and children grow in the faith by drawing closer to other faithful Catholic families.
Being a Patriot
Many in the modern culture are filled with grievances, constant anger, and a growing hatred of the country in which they live; violent and destructive protests are increasingly common. As Jesus revealed, a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mk 3:25) and no country or society can avoid collapse if a sufficient portion of the society embraces hatred and rebellion.
The Knights of Columbus recognize the great blessing of the United States and other countries, and support the virtue of patriotism through expressing gratitude for one’s country and building Christ-focused men who strive to be good citizens. By joining the Knights, a man can be strengthened in his love of country and support the growth of patriotism in his own family, parish and local community.
Helping build fraternity through the emerging Catholic men’s movement
In addition to the outstanding work of the Knights of Columbus to draw men together to strengthen parishes, there are and will be other efforts which are successful in reaching and mobilizing Catholic men to grow in unity, fraternity and faith. At the time of this writing, there are a number of established and emerging men’s evangelization efforts which are effectively evangelizing and catechizing large numbers of Catholic men which every Catholic man should consider and support.
The CMLA is committed to building robust Catholic men’s ministry in every diocese in the United States, Canada and beyond in the coming years. The CMLA is an alliance of many of the top national and local men’s evangelization efforts and trains Catholic men to be leaders who can work with their bishops and priests to build outreach efforts to help draw Catholic men together in fraternity and to grow in their faith.
One key initiative of the CMLA is HeroicMen.com, a video platform which focuses on helping Catholic men grow in the faith through short videos on critical topics and by organization and hosting virtual conferences.
TMIY is a US based Catholic men’s movement which focuses on drawing men together in parishes across the country for fellowship and education through weekly breakfasts. TMIY has reached hundreds of thousands of men through their innovative content which helps men understand how to be a better Catholic man.
Exodus90 is a growing movement which challenges men to seek freedom from sin by going on a 90-day journey of prayer, mortification and fellowship with a small band of Catholic brothers. Using state of the art app-based tools, Exodus90 is easy to implement and is drawing large numbers of young men, particularly Catholic fathers into this growing movement.
The Fathers of St. Joseph is a growing confraternity of Catholic men who form small groups in parishes and individual study to learn and grow in the vocation of Catholic fatherhood, looking to St. Joseph as both a patron and guide. The Fathers of St. Joseph have built an impressive library of tools including books and streaming video which inspire and educate Catholic men in the science and art of Catholic fatherhood.
Fraternus is a parish-based movement which draws faithful Catholic men together in brotherhood to mentor and form Catholic boys through education, events, and retreats. Fraternus has a special emphasis on helping Catholic fathers grow in their vocation of fatherhood and to become effective mentors who can inspire their sons and the growing number of fatherless boys to embrace the beauty of the faith and mature into faithful Catholic men.
Diocesan Catholic Men’s Initiatives
There has been a growing movement to establish annual Catholic men’s conferences to draw Catholic men together to grow in faith and awaken men to the need to be Catholic leaders. There are a number of local efforts which are making great progress and offer a model for others to imitate including The Men of Christ (Archdiocese of Milwaukee), The Central Texas Fellowship of Catholic Men (Diocese of Austin), Catholic Men’s Ministry (Diocese of Columbus) and The Catholic Men’s Fellowship of California (various dioceses).
The Fellowship of Catholic University Students and Saint Paul’s Outreach are two college campus based initiatives which actively invites and draws university students into a deeper practice of the Catholic faith. While these organizations are not exclusively focused on men, large numbers of college aged Catholic men are engaging and finding the rich blessing of the faith; many of the future leaders of the Catholic men’s movement will likely come from the growing ranks of alumni from these two organizations.