We continue the 52-week plan to grow in Catholic Manhood by becoming a better Catholic Son and Catholic Father.

Last week, we started reflecting upon the seventh major habit: Major Habit 7– Build a Band of Catholic Brothers and reflected upon Habit 23 – Seek Deep Brotherhood.

We turn our attention to Habit 24. 

Habit 24 – Grow Parish Fraternity

Grow Parish Fraternity by taking personal initiative to befriend priests and deacons, building friendships with other men in your parish, participating in the Knights of Columbus and other Catholic men’s groups, and being mentored by and mentoring other men.

What is fraternity?

The word “fraternity” comes from a Latin word which means “brother”; fraternity means brotherhood. The Virtue of Fraternity/Affability is the good habit of a man who cheerfully seeks to build friendship and brotherhood with others which helps support a healthy and happy social order, deters conflict and is often the first step in evangelization. The man who practices Fraternity experiences the pleasure of good relations with many and the profound joy of building brotherhood with men who hold to the Catholic faith.  See here for more on the Virtue of Fraternity.

How does the Catholic Church encourage fraternity?

The Church confirms that men are to reject division (Gal 3:27-28, CCC 791) so they can experience the fraternal peace and love (CCC 1878, 2304) that comes to those drawn in unity into the Communion of Saints (CCC 715, 830-822, 866, 956-957), a fraternity of men which  imitates of unity of the Blessed Trinity (CCC 1702, 1890) as adopted sons and brothers in God (CCC 1709, 1996-1997).

Why is parish fraternity critical?

Through their fraternal priesthood, the Apostles drew increasing numbers of men into unity and fraternity in small house churches during the early years of the Church (Rom 16:3-5, 1 Cor 16:19-20, Col 4:15, Philem 1-2) and eventually parishes were established where men were drawn together in the fraternal unity of the priesthood (CCC 877, 1268); the Church continues to describe parishes as a “house” (CCC 1181, 1186) where men are drawn together in unity and fraternity and gather with their spiritual family. It is in the parish, where men are unified in the Eucharistic community (CCC 2226), to receive the sacraments, to pray (CCC 2691) and build fraternal love (CCC 2179). It is in the Catholic family home, the parish, that Catholic men grow in human solidarity by getting to know each other (CCC 821) and to build the bonds of deep and unbreakable brotherhood/fraternity (CCC 1939).

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.

What is the model for growing parish 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).

The Apostles “devoted themselves” to the uncompromising commitment to Jesus Christ the King and Savior of Man and to the welfare of other Catholic men. “The Apostle’s teaching” drew men together to pass on Jesus Christ’s Gospel, first orally and ultimately in Scripture and the Magisterium. Following Christ’s example of choosing and forming men, the Apostles continued to emphasize “Fellowship.”  As established by Christ, the Apostles continued the “Breaking of the Bread”, feeding Catholic men the Eucharist in Mass and drawing men to Christ in Adoration.  Continuing Christ’s example of prayer, the Apostles engaged in “The Prayers”, drawing men together in adoration, chant, spoken prayer and teaching men to pray for their brothers in daily personal prayer.

What are some action steps to help begin to grow parish fraternity?

Using  Acts 2:42 as a model, here are some ways to help Grow Parish Fraternity:

Help the priest and a small group of men “devote” themselves to evangelizing men – Echoing how the Apostles “devoted themselves” to evangelizing men, growing parish fraternity requires 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. See here for more on the importance of the priest in evangelizing men. 

To evangelize the world, Jesus Christ establishes and builds the Church by calling, forming and leading the Apostles. To evangelize men in a parish, many who are lukewarm and lack fraternity, a parish vanguard of 6-12 men (of various ages) can be formed and led by the parish priest; this group of men often comes from the Knights of Columbus members and may be hosted by the Knights. See here for how to evangelize Catholic men from the Catholic Men’s Leadership Alliance.

Set a regular schedule of drawing men together in fraternity – 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 in parishes into more fruitful faith lives; 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.

Growing in the faith and building fraternity requires regular and a consistent gathering of men in Jesus Christ. To begin to build a parish “ethic” and culture of Catholic fraternity in Christ, the priest and his vanguard should establish and schedule regular (monthly or bi-monthly) gatherings of Catholic men. 

Focus on helping men meet, become awed and know Jesus – At the center of the crisis in the Church is that most men have not met and come to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior of Man. 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. See here for more on how Jesus came to draw men to Him and His Holy Catholic Church

Every Catholic Man focuses on helping men come to be awed by Jesus Christ and includes many resources to help men be drawn to Jesus Christ. The Every Catholic Man Daily Gospel Bible Studies from the Mass are available for every day of the year and are a powerful way to help men meet, become awed and know Jesus. The Every Catholic Man Sunday Gospel Bible Study/Podcast can be used to help draw men into a deeper awe of Jesus and the great blessing of the Lord’s Day. There are also a number of other ECM Bible Studies, including The Miracles of Jesus, The Parables of Jesus and The Sermons of Jesus.

Help men understand the great blessing of Catholic manhood – Many Catholic men do not understand the great blessing of being a Catholic man and what they are called to become. Men are systematizers who like to understand both the big picture and the purpose of things. A Catholic man can be motivated to grow in faith as he comes to grasp the great blessings of being a Catholic man who is on a pilgrimage towards Heaven. Seek to help Catholic men understand their vocation as Catholic Sons and Catholic Fathers who are on the mission towards becoming Saints in Heaven. See here for why a Catholic man should make the commitment to Jesus Christ and His Holy Catholic Church.  See here for more on Growing in Catholic Manhood.

Help men learn to pray and to pray often  Just as the Apostles passed on Jesus Christ’s 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.

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 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.  See here for the Every Catholic Man extensive resources on Catholic prayer.

Help men receive 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. For gatherings of Catholic men, emphasize the Sacrament of Penance and the Sacrament of the Eucharist. See here for more on the Sacrament of Penance and the Sacrament of the Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration.

Encourage small bands of brothers  Catholic men grow deeper in faith when they are part of a small “Band of Brothers” with whom they can discuss their personal challenges, hold each other accountable and grow together in prayer and holiness. For more on the power of small bands of Catholic brothers, see Habit 23 – Seek Deep Brotherhood.

Use approaches and materials which are specifically designed to reach Catholic men – Catholic men and women are equal in dignity but are different and complementary in their make up; Catholic men struggle with different issues than women and often can be more effectively reached with approaches and materials which directly speak to their struggles and needs.

The Every Catholic Man website has been specifically developed to help Catholic men grow in their faith and includes an extensive library and resources. See here for a list of the numerous ECM studies and topics for helping Catholic men, which include Drawing Closer to the Almighty Father, Drawing Closer to the Holy Spirit, and Growing in Virtue.

In addition to the numerous free materials at EveryCatholicMan.com, there are a number of excellent resources available from other sources, including the Knights of Columbus Into the Breach Series, The Catholic Men’s Leadership Alliance, That Man is You, Exodus90, The Catholic Gentleman,  HeroicMen.com, The Fathers of St. Joseph, Fraternus and a number of other initiatives.

This week’s questions

Here are some questions to meditate upon:

How might I be blessed to help Grow Catholic Fraternity in my parish?

How might the gifts God has given me be used to help grow Catholic Fraternity in my parish?

This week’s commitments

Making a habit a reality requires commitment to concrete action. Here are this week’s challenges:

Research what events for men are occurring at your parish.

Pray for God’s guidance about if and how He is calling you to help Grow Parish Fraternity.

Don’t forget to pray with the ECM Daily Gospel Devotional each day.

Consider listening to the EveryCatholicMan.com Gospel Devotional Podcast to be better prepared for Sunday Mass.

Daily Prayer

During the week, pray this short prayer, or one like it, to discern how to Grow Parish Fraternity:

Jesus, Founder of Your Holy Catholic Church and the original band of Catholic brothers, the Apostles, please help me to long for Catholic brotherhood and guide me so that I might know and do Your will to draw men together in parish fraternity. Amen.