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

This week, we start reflecting upon the seventh major habit: Major Habit 7– Build a Band of Catholic Brothers  which can be broken down into two smaller habits:

  • Habit 23 – Seek Deep Brotherhood
  • Habit 24 – Grow Parish Fraternity

We turn our attention to Habit 23.  

Habit 23 – Seek Deep Brotherhood

Seek Deep Brotherhood (i.e. Fraternity) with a small group of 4-7 men who commit to engage in the Spiritual Combat individually and to help each other battle against sin, grow in personal holiness, and meet on a regular basis.

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 Satan attack and divide men?

Beginning with the division in the angels Satan caused when he rebelled against God (CCC 391-395), Satan sows division between God and man, and between man and man, to continue his war against God. At Eden, Satan divided Adam and Eve, isolating and seducing Eve, who then persuaded Adam to join the rebellion against God (Gen 3); this rebellion led to deep division between God and man, and between man and woman which continues today (CCC 1707). Satan effectively used division to break down the fraternity between God and man.

Satan, during the time of the Incarnation continued to sow division, sought to separate the Son from the Father (Mt 4:1-11), Peter from Jesus (Mt 16:22-23), and Satan eventually conquers and separates Judas from Jesus and the Apostles, and Judas betrays Jesus (Lk 22:3-6).

Across time, Satan has continued to sow division to break down fraternity in the Church as one of his key weapons. These divisions and the loss of fraternity in the Church, which God mysteriously allows, have plagued the Church since the rebellion and betrayal of Judas: the heretical movements in the early Church (CCC 465-467); the great schism which separated the Roman Catholic Church from the Orthodox Church (CCC 838); and the heresies of the Protestant revolution (CCC 838) and the ongoing shattering of Protestants into tens of thousands of separate denominations. Even today, the Catholic Church continues to suffer with various groups who are sowing heresy and division.

How does Jesus use fraternity to protect men from Satan’s attacks?

At Eden, God revealed Satan’s plan of rebellion to sow division between God and man and the growing of evil fraternity between Satan and man would not go unopposed; God revealed that Satan and man would never build broad and lasting fraternity and there would be a perpetual war between Satan and the sons of Adam (Gen 3:15). 

To conquer and defeat Satan and his strategy of sowing division, the Almighty Father sent the Son and eventually the Holy Spirit into the world to build the great fraternity of the Holy Catholic Church, a fraternity which draws its power from the Divine Fraternity of the Blessed Trinity. At the start of Jesus’ public ministry, Satan immediately attacks, seeking to divide the Son from the Father in an attempt to build fraternity between Satan and the Son; Satan’s attempt to divide the Father and the Son fails (Mt 4:1-11). Jesus launches His public ministry by immediately extending the Divine Fraternity of the Trinity to mankind by exclusively recruiting men to be His 12 Apostles and forming a Catholic band of brothers; emphasizing the fraternal brotherhood His men are to have, Jesus calls them “brethren” (Mt 23:8, 28:10, Jn 20:17).

Jesus warns the Apostles to fight against Satan’s evil attacks, teaching them to pray to the Almighty Father, “deliver us from the Evil One” (Mt 6:13; CCC 2850-2854). Jesus confirms His men must remain unified and that division leads to collapse (Mt 12:25, Mk 3:25) and warns of Satan’s attacks to divide men (Lk 11:22) and that many will become divided and broken (Lk 12:49-53). Jesus reveals Satan will attempt to divide Peter from Jesus and that Peter must turn back and strengthen the unity of the brethren (Lk 22:31-34).

In the end times, Jesus will return with the “fury of the wrath of God Almighty” (Rev 19:15) to make war (Rev 19:11) and will lead the armies of Heaven (Rev 19:14) to violently destroy Satan and the evil men of the earth who seek to sow division and oppose Him (Rev 19:15-21) and God will restore fraternity on earth under His Divine rule (Rev 21).

How did the Apostles build Catholic fraternity?

Immediately after the Ascension of Jesus Christ into Heaven, the Apostles remained united in their brotherhood and confirmed the necessity of fraternity in building the Church (Acts 2:42). As the Church continued to grow, the Apostles continued to emphasize the need for men to draw close together to be unified in fraternity (Heb 10:25; CCC 2178) and to avoid division (1 Cor 1:12-13). 

The Apostles continued to emphasize the central importance of fraternity among Catholic men which draws men to the Divine Fraternity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (1 Cor 1:9, 1 Jn 1:3). The Apostles considered themselves to be so close in fraternity as to be brothers, and as they learned from Jesus (Jn 20:17), they commonly referred those who shared the Catholic faith as “brethren” (Jn 21:23; Acts 1:1; and many additional examples). 

St. Peter emphasized the need for unity and deep fraternity and urged Catholic men to form and sustain a holy brotherhood (1 Pet 2:13-17, 5:9) to withstand Satan’s ongoing efforts to isolate and attack men (1 Pet 5:8). St. Paul also warned against division among Christians (Rom 16:17; 1 Cor 1:10-17, 11:18; Gal 3:27-28), urging men to remain unified in “one mind” in Jesus Christ (Phil 2:1-2). 

What are the benefits of building a small band of Catholic brothers today?

By committing to a small band of Catholic brothers, a Catholic man can:

Be obedient to Jesus’ call for men to build Catholic fraternity – Every Catholic man should recognize the Divine Genius of Jesus’ call to deep brotherhood in His Catholic Church and be obedient to the Apostle’s example of building deep brotherhood.

Grow in holiness  – Being part of a small band of Catholic brothers can help a man: 

  • Be personally encouraged by brothers who desire to grow in holiness: “Iron sharpens iron like one man sharpens another” (Prov 27:17).

  • Be strengthened to withstand the attacks of Satan and to grow in holiness by being blessed by the intercessory prayers of brothers.  

  • As relationships deepen over time, be able to be completely honest with trusted brothers about one’s deepest struggles with sin and trials in life, to receive honest admonishment and counsel, and be held accountable by men who share similar struggles.

  • Become a better Catholic Son and Father by learning from the example of other men and by joint study of the faith (e.g. Scripture, consecration to St. Joseph, Every Catholic Man materials, other Catholic studies, etc.). 

Grow in happiness – Being part of a small band of Catholic brothers can help a man:

  • Experience the excitement and deep sense of purpose of being with men who share the greatest goal of becoming saints. 

  • Experience the joy of being fraternally loved by men who truly want the best for each other. 

  • Experience the great blessing of being a great blessing to other men. 

  • Have the deep sense of security that several men are personally committed to “have a man’s back” in times of crisis; knowing other men are prepared and committed to care for a man’s family if necessary is a powerful source of comfort. 

  • Enjoy the pleasure of masculine company and to build family connections with good Catholic men and their spouses and children. 

What are some guidelines for building Catholic fraternity?

Not all associations of men can help a man grow in holiness and happiness. Fruitful Catholic fraternity:

Is unified in Jesus Christ and His Church – It is impossible to build deep Catholic fraternity with men who are not of “one mind in Christ” (Phil 2:1-2). Seek men who are awed by Jesus Christ and His Holy Catholic Church. 

Builds upon both commonality and complementarity – Consider drawing men together who share commonality (e.g. married with kids, similar education/trade, interests, spiritual struggles, etc.) and which are complementarity (e.g. older men who can can share experience, new and life-long Catholics, etc.). 

Motivated by true Catholic brotherhood – Moving beyond good times, economic, and social/casual friendships, true Catholic fraternity has the bedrock commitment for each man of the band of brothers to do his best to help his brothers become saints.

Seeks the intercession of the Saints – In addition to devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph is the patron saint of fathers, families and workers and many men select St. Joseph as a patron saint; consider other saints who might be helpful (e.g. patron saint of parish, geography, vocation, etc.). 

Integrates prayer, the Sacraments and Scripture – Fruitful brotherhood depends on the work of the Trinity by spending time together in prayer (Rosary, Adoration, etc.), receiving the Sacraments, and studying Scripture and discussing other kinds of Catholic materials (e.g. Every Catholic Man Bible Studies and materials, books, Catholic programs, etc.).  

Enjoys relaxing and fun activities together – Build bonds of friendship through relaxing and fun activities on a regular basis which the brothers enjoy (e.g. smokers, meals, bowling,  gaming, etc.)

How can a man begin to Seek Deep Brotherhood?

Here are some ways a man can begin to identify men with whom he can build a small band of brothers:

Pray for God to help you build deep brotherhood – As in all things, a Catholic man’s most effective way to achieve anything, is to turn to God in prayer and ask for God’s help. Pray for God to guide you to men with whom you can build deep Catholic brotherhood.

Start spending time with other Catholic men – Start with existing relationships and begin to cultivate deeper bonds of brotherhood by spending time together regularly (e.g. phone calls, grabbing a beverage/meal, other social activities, etc.). Listen carefully for a brother’s suffering and struggle, begin to pray regularly for him and his family, and check in often. 

Speak to the priest/deacon – Priest and deacons know many men in a parish and can often be helpful in making introductions for those who want to build Catholic brotherhood.

Join the Knights of Columbus – One of the best ways to meet good committed Catholic men is to join the Knights of Columbus and become active in serving the priest and families of the parish through regular activities of the Knights (e.g. fish fries, pancake breakfast, parish projects, etc.). 

Volunteer in the parish – Volunteering is a great way to begin to meet other committed Catholic men (usher, lector, teaching the faith, funeral support, etc.).

Sign up for a small men’s group – Many parishes are offering small groups during various times of the year which offers a chance to meet other men and begin to build bonds of brotherhood.

Host “man-nights” – Identify men in the parish and take the initiative to gather men together (e.g. bbq, bonfire, beer tasting, cigar smoker, etc.). 

This week’s questions

Here are some questions to meditate upon: 

How might building friendships with more Catholic men bring me happiness?

How might building deep brotherhood with a small group of Catholic men help me grow in holiness?

This week’s commitments

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

Make the commitment to take several concrete steps during the next month to begin to build deeper Catholic 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 Seek Deep Brotherhood:

Holy Spirit, please help me to grow in Catholic fraternity and give me the Gift of Counsel, so I might be led to men with whom I can build deep bonds of Catholic brotherhood to help me grow in holiness and happiness. Amen.