From the Pastor: Men’s Holy League After One Year
One year ago, on the fourth Thursday of August, 2016, a wild idea was brought to fruition. A Catholic men’s group was formed, with twice monthly meetings broken into three parts: prayer, learning more about the Catholic Faith, and social time. It was a “wild” idea for several reasons. First, our parish, which was dedicated to the celebration of Traditional Latin Mass only one year before, strangely does not have many active parishioners living within its boundaries. Most people have to drive 45 minutes or more (one way) to attend. Getting the men to attend at 6:00 pm on a weekday was an attempt to allow them to get off work and stop by on their way home, perhaps making the distance not so much of a problem. Second, I could see no practical way of feeding them when they arrived, so the main draw for most non-liturgical functions at every church in the world was taken off the table (pun intended). They would each have to make a quick stop at a drive through before coming, which is not a very appealing thought to most adults. Third, this is a truly Catholic group of men, so large families are the norm and two nights a month, while seeming fairly inconsequential to some, would be a major commitment to most. Plus, the wives would also have to sign off on it! Fourth, an hour of prayer can be daunting, and an hour of prayers in Latin, moreso. Fifth, since everyone whom I expected to be interested would most likely be a “solid” Catholic already, I didn’t know if they would see a “Catholic class” as something necessary or of interest. Last of all the many things I could continue to list, is the social time. “Scotch and Cigars and Manly Camaraderie” was a good way of getting everyone’s attention, but would it be an effective advertising gimmick? Most guys, believe it or not, do not smoke cigars. With long drives home, the scotch would, of necessity, be very limited in quantity. And what in the world would guys talk about? All these potential drawbacks made this a very wild idea.
Yet we did it anyway. Why? Basically, because one man came to me with the idea and with the statement, “If you will teach, I will take charge of gathering emails and sending out notices.” That’s what I like to hear. Not, “Father, this is what the parish needs and you or someone else needs to do it” but rather, “Here is something I think we need to do and I am willing to do the work. If you do the priestly things, I will do the laity things.” I am terrible at organizing things. I can lead prayers, though, and I can teach the Faith. And so we gave it a shot.
The men gathered in the church to listen to the chanting of Latin Vespers. Now, I am betting that not more than two (I am being generous here) men understood the Latin chant. A few of the men might pray Vespers themselves at least fairly regularly, but the vast majority had no idea what Vespers even was. Vespers was followed by the Holy Rosary prayed in a combination of Latin and English. While I assume that every man there was familiar with the Rosary and some good portion of them probably prayed it daily, the Latin prayers (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be) were unknown. (They are pretty good at it now, though!) The book I wanted to use was temporarily out of stock, so I switched to the universal Catechism of St. Pope Pius X. What a fortuitous happenstance! This Catechism, which, though not widely known--let alone read and believed--nowadays, makes bold declarations about what the Catholic Church truly teaches and leaves no doubt as to what is expected of the Faithful. In fact, it even outrightly states just who is and who isn’t considered “the Faithful”, something the newer Catechism dances around. (A recent example: Just who belongs to the Communion of Saints and who is excluded from that group? The new Catechism never explicitly says, leaving everyone guessing or making assumptions, many of which, though sounding “nice” and “merciful” and even “ecumenical” are downright wrong. The old Catechism declares the answer with no holds barred. And the men were shocked, for nobody has ever come right out and told them the truth this bluntly before!) To top the night off, out came the drinks and smokes. At least half the men were sure I was pulling their leg and couldn’t believe that I really had Ave Maria cigars and Glenlivet scotch waiting for them.
The “wild” idea caught on. Some men come to every meeting. Some can only make it sporadically. Some never returned. Those who come might each have their own favorite part of the night and a variety of reasons why they attend. But no matter what, they each are growing in the Faith, and the world can use some more good, holy, Catholic men right now. This Thursday is the fourth Thursday of the month. It is the one year anniversary of the men’s club. Whodathunkit? (Anyone want to try translating that Latin word?)
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka