When I was first entering the Catholic Church, one of the first events I attended outside of Mass was the Stations of the Cross on the Fridays of Lent. Our parish followed Saint Alphonsus De Liguori’s, The Way of the Cross, and as we went along, we arrived at phrases such as “My adorable Jesus” and “I love you Jesus, my Love,” and I froze. These were very intimate and affectionate terms. It got me thinking about whether others might have these same stumbling blocks about how to love our Lord in this way, and whether I could maybe skip the more sentimental stuff and get to the more physical, familiar adoration, like tidying up the Missals in the pews or making donations to the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
And while I felt a bit awkward as a woman saying these words to Jesus, I imagine it could have also been difficult for the male parishioners to say it too. We live in a city where I’d say that more men are in touch with their emotions and confident in expressing their feelings, but I have also seen that male friendships and relationships are often more about showing up for one another - helping out, team building, shared interests - and less about talking about their relationships with one another or with others in their life.
In this year of St. Joseph, we have a remarkable example of a hard-working man who had a deep, quiet faith – protecting his family, serving his community, raising the Son of God as his own, being a mentor to Jesus in his carpentry, and loving his beloved Mary unconditionally.
I’ve noticed that there are fewer men, and definitely fewer young men, in our Parish, and it made me wonder if expanding activities for men who show their love through care, service, providing and sacrifice, rather than more passive attendance at Mass only, would help them reconnect with God and the Church. I’d like to see more opportunities within the Church to welcome their voices in what they think the Church can do to encourage them in their important roles as sons, brothers, husbands, fathers and leaders in the community. I want us to think about how we are supporting the gifts and talents of Christian men, and facilitate ways for them to share those gifts with those they encounter as men of God. With programs like Exodus 90 growing in popularity, it’s clear there is a great hunger from Catholic men to be challenged, to build up their relationships with their Christian brothers, and to take on what is difficult and demanding so they can grow closer to God.
And I encourage Catholic men to seize upon the example set by St. Joseph, and to take your role as a modern-day patriarch as one that is honorable, and much needed in our Church and the world. We notice when you’re missing at Church. We wonder what would bring you back. We need your voice and stewardship; we need your prayers and the example you set for the next generation. We want all of our sons and daughters to see remarkable men in the pews beside them, taking on this world, guided by Christ.