Several months ago, a friend of mine was asked to promote men’s ministry in his suburban Catholic parish. He recently sent me the following email, which summarized his observations about some of the men in his parish:
Perhaps you would be willing to comment on a couple of issues that have come up with my conversations with a few men about God. Often I find that men will offer their philosophy of life when I talk to them about God. They will seem to say that they believe that they are good men and live by the golden rule as the means by which they believe that they will go to heaven. The second issue I have also heard us that it is an unacceptable judgmental attitude to believe that people need to hear the good news, as if I am telling them that they are wrong to believe anything other than what I believe to be the truth. Lastly, some men believe that the only way to evangelize is to give a good example of the good life, not to give any word of information.
The description above matches up pretty well with the characterization of Catholic men set forth in a popular book, Rebuilt, which is about the successful process of renewing a suburban Catholic parish in Timonium, Maryland, just outside Baltimore. The parish came up with a description of the typical Catholic man, whom they called “Timonium Tim,” who would be the target of their various ministries. Here are excerpts from the description of Timonium Tim:
“Tim is a good guy. If you met him at a party, a likely place to run into him, you’d like him. He’s educated, well dressed, and successful at what he does. Tim is married with children. He has …a comfortable lifestyle.
…Tim is culturally Catholic…but Tim is definitely not a believer…Tim’s a good guy, but he’s doing life on his own terms, and, increasingly, it isn’t working out so well for him. He’s got stress at work and tension and conflict at home...Tim needs purpose; he needs direction; he needs a savior.”
I don’t think these issues are just common to men who live in the suburbs. I think there are many Catholic men who are content to be what me might call modest Catholics. I am not critical of these men. I don’t blame them. I don’t think the Church has done a good job of helping Catholic men (and women) know the rich, exciting life that is available to every committed Christian.
So, how would I respond to the questions and descriptions presented above? Well, here’s my list, and in subsequent blogs we’ll take these up one at a time:
1. Every Christian is called to holiness, not to a stagnant mediocrity in our life of faith.
2. We should be seeking a deep, personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
3. If and when we have a deep, personal encounter with Jesus Christ, our life will be richer and more exciting.
4. If and when we have a deep encounter with Jesus Christ, our life will be richer and more exciting and we will be compelled to tell other people about it.
5. Our relationship with Jesus Christ will be enriched and empowered as our understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist continue to grow.
6. Once we come to know and experience the Holy Spirit, we will be guided to link up with others in building up the Body of Christ.
7. We are “wired” to be passionate, not lukewarm, about our faith.
If you have your own comments and suggestions about these issues, please communicate them to me as soon as possible.