Carrie Gress has a doctorate from the Catholic University of America and is a philosophy professor at Pontifex University. She is the author of several books, including The Marian Option: God’s Solution to a Civilization in Crisis. Carrie is the co-author with George Weigel of City of Saints: A Pilgrims Guide to John Paul II’s Krakow. A homeschooling mother of four, she and her family live in Virginia. Visit her blog at www.carriegress.com. (Photo by Renata Grzan Wierczorek, RenataPhotography.com)
The last 50 years have been hard on men and even harder on the idea of masculinity. One group of guys have decided to do something dramatic for themselves and for other men to reclaim their call as sons, brothers, husbands and fathers.
The brainchild of Chris Stefanick (of Real Life Catholic), Bill Donaghy (of the Theology of the Body Institute) and Cardinal Studios, RISE is a 30-day challenge to men everywhere to start reclaiming their true identity in Christ and their role in the world. Each day has a short video and practical content for dealing with the unprecedented challenges that men face today.
While a self-directed program, RISE is set up so that a group of men journey through the program together, offering encouragement, prayer and fellowship. The next one starts Feb. 14, Ash Wednesday, with new groups starting throughout the year.
Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia is encouraging men to take up the challenge. “RISE is precisely what is needed today to help men understand and live their unique mission in the world,” said the Archbishop. “If every man took the challenge, we’d see a transformation in our homes and parishes.”
So what is it, then, that RISE is doing right? I spoke with Chris Stefanick to find out.
“There is a particular way men are called to live: they are called to bless, lead, provide protect, and love,” explained Stefanick. “We see how society crumbles when men don’t do their job, so it is an important role. In fact, we can see this is why men have been targeted, but also why we have to push back. Rather than dwelling on the problem, we are pointing to the solution in their everyday lives.”
“The real message of RISE,” said Stefanick, “is to help men be who they are. Every man has four dimensions to his identity — father, son, brother, and spouse (even if they aren’t married) — that offer specific ways that men love. These are the ways they are called to be like God. So there are very specific challenges around those four things and Rise is a way to help them live them out.”
“It is about helping men to be intentional about who they are and develop down to earth habits that can change their life forever,” Stefanick added.
One of the surprising elements not anticipated by the organizers was the incredible fellowship found in the combox that has built up among the participants as they journey through the 30 days together.
“This program offers real fellowship to men, even if they are not in same town, praying for each other and providing spiritual comradery,” said Stefanick. “I’ve never seen guys go through something like this, with more authentic connections, encouraging each other, pledging to pray for each other and lifting to each up. It is a real connection and probably why the internet exists. It is the best the internet has to offer.”
“One topic has been about purity,” said Stefanick, “and these men are being honest with each other and also pledging to pray for each other through this challenge.”
“Others have lived with despair and are looking for hope, and men have reached out in love to them, bring transformation. The idea that people are being cared for by a digital Christian community are concepts that don’t usually go together,” Stefanick said, laughing, “but with prayer it is real. There is a real community forming.”
And real men are being healed, encouraged, lifted up, and transformed — and changing the world for the better with every step they take closer to the men they were created to be.