Jim Graves is a Catholic writer and editor living in Newport Beach, California. He previously served as Managing Editor for the Diocese of Orange Bulletin, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, California. His work has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Cal Catholic Daily and Catholic World Report.
It’s been more than a year since Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix released “Into the Breach,” an apostolic exhortation to Catholic men. In it, the Bishop lamented a “devastating” decline in the practice of the Catholic faith in recent years, and addressed three questions: 1) What does it mean to be a Catholic man? 2) How does a Catholic man love? 3) Why is fatherhood, fully understood, so crucial for every man?
The Bishop touches on such topics as how men and women complement one another, and should not be competitors, the harm of “gender ideology,” saints who model particular virtues men should emulate, chastity vs. pornography and fasting. He pleads with men to “step up and lovingly, patiently take up your God-given role as protector, provider, and spiritual leader of your home. A father’s role as spiritual head of the family must never be understood or undertaken as domination over others, but only as a loving leadership and a gentle guidance for those in your care.” (Read the entire document at (http://intothebreach.org/).
The Diocese of Phoenix held a men’s conference last year to discuss Into the Breach. Among the speakers was Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers of the Archdiocese of Portland, who described Into the Breach as “phenomenal,” and urged his fellow Catholics to make the time to read it. Deacon Burke-Sivers described Into the Breach as “phenomenal,” noting that it was an invitation for men to enter the battle against “sin and death” to become what God has called us to be. I asked him to share his thought about Into the Breach and the conference.
What are your thoughts about Into the Breach?
It is the first magisterial document in the history of the Catholic Church written specifically for men that addresses authentic male spirituality … I particularly like Bishop Olmstead’s deliberate emphasis to reach all men regardless of their age, vocation, or state in life. Into the Breach is a definite “must read” for every man!
What did you speak on at the conference?
I spoke on the key themes of my book, Behold the Man, connecting them to Bishop Olmsted’s apostolic exhortation. The talk was titled “The Armor of God.” I hope those present and all men will come to understand that when a man lives his spirituality from the cross that he is truly able to be himself as a Catholic man formed within the timeless struggle between sin and forgiveness, and the tension between truth and freedom that shape his manhood. I hope my efforts will deepen a man’s experience of Christ and encourage him to take his faith to the next level, and begin to live that faith with greater passion and conviction than ever before.
What do you think are some key ways we can get men more involved in the Church, and more willing to accept responsibility as fathers?
Catholic male spirituality is a man’s response to God’s invitation to life-giving communion through an ever-deepening revelation and discovery of Him through a life of sacrifice and service that imitates Christ crucified, meditates on God’s Word and responds to that Word in faith, and, in the sacraments, makes him truly a son of God and part of the Mystical Body of Christ. An authentic male spirituality is first and foremost an encounter with the Living God in the person of Jesus Christ, who is the perfect example of what it means to be a man.
If we are to be true men of God, we must willingly and lovingly lay down our lives in service to our brides—our wives, the Church, and the culture—bearing witness to the awesome power and testimony of the crucified Christ. We must have the courage to say with Saint Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). When men pick up their Crosses and follow Christ, they unite their sufferings to His Passion, receive everlasting life from His death, and draw their strength from his weakness. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”, the Lord said to Saint Paul, prompting Saint Paul to say, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Every parish should have a vibrant, active men’s group that is encouraged and supported by the pastor, the spiritual head of the parish family. Men who are involved in the group should personally invite other men who are simply “going through the motions” to attend these gatherings in order to provide an opportunity to experience—on an on-going and sustained basis—the power of God in their lives.
You’ve seen these men’s conferences bear fruit.
Men's conference and retreats are popping up all over the world, and many men are taking advantage of these opportunities to rediscover their Catholic faith … Many men are making a serious effort to strengthen and deepen their spiritual lives in the midst of life’s struggles and challenges, but there are so many more who are not. These are the men we need to reach.