Why Parishes Need to Challenge Boys More…

Why Parishes Need to Challenge Boys More…

Excellent article from Those Catholic Men

I go to Mass where the rubrics are tight and the preaching is challenging. There are very reasonable arguments why I should go to a closer one – your parish is a family that has a location and just like a household you can’t just get up and choose another house and call it home. We don’t just want to group up in pious clubs and congratulate ourselves on our orthodoxy, leaving “ordinary” Catholics to their felt banners and fluffy hymnals.

Despite this reasoning, I do not go to my closest parish and the reason is very simple: I have 3 sons (so far). I am educated in the facts and experienced enough in real life to know how serious the decline of faith in men and boys has been. (See The Catholic Man Crisis) I want my sons to be virtuous Catholic men.

And one thing is crystal clear: you cannot form boys and engage men with an “easy faith”. Men, present and future, need rigorous challenge and authentic examples. There’s no other way. Coaches and good teachers knows this. And if boys are raised in a comfortable church, it is very unlikely that they will see the Faith as worth their time or love. Too often we propose a faith to them that, if translated into a coach or team dynamic, is equivalent of saying, “Do the minimum or less, keep steady, don’t push too hard – c’mon boys! Give me 35 percent!”

And its not strictness for strictness’s sake, but it’s the fact that sanctity is a challenge; the cross is a cross. In fact, prudent formation of boys will take them from warrior to lover, from Ignatius the soldier to Ignatius the saint. Men are not by nature fighters and we need to be careful in overemphasizing the warrior identity – Adam was not made to war and we won’t war in heaven, but we will fight to get there. Man is by nature a lover called to ever-greater love, and he will fight for what he loves. If you tell him there’s no fight, then its because its not worth his love. But there will be a fight, so get him ready for it (CCC 2725). It’s uncharitable to let them be spiritually flabby and unprepared. Love is won at a great price, so don’t cheapen it with smooth words and nuanced excuses.

I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was one of those courageous voices that opposed the Nazis in a time when other “faith-leaders” fled, acquiesced, or appeased them. He called “easy faith” by the name “cheap grace”:

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

So yes, I go to parishes that many would label as “strict” or “conservative”. The more pragmatic part of me says simply: this is our best bet to keep our kids Catholic. But the deeper reason is love. I love God. I love my faith. My encounter with Jesus Christ as a young man changed me forever and rescued me from a coming train wreck. He continues to change me. I beg Him to. I want the same for my kids. And I will not take them to parishes that want the Church to be changed by the world and not vice versa, to parishes that have Christ without the Cross, hiding crucifixes off to the side just visible enough to check off the rubrics box. Such a Christ does not exist. I want them to love and I have yet to be challenged to a worthy love that is easy or comfortable …

Continue reading at Those Catholic Men.

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