Like many other men I know, I struggled for years to fill a void in my life. I was, at best, a slumbering Catholic. For most of the needs in my life, I had a ready source of fulfillment. When I experienced hunger, there was always a fridge full of food. When in need of companionship, there was always my loving wife. When thirsty, there was always water. When in need of peace and solitude, there was always my favorite spot along the river. Yet, as my life moved on, I began to realize an unquenchable sense of something missing. It was not easy to identify.
My marriage? Well, St. Augustine once said, “If you understand him, he is not God.” I could have said, “If you understand her, she is not your wife.” I had a generous helping of pride, plus a complete refusal to look in the mirror for the solution to my problems. Some of us at this point in life are graced with a faith-filled friend, family member or co-worker who taps us on the shoulder and says, “Come follow me, my friend.” I am blessed with a devout and patient wife, and a brother who, at the right time in my journey, invited me to an event with a group of other men where I had a profound faith experience that truly changed my spiritual trajectory. If fracking is busting underground rock to allow oil to flow, that retreat was serious spiritual fracking! It broke fissures in my rock-hard pride and, through His grace, allowed just a little self-awareness to begin seeping in. Ever since, I try not to miss the opportunity at least once a year to attend a Catholic men’s conference or retreat. It recharges me. It’s not just about conversion, but about enrichment, intensification, renewal.
I had a profound faith experience that truly changed my spiritual trajectory. If fracking is busting underground rock to allow oil to flow, that retreat was serious spiritual fracking! It broke fissures in my rock-hard pride and, through His grace, allowed just a little self-awareness to begin seeping in.
We have the amazing blessing of the Eucharist, reconciliation and the other sacraments. We have Scripture, personal prayer and bountiful spiritual readings at our fingertips. I rely on all of them to sustain my practice of faith. I have become reliant on my spiritual reading time every morning before the family gets up. But there is something uniquely powerful about several hundred men gathered together in prayer and song that leaves me fired up to face the ebb and flow of our secular world.
Consider attending the annual fall conference in the Diocese of La Crosse, called: “Men of the Cross.” It brings in amazing speakers, a host of priests hearing confession and a vendor area with great books and sacramentals. At this conference a couple of years ago in La Crosse, we gathered for Mass in the St. Damiano Chapel at Viterbo College with Bishop Callahan as the main celebrant; we packed the chapel, standing-room-only. The all-in singing of hundreds of men of like mind and heart, in the middle of a full day of spiritual enrichment, is an experience I won’t soon forget.
By Bob Stephan, St. Mary Parish, Marathon City
Could you be raking the lawn in the fall sun, mowing the lawn one last time or putting the deck furniture away? Sure. It is a small sacrifice, yet all those things around the house will still be there the following weekend. It’s time to drop the fishing nets for one day and join your brothers in arms at Men of the Cross on Oct. 27, 2018, at Logan Middle School in La Crosse. See www.menofthecross.org for further details and to register.