Priests need to lead Catholic Men through “Basic Training”
The New Emangelization Project has documented that a key driver of the collapse of Catholicism in the U. S. is a serious and growing Catholic “man-crisis”. One third of baptized Catholic men have left the faith and the majority of those who remain “Catholic” neither know nor practice the faith and are not committed to pass the faith along to their children. Recent research shows that large numbers of young Catholic men are leaving the faith to become “Nones”, men who have no religious affiliation. The growing losses of young Catholic men will have a devastating impact on the U.S. Catholic Church in the coming decades, as older Catholic men pass away and young men fail to remain and marry in the Church, accelerating the devastating losses that have already occurred.
While there are massive cultural forces outside of the Church (e.g. secularism, pluralism, anti-Christian bias, radical feminism, pornography, media saturation, etc.) and missteps within the Church (e.g. failure to make men a priority, sex abuse scandals, homosexuality in the priesthood, etc.) that have contributed to the Catholic “man-crisis”, the New Emangelization Project has conducted dozens of interviews with top Catholic men’s evangelists that suggest that a core reason for the “man-crisis” is that bishops and priests have not yet made the evangelization and catechesis of men a clear priority. Men are being ignored by the Church.
To gain deeper insight into the critical role that priests play in the evangelization and catechesis of men, the New Emangelization Project fielded the Helping Priests Become More Effective in Evangelizing Men Survey in the Fall of 2014. Over 1400 practicing Catholic men from the United States from over 1000 parishes participated in the survey, including solid responses from age groups and zip codes.
Catholic Men Need Basic Training
A key theme that has emerged from the survey is that many Catholic men have not learned the most basic elements of the faith and, as a result, don’t practice the faith.
While the Church has a great reservoir of spiritual insight, the survey findings indicate that large numbers of men are not looking for sophisticated theology. Rather, men desire for their priests to more vigorously lead them to better know Jesus Christ, Mary and Joseph, to better understand and engage in the Sacraments, to learn how to pray and to learn basic apologetics. Learning the basics of the Catholic faith is critical for, in a post-modern culture that increasingly rejects faith, Catholic men who don’t know the faith can’t pass the faith along to their children.
Men need priests to lead them through Catholic “Basic Training.”
Men need to be drawn closer to Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Few priests are systematically teaching men to draw closer to Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Only 21% of men “strongly agree” that their priest teaches “men to draw closer to Jesus Christ” and only 17% of men “strongly agree” that their priest helps men “grow in their devotion to Our Mother, the Virgin Mary.”
Men want to have their priests teach them about the Perfect Manhood of Jesus Christ and promote a growing understanding and love for Mary and Joseph. Men commented:
We need to know the root of our disordered desires and understand them as Christ lived them out. Once we order all our thoughts and feelings towards the imitation of true masculinity, Jesus Christ, it becomes a battle that men want to fight. Men need a fight, a realization of the spiritual battle that we take part in every day.
Promote a consecration & devotion to Most Holy Mother Mary in hopes that she can help lead us to her son Jesus Christ, our Lord & Savior, and that we can then do the same for our families.
Promote devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph.
Give a more clear description of what it means to be a true man like St. Joseph.
Men need to taught about the Sacraments and Prayer
The Sacraments and prayer are essential for the spiritual lives of Catholic men. The New Evangelization Project research shows that large numbers of Catholic men do not understand or engage in the Mass, Reconciliation and prayer. Despite the urgent importance of drawing many more men into a passionate engagement in the Sacraments and prayer, few men “strongly agreed” that their priest was actively helping men to better understand and participate in the Sacraments and prayer:
16% teach men to understand and get more out of the Mass.
17% challenge men to get to Confession regularly.
Respondents thought that their priests needed to more effectively teach about the Mass, Adoration, Reconciliation and prayer, and to lead men to more fully engage in the Sacraments:
Take time to teach men how worship of God begins: at the Sacraments.
In my opinion, orthodoxy attracts men to the liturgy and the sacraments because it helps our bodies realize the wonderful mystery that is the Mass.
Speak to people about the rubrics and the liturgy and what we are all supposed to do or not do.
Offer more Confession.
I think the first step is to increase the frequency of Confession in the parish, and help men to grow in devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Hold monthly evenings consisting of Adoration, catechesis, Reconciliation, and general spiritual direction for single and married men, using one or two reliable laymen to assist as organizers. This could serve as a template or foundation to grow ministry to men.
Teach men how to pray.
Despite the fact that the men who responded in the survey are practicing Catholic men, they sense the need to grow in their understanding of the Mass, Confession and prayer. The majority of Catholic men who are not practicing the faith have an even greater need; it is imperative for priests to evangelize and catechize men on the fundamentals of the faith (e.g. Sacraments and prayer).
Men need to be taught how to defend the faith
The New Emangelization Project research shows that half of Catholic men cannot adequately explain the Catholic faith to others. Only 15% of survey respondents “strongly agreed” their current pastor taught “men to defend the Catholic faith with full loyalty to the Magisterium.” Respondents commented about the need to help men better defend the faith:
Teach men to defend the faith.
I believe people need to know their faith and be able to defend it and take part in apologetics. We need a reawakening.
More homilies which discuss the reality of Hell, and discuss the unique Truth, that it is the Catholic Church which is the Church founded by Jesus Christ; and that we must be willing and prepared to confront and defeat the arguments of people who teach otherwise.
The lack of solid evangelization and catechesis has contributed to the exodus of Catholic men from the Church. Men who don’t know the faith won’t stay in the faith.
What’s needed now is for bishops and priests to commit to a New Emangelization, an effort where millions of Catholic men are taught the basics of the faith.