So, there’s a “man-crisis,” as they say, in the Catholic Church. Catholic men (particularly young Catholic men) are not attending Mass, pursuing a regular spiritual life, or taking much involvement in their children’s religious education. The men are not randomly MIA; there are some key reasons for the man-crisis. One of the reasons stems from a species of identity crisis, as it were. Catholic men today do not feel called upon to do what men naturally do: lead. If we want to help reverse this, we must begin in each Catholic family’s home culture.
Start with family prayer. Involving the husbands and fathers in the family’s prayer life is best done by giving them the leadership role. They should lead family prayers, read Scripture and saints’ writings aloud, and direct the children’s religious education. Correspondingly, whatever the mother does for the spiritual life of the family will bear more fruit, the more she has such support from her husband. Each person in the family should think of the father as “the priest of the family,” representing all and each part of the family before God. And as the priest of the family, the husband will need to rely upon role models, past and present.
Attending Holy Mass at a parish with a reverent, strong, and faithful priest, the husband and father of the family will be able take an excellent cue for his own spiritual fatherhood. (This is another reason it is essential to the family’s spiritual life to make the effort to find a reverently celebrated Mass at a “traditional” parish!) Looking to Heaven for spiritual guides, men can find in the Communion of Saints thousands of models and intercessors, coming from all vocations, conditions, and states in life. Husbands and fathers would do well to practice devotion to particular patron saints, most notably St. Joseph, in their role as priests of the family. St. Joseph, the leader of the Holy Family, led his Foster-Son in worship and religious practice.
When the family gathers together for prayer or religious exercises, the devotions and activities should be spiritually solid and dignified. Men need the real deal. When establishing a family prayer corner and devotional routine, the family should be sure to make the setting beautiful and the prayers traditional. My husband, who grew up in a military family, often describes the presence of carefulness and proper order in religious ceremonies as like military customs: a clear sign of high respect. (In religion, the beauty of well-crafted vestments and vessels also demonstrates this respect.) Devotions and family prayer should show forth order and respect and sacredness, coming from traditional, solid, robust Catholic customs. The Rosary is a very strong prayer in this way: simply look into the origins and history of the devotion for proof, and see evidence of its incredible efficacy for combatting heresy and vice. A solid devotional life and practice, with the father of the family leading it, will form and strengthen the faith of the children as nothing else can.
With the restoration of male roles to Catholic spiritual life, we will consequently see the return of men to Catholic spiritual life. Men and women are different, and when Catholics do not recognize and appreciate these differences, it will have an effect on the Church. The men are gone, and we all need them back. Consciously shifting towards an appreciation of male religious leadership, starting in the home, we will begin the long process of bringing them back into the Faith, and making the “man-crisis” a thing of the past. St. Joseph, ora pro nobis!