Our CMF group at St Benedict the Abbott celebrated its tenth anniversary on May 20th. I have seen and heard much during this time. Yes, we had our share of healings. There were transformations of men’s hearts, the fostering of a burning love for Our Lord and support for the Emmaus retreats that offered a peak experience, motivating men to pursue their relationship with Jesus.
The CMF meeting provided me with a grounding of my experiences in the Bible and the Catechism. Our meetings focused on a workbook, Sign Posts, which included references without the look-and-feel of a Bible Study. Men had the opportunity to relate their personal stories relating to God’s involvement in their lives. Soon, my spiritual vision improved and I became more attentive to Our Lord’s guidance and assignments.
How did this happen? The CMF Group provided that atmosphere to talk about God’s movements in my life. Previously I had kept these ideas to myself, thinking that others would not understand what I was experiencing. In CMF, others would validate my feelings and thoughts. I began to understand that these spiritual truths were experienced by the others in the group. We encouraged each other to articulate these experiences.
The Emmaus organization complimented CMF. After retreatants completed their weekend, they burned with the Holy Spirit and sought a way to ground their experience – CMF provided that. This went on for years and continues today.
Since childhood, I had a strong evangelistic drive. I took Our Lord’s Great Commission seriously. Coming from New York, immigrants were everywhere, visitors from other nations flocked to NYC. Yes, there was diversity and it was good – particularly for evangelism. Our Catholic faith offered much to those searching for their purpose. It offered answers and prescribed structure. The evangelism moved through formation and the Catholic Church was alive and well.
Moving to Baltimore, Catholics were in the minority and the Protestants were “on fire.” Their nets were bigger and more effective. My wife and I became involved in ecumenical programs encouraged by our Bishop. As Catholics employed the Protestants’ techniques, our evangelistic yield improved.
Later moving to West Virginia, our pastor of our 300 member church had an RCIA program with 30 candidates and catechumens each year. Yes, I was spoiled. Evangelism was easy and the growth was fulfilling.
We arrived in Pittsburgh in 1999, where it was overwhelmingly Catholic, different from NYC, Baltimore or West Virginia. Essentially, it was a stronghold of the Catholic faith, but it didn’t appear to have the vibrancy of the other places we lived. The Church had to wake-up. Then came 9/11 and our country woke-up. Church attendance increased. People were searching and CMF provided a powerful program and a suitable environment for me and many other men at St. Benedict Parish. When our group started, our men were stuck-on seed-planting. They weren’t listening to Jesus’ parable as a prescription for evangelism - seed needed to be spread on fertile ground. Weeds needed to be cleared before planting.
This meant change, which many men weren’t comfortable with at first. As CMF grew and our relationships with Jesus deepened, we realized what an agent of change Jesus was. To follow in his footsteps, I needed to move out of my comfort zone.
Men typically don’t like getting advice when they didn’t ask for it. Categorically, people don’t like being told what to do. Look how Jesus handles this. He goes beyond challenging me, but he transforms me. I have the courage to bring people into the Church as the Holy Spirit continuously supports me.
How has being involved in a men’s group impacted your life? Share below.