Strength in Unity

Parish small groups for men

By Deacon John Rangel, CMCS Director of Misson

Participants list their responses during a recent Bishop Perry Men’s Forum. Photo Copyright Frank J Casella.

Noteworthy: We’re posting this again in light of the present COVID-19 Pandemic and the new tools available online for audio and video conferencing, and how you can connect with the men in your parish.

In the second Story of Creation (Gn 2:18) The Lord God said: “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him”. From the beginning God created man with an inherent desire for human contact, a need for human interaction and relationships.

Scripture contains many passages that cite man’s need for relationships and the positive benefits that accrue therefrom. “As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens his fellow man.” (Proverbs 27:17)

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

Man is a relational creature. It has been empirically demonstrated through study after study that when man is deprived of human contact he suffers emotional, physical and spiritual harm to his well-being. We know also that men fulfill their human relational needs in different ways than women. We men tend to be less willing to share emotions and feelings in personal relationships, jealously guarding our vulnerability or perhaps not wishing to signal a position of “weakness”. Not withstanding our guarded actions, we men need to participant in meaningful personal relationships in order to grow and be fully human.

A cornerstone of CMCS’ ministry is to encourage men to develop men’s small groups within their local parishes. Why small groups? Well for one, Jesus himself provided the model when he called a small band of twelve men to be his disciples. Was this a randomly selected number? I don’t think so. I believe Jesus knew that the unity, strength and discipline required of his initial followers would best be accomplished if they had an intimate personal relationship with him and each other. The rest is history!

Why are small Catholic men’s groups so valuable to the men participating, as well as to the local parish? Here’s what some men have to say (Source: Small Christian Communities: A Vision of Hope.)…
“Jesus showed us that a radically new relationship is possible between God and
humans and among human beings. It is a relationship of integrity, wholeness, and  freedom from fear and anxiety. It is a relationship of justice and peace. It is the coming of the reign of God.”

PJPII said …”small faith communities are a sign of vitality within the church, an
instrument of formation and evangelization, and a solid starting point for a new society based on a civilization of love.”

Lastly, Small Men’s Groups are a readily available and easy to implement tool to help us live out the eight virtues of a Catholic man offered to us by our Vicar Bishop Joseph Perry.

Does your parish need a Men’s small group? CMCS can help!!  Contact us Today for more information. You provide the interest and connections at your parish, we do the rest of the work. Contact us today!

Until Next week, remember, all things are possible with God and prayer.          Pray the Rosary!

Manhood Monday: The Love of God, for us, and for Humanity

Your weekly dose of “Living the Goodness of a Catholic Man”.

From Today’s Readings:

Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

Alleluia MATTHEW 5:12A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Rejoice and be glad;
for your reward will be great in heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

“There are many ways to describe Catholic manhood – faithful, honest, virtuous – but let’s start with the most basic.

A Catholic man is a man who loves. That may sound simple or trite, but only because the word “love” has been so devalued through overuse and outright misuse. ….

The words of Jesus Christ, as he contemplates the Cross, are a model of Catholic manhood, the definition of Catholic love.

The love that Jesus expresses is the love of a Father, his own heavenly Father. We all know the “John 3:16” signs held up from the stands at ball games, and we may roll our eyes at those “fundamentalists.” But what does that particular verse say?

“For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son … that the world might be saved through him.” We’re talking about the love of God the Father for us, for humanity! This is very personal, very real, the essence of our purpose and mission in life.

Jesus Christ is the perfect expression – the full embodiment – of the Father’s love, and he passes on this love to us. “This is my commandment: Love one another as I love you …” (John 15:12). …

… A Catholic man is one who is sent on the mission of love that comes through Christ from the Father.”

Brian Caulfield

God bless your day.

The CMCS-Team


Frank’s Photo of the Week

Photo: ‘Lakefront Vibe City of Chicago’ Copyright 2018 Frank J Casella

Jesus made our giving possible because He became our vine. If we remain in Him, we can bear fruit from Him to give to others with a servant heart. Because we have been served, we can now serve as Jesus did, and live the goodness of a Catholic man.

Thanks for Reading.

Make it a great week. See you back here again next Monday.

Frank J Casella,
CMCS Executive Director

A larger collection of photographs can be viewed on my portfolio.


Not signed up yet? Click here.

Click here to learn about the annual Bishop Perry’s Catholic Chicago Men’s Forum held on the Saturday after Easter. All men from around the Archdiocese of Chicago and surrounding Chicagoland are invited to attend.

Jesus shows us the way to be a Catholic man

If we remain in Him, we can bear fruit from Him to give to others with a servant heart.

Photo: ‘Men in Holiness‘ Copyright 2014 Frank J Casella

Our first job as a Catholic man is to get ourselves to Heaven. Then, if married, to get our families to Heaven. This provides the foundation for God working through us towards making a positive difference in the world. Here are some things to reflect on how Jesus shows us to live as a Catholic man:

Matthew 20:26-28 – Serving is greater than being served.
26But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; 27e whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. 28 Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus was on mission with God’s vision for having and sharing a servants heart. His leadership / lifestyle comes from the actions that supplemented His words.

Proverbs 31:8-9 – Use our gifts and authority for others.
8Open your mouth in behalf of the mute, and for the rights of the destitute; 9Open your mouth, judge justly, defend the needy and the poor!

Look for your neighbors in need, and try to connect with helping them develop. Imagine the investment you would be making using the advantage you have to lift another person up.

Matthew 7:7 – Offer our acceptance.
7Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Many times in Jesus’ life He was know to accept people who approached Him, and the way they should go. Like Jesus, we should not be selective and never force someone to change, but encourage and pray for them to keep seeking God’s transformation in their life.

John 8:7, 10-11 – Provide others grace.
7But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. 10Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.”

The one thing about offering someone grace is it opens for them to reflect on their own heart instead of to defend an accusation. The result from this brings freedom from bondage with a fruitful repentant heart.

Luke 23:34 – Be compassionate towards people.
34[Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”] They divided his garments by casting lots.

Compassion was the foundation for Jesus’ ability to forgive. This requires for us a connection to the Father, as Jesus did nothing without the will of the Father. Think of the relationships and broken places in your life, and pray to find compassion and for Jesus to meet you there.

1 Corinthians 13:3 – Serve as Jesus did.
3If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Jesus made our giving possible because He became our vine. If we remain in Him, we can bear fruit from Him to give to others with a servant heart. Because we have been served, we can now serve as Jesus did, and live the goodness of a Catholic man.

Manhood Monday: Mary, Mother of the Church

Your weekly dose of “Living the Goodness of a Catholic Man”.

From Today’s Readings:

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
O happy Virgin, you gave birth to the Lord;
O blessed mother of the Church,
you warm our hearts with the Spirit of your Son Jesus Christ.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

“As the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary has a unique position among the saints, indeed, among all creatures. She is exalted, yet still one of us.

Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to Him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth. At the same time, however, because she belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all those who are to be saved.  (Lumen Gentium, no. 53)

Mary embraces God’s will and freely chooses to cooperate with God’s grace, thereby fulfilling a crucial role in God’s plan of salvation. Throughout the centuries, the Church has turned to the Blessed Virgin in order to come closer to Christ. Many forms of piety toward the Mother of God developed that help bring us closer to her Son. In these devotions to Mary, “while the Mother is honored, the Son, through whom all things have their being and in whom it has pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell, is rightly known, loved and glorified and . . . all His commands are observed.” The Church honors her as the Mother of God, looks to her as a model of perfect discipleship, and asks for her prayers to God on our behalf.”

~ US Conference of Catholic Bishops

God bless your day.

The CMCS-Team


Frank’s Photo of the Week

Photo: ‘Our Lady and the Catholic Church‘ Copyright 2013 Frank J Casella

Today the Church is celebrating a memorial that was instituted by Pope Francis in 2018 – Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. It is celebrated each year on the day after Pentecost, which is the birth of her mission. Why is Mary the Mother of the Church? She was with the disciples in the upper room when the Holy Spirit descended upon them.

Thanks for Reading.

Make it a great week. See you back here again next Monday.

Frank J Casella,
CMCS Executive Director

A larger collection of photographs can be viewed on my portfolio.


Not signed up yet? Click here.

Click here to learn about the annual Bishop Perry’s Catholic Chicago Men’s Forum held on the Saturday after Easter. All men from around the Archdiocese of Chicago and surrounding Chicagoland are invited to attend.

Bishop Joseph Perry: Pentecost

Photo: ‘A Picture of Faith’ – Copyright 2014 Frank J Casella

Our faith is a gift.  We often speak of a good relationship in terms of one whom we love or a friend being a gift to us.  We speak of our children as individual gifts. We consider a good job, having good health, all being singular affirmative donations to the experience of life.  The religious among us might even consider these gifts coming from above and not of our own initiative.

But, our faith is a gift and a task – an unspeakable gift from God to us, a holy task we are called to do, meaning, we are called to live the life of faith and to invite others to share in the life of faith.  Our faith touches the core of who we are and our faith fulfills us deeply.

We trust that along the path of life we have come to understand this entire religious experience as an affirming, positive gift, namely to know God and to live in His embrace and under his direction is a singular gift bar none  – such a relationship with God is called “grace.”

It is often said that in our modern day living the life of faith is more of a challenge than in the past.  Perhaps, we suffer under more distractions, preoccupations and self-determinations in our time.  Nonetheless, I want to encourage our readers to stay the course.

The Christian feast of Pentecost is a wonderful reason why we should stay the course. At the end of his life of faith and service the Lord Jesus was taken up into glory.   That, dear friends, is our future too.  It is our horizon of hope at this time.  Jesus assured his disciples that he would send the Paraclete – the Holy Spirit, to equip us with the strength and courage needed for the ordeal to come and then he would come back for us to take us with him.

II

Being a baby-boomer myself, born not long after the end of World War II, perhaps, like some of you I have read my share of war narratives, listened to my own father’s experience being in the US Army during that war in the European theatre and watched many a documentary about that war.  Those accounts are usually gripping but they are never without aspects of the good and even of the heroic.  If war brings out the worst in some people, it brings out the best in others, like all tragedies of one sort or another.

The late Pope John Paul II brought to our attention the horror of World War II when we read of him having experienced that war himself in his own displacement and the persecution and extermination of his own friends and acquaintances, Jews and fellow Catholic Poles and fellow priests.  Pope John Paul II raised up to the honors of the altar many saints and martyrs of that terrible period 1939-1945, some whose names now mark our church calendars, such as Carmelite Sister Edith Stein, Franciscan Father Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish Sisters of the Holy Family and others.  Even now retired Pope Benedict XVI as a lad was forced to join the Hitler Youth and later escaped only to be taken prisoner by American troops till Germany finally surrendered.

III

I think it is the combination of the good and the heroic set against the background of the graphic and disturbing that has helped me to keep my balance in life and to taste its deeper meaning.  The abject misery of people victims of war and conflict in the Middle East and in Africa today only forces me to count my blessings and give thanks to God for all I have.

Among my greatest blessings I count to be my Catholic faith.  Since my faith and my life are inextricably tied up with the Church I must name the Church among my greatest blessings. The two of them – my faith and my Church – give me my energy, my identity, my horizon of hope at this time and at all times.  These two gifts will carry me under God’s grace to heaven.  They will do the same for you too.

I find myself then, not lacking the horizon of hope at all as I look at our Church in these challenging times. Besides, I realize that the Church is in good hands because it is in Christ’s hands.  But, the Church is not only a gift that the Lord has given you and me it is also a care upon our hearts and a responsibility on our shoulders.

Every Sunday is a graced opportunity to give witness before God and the Church each our own enthusiasm and love for our Catholic traditions as we recite the Creed together, as this faith marks our lives indelibly shaping every thought and action of ours. This faith is the lens through which we view the entire world.  In this sense, our religion is not a hobby that we have time for today but perhaps not next week or next month depending upon our mood.  Our religion is a preoccupation of ours because we love and admire Jesus Christ.

One of the Second World War’s heroes of Christian resistance to the Nazis was the young Lutheran theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  He was arrested by the Nazis in 1943, imprisoned in Buchenwald Concentration Camp and hanged at Flossenburg Concentration Camp just a few weeks before the war ended.  The Nazis would not let him go even when they knew that Hitler’s regime was finished. They had an old score to settle with Bonhoeffer.  He had been one of the Nazi regime’s harshest critics.

I am always impressed by what a Christian of heroic stature has to say about the Church because I know it doesn’t come out of a book when he or she is condemned to die for the faith, nor do their words come from blind loyalty but from the depths of that person’s soul.

Of the Church, Bonhoeffer had this to say:  “The Church is not very influential, not a very imposing institution and always in dire need of improvement.”  Nevertheless, he added, “The Church is an office from God.” [“What is the Church”, found in No Rusty Swords, Nashville, TN, Abingdon Press, 1977].

What Bonhoeffer says is true because the Church is easily dismissed by the popular culture that finds the Church an annoyance and the message we peddle an invasion of  privacy.

The Church, of course, is essentially made up of flawed human beings, baptized, anointed, awaiting redemption in Christ. But these flawed human beings carry a message that’s not of their invention.

The Church is not a very imposing or influential institution and it is in dire need of improvement.  But, we must not stop there forgetting the most important thing that Bonheoffer said about the Church:  “The Church is an office from God.”  By “office” he meant that the church is a care we have from God and a work to be done for the Lord and for the salvation of others.
While the Church is not of our making it is of our implementation for which we need the mercy of God in carrying for its mission.

“The Lord worked with the apostles and confirmed the word through them,” says John’s gospel.  Similarly, the Lord works with his Church in our time and in its difficulties and its accomplishments.  And He confirms his message through the Church’s worship and sacraments, through its teachers and preachers, its prophets and saints, and even, praise God, through you and me.

IV

Remember the beginnings of our religion were with a group of impoverished and hesitant individuals who probably would not make it in a typical contemporary job interview. They were largely from the poor and working classes. They felt keenly their oppressed, second-class status under subjugation by a foreign power, a hostile empire that would soon as nail them to a cross than ask questions or say ‘hello.’  They were people without defense, without influence.  They searched for their dignity in their religion as descendants of Abraham, Jacob and Moses and their association with Jesus of Nazareth.

One of them was not sure about Jesus and for reasons of his own internal conflicts decided to betray Jesus to his enemies in exchange for some money.  Another disciple denied that he ever met Jesus at a moment the Lord needed him most.  This one went so far as to curse and swear up and down that he was never in Jesus’ company.  Mysteriously, Jesus chose this one to head up his Church after his own departure.

The rest of the band ran in fear of the authorities and locked themselves in a hidden away upper level room in the city wondering what to do next.  A few women stood by Jesus till the end even watching closely his grave.  So much in pain were they over his brutal execution.

Another disciple could not quite believe the report that Jesus was seen alive again several days later, unable to grasp the pieces of Jesus’ teaching and message and the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy in his behalf.

Amazingly, this band of reticent followers was sent out into the world to win the world for God, in many instances, at the cost of their own lives.

Those first Christians may not have been sure of a lot of things and may have been guilty of their own missteps in life.  You may say they were timid and afraid amidst their own disenfranchisement in a violent world.  But one thing for sure those first Christians soon discovered they were sure about and that was what they were willing to die for. The test of our faith, friends, hinges upon what we are willing to stake our lives upon.  Hopefully our faith is one of those things.

Should we be surprised then at weak Christians, hesitant, reticent Christians, flawed and sinful Christians who worship with us, some who even lead and teach the faith today?  Let us never lose the horizon of hope.  If Jesus worked with that first and original, fledgling group, a collection of timid and flawed human beings.  If he works with us, should we not work with each other to improve this Church for the kingdom Jesus is establishing?

V

Pentecost is a feast of hope for the Church.  Jesus had spent his life showing us how to find meaning and purpose and joy through a life of faith in him and a life of service to others.  He has shown us how to live with the horizon of hope ever before our eyes.  He has told us that glory is the reward of such a faith-filled servant life.

Then, as Jesus lived, so may we live.  And as all ended in glory for him so may all end in glory for us.  This is not a vain hope for a vague future.  It is the actual future of which this feast of the birth day of the Church at Pentecost is a pledge.

God’s gift of the Holy Spirit animates us both as individuals and as Church to do the work God does, to be the people of God, to live the life of the Gospel.  Pentecost celebrates the unseen, immeasurable presence of God in our lives and in our Church.

The Holy Spirit is God’s breath that animates us to do the work of the gospel of the Risen One, the strength to make God’s will our will, the power of God transforming us so that we might infuse his life and love into our broken world.

God breathes his Spirit into our souls so that we may live his life in the here and now; God ignites the fire of his Spirit within our hearts and minds that we may realize the coming of God’s reign in our own time and place.

Manhood Monday: Our Birthright As Christians

Your weekly dose of “Living the Goodness of a Catholic Man”.

From Today’s Readings:

Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Alleluia   COL 3:1

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If then you were raised with Christ,
seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

 [3:14] By retaining the message of the gospel that the risen, living Christ is the source of their salvation, the Colossians will be free from false religious evaluations of the things of the world (Col 3:12). They have died to these; but one day when Christ…appears, they will live with Christ in the presence of God (Col 3:34).

“The gospel is often called the Good News. But many of us receive it as though it were bad news.  We act as if being Christian prevents us from having friends. But the joy of the gospel, the good news of Jesus’ resurrection is our birthright as Christians.  We own the patent to the story!”

Bishop Joseph Perry

God bless your day.

The CMCS-Team

PS. Catholic Cemeteries will broadcast Memorial Day Masses online this Monday at 8:30 a.m. Information here, and will be available for viewing at https://www.catholiccemeterieschicago.org


Frank’s Photo of the Week

Photo: ‘Liberty for All’ – Copyright 2018 Frank J Casella
Prayer for Memorial Day

God of power and mercy,
you destroy war and put down earthly pride.
Banish violence from our midst and wipe away our tears,
that we may all deserve to be called your sons
      and daughters.
Keep in your mercy those men and women
who have died in the cause of freedom
and bring them safely
into your kingdom of justice and peace.
We ask this though Jesus Christ our Lord.
R/. Amen

—from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers

More Prayers for Those in Military Service

Thanks for Reading.

Make it a great week. See you back here again next Monday.

Frank J Casella,
CMCS Executive Director

A larger collection of photographs can be viewed on my portfolio.


Not signed up yet? Click here.

Click here to learn about the annual Bishop Perry’s Catholic Chicago Men’s Forum held on the Saturday after Easter. All men from around the Archdiocese of Chicago and surrounding Chicagoland are invited to attend.

Bishop Joseph Perry: Family Prayer for Vocations

Parent(s):

Good Lord, we beg your blessing upon our family.  We thank you for the children with which you have blessed us.  Bless us as we use this day to give you praise.  Help our children grow towards you through the various things they learn about the mysteries of life and creation sewn by your hand. Grant wisdom to me/us their parent(s), their teachers and others you have given to guide them.  Preserve our efforts to give our children all that they deserve.

We pray you grace our children with faith, openness of heart, a willingness to learn, a desire to do good to others as you have taught.  Keep them ever strong and ready for any test of character.  As they grow in knowledge and experience inspire in our children a desire to serve you in holiness of life.  In whatever walk of life they choose be for them a true path to your kingdom. May you find among our children generous hearts to serve you and the Church perhaps as a priest, or religious brother or sister.  Should their Calling be to extend this family of ours, may theirs be a holy matrimony and family life after the example of your life with Mary and Joseph. 

Child/Children:

O Jesus, whisper in my heart how I might best serve you.  Make me strong in faith, always attentive to people’s needs, ever spiritual, understanding and charitable.  Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I love you very much.  Bless our priest(s) and religious who serve(s) us.  Bless my parents, our bishop and pastors and all who help the Church’s work.

Family:

Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, increase the number of our priests and religious men and women.  Preserve them for your Church.  Keep them zealous in their vocation and successful in their labors.  May they do all things for love of you and the Church.  We pray through our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever.  AMEN

Bishop Joseph N Perry

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Sub-Committee on African American Affairs

2020

Click here for more prayers by Bishop Perry