December - 2014

ARTICLES

Men, Church, Evangelization and Loneliness
Adam Janke
We Are the Pro-Life Generation
R.J. McVeigh
5 Ways To Be Modern-Day Maccabeans
Kevin Cotter
1 of 3 articles

Men, Church, Evangelization and Loneliness

Adam Janke

Recently I was honored to take a good friend and priest out to lunch to celebrate his ordination to the priesthood. I had been sick the weekend of his ordination, sitting in the back of church during his Mass of Thanksgiving and quickly exiting as soon as it was over to avoid coughing on everyone. It was good to finally sit down and thank him for laying down his life for the good of the Church.

Over the course of our lunch, we started talking about young adult ministry, especially ministry to men and young fathers. The elephant in the room had always been what to do about pornography and sexual sin. Church leadership had long been aware of the unhealthy statistics, bishops had written letters and advice on it, and there was plenty of free (useless) advice floating around. We talked about how frequent confession and regular Mass attendance did not help these men from breaking their habit of pornography. They were constantly surrounded by a culture that suggested that sex be used illicitly, as often as possible, and for recreation. Our sexual value was to be used as a mean’s to an end instead of recognizing that a person's dignity is an end in itself. I frequently encountered men—even parish leaders—who came to me and admitted that they were struggling with pornography; in some cases, they had been abusing it and battling the temptation for years, even decades.

A few years ago, a great guy I knew, a father of six, shared with me that he had been trapped by pornography for more than 30 years—one time, in one idle moment of curiosity when he was a teenager, he had found his dad's stash and the addiction was born! What caught me off guard was when he told me that viewing pornography in print and on the computer was no longer enough. He had started going to gentleman's clubs. I was floored.

If you look out into any crowd at Mass, one priest told me, you can bet that more than 50 percent of the men in the pews have a problem with sexual sin. I have been to Catholic youth conferences where 90 percent of the teen boys stand up when asked if they feel addicted to pornography. But there was a line that they did not cross, right?

Since then I have spoken to men who have gone further and have seriously endangered their marriages, health, and especially their souls. I have discovered that there was one common denominator to every single one of their experiences.

With regard to the friend who confessed to going to strip clubs—after he went to confession, he sat for hours alone in the church examining his conscience. He talked with his wife (who, through God’s grace, forgave him) and he talked to his pastor. He had a moment where he realized that it was not about sex. He said that he really abhorred being in the clubs, but that he was desperate for real human connection and was trying to fill a feeling of emptiness within.

Even though he knew in his hear that he was not going to find that fulfillment in the club, he went there anyway. He realized that he suffered a profound loneliness and a spiritual desolation. He had tried to find connections in his local parish but felt everything he experienced was fake; when he tried to reach out he felt rejected. He said he had plenty of '”friends” but no one in whom he could confide. He had been part of a men's group at church for more than a decade, but they were never vulnerable with one another. They only talked about how amazing their lives were. He felt like the odd man out because they seemed to be happy and he was lonely.

As Father and I talked over lunch, he spoke about his work to start a new men's group specifically for this problem and hoped that I could give him some feedback on how to get guys to attend. In my experience there are three things that had to exist to help them crawl out of this terrible hole they found themselves in. It would work no matter what the sin was. They needed grace, grace, and more grace.

The Grace of Friendship

Men who are battling with an addiction to pornography are used to experiencing feelings of shame. Shame leads to isolation and sin finds a refuge in secrecy. Sometimes, even a church group can be isolating. If you are not in the “in” crowd it can be tough just to show up. And if you are comfortable in the group, it can be even more difficult to get people to move from being nice to each other to being in love with another for the sake of the good of the other person—to form real friendships and open the possibility of true vulnerability. That kind of vulnerability would allow for a guy to say, "I have a real problem and I need your support" without fear of shame and judgment.

That is how you know whether your faith-sharing group has succeeded. Keep in mind that it may not happen out in the open, but someone might pull you aside because they see you as a real friend. Those friendships lead to accountability. Every guy I have talked to who had a porn problem and no longer has a porn problem had an understanding friend to keep him accountable, someone who would say, "Brother, you have a porn problem, I understand, I was there, and the great news is that God wants to do something amazing in your life." Accountability alone is okay, but it does not fix the root of the problem—loneliness. We need the grace of friendship.

The Grace of Forgiveness

People who deal with pornography addiction or face sexual sin for years experience a real unrest in their life. When I went to confession and said, "Father, I feel like I've confessed the sin of jealousy 50 times in a row!" he responded, "What, do you want a whole new set of sins?" His point was that God was working on me, do not give up; keep \coming back to see Jesus in confession. We all need absolution, a fresh start. I have talked to guys who were so eaten up by guilt that I had to say, “You deal with sexual sin. Look at you Mr. Unique. Guess what, you're not alone? Not even remotely. God wants to heal the brokenness in you, but you have to let Him by forgiving yourself and letting Him forgive you.”

Guys who get out of bad habits have the grace of friendship and the grace of forgiveness. This forgiveness comes through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and by binding and casting out the evil spirits we are dealing with. If I just threw you off there, consider that the ordinary work of the devil is temptation. We have a guardian angel watching over us, and we have evil influences convincing us our sin is not too bad and that we deserve to indulge because our legitimate needs are not being met.

We need to deal with this brokenness by engaging in spiritual warfare by allowing others to pray with us for freedom. There are methods to help parish ministries through this process. Confession alone often is not enough. Imagine what our parishes could do in the world if we were creating intentional disciples who lived in the freedom of Christ instead of being chained as slaves of sin?

So, we need friendship and accountability in order to experience freedom from spiritual desolation.

The Grace of Communion

We are not made to be alone. We are made to be in communion with each other and with God. Once we deal with the loneliness, brokenness, and need for forgiveness we come to spiritual growth through communion.

Men need to go to Holy Mass, pray the Rosary, and spend time in Eucharistic Adoration. Men who I have talked with who have broken out of the bondage of sexual sin typically go to Mass at least one day a week in addition to Sundays and days of obligation. They know they will fail if they do not spend time with Jesus Christ.

This is war. Do not leave yourself exposed. I feel it in my gut that if I do not spend enough time in Eucharistic Adoration. I know when it has been too long. Guys who are free also spend time talking to their Mother every day through the Rosary. I have never met a guy who prays the Rosary daily who still uses porn.

It is like losing weight, right? We all know the answer to the question of “How do I lose weight?” The problem is that many of us do not like the answer because we love to eat high-fat, sugary, junk foods! "Exercise and healthy eating! No way, I'll just take this magic pill the guy on TV sold me!" Fasting is also a part of the equation to break free from sexual sin.

As we finished our lunch, it left me thinking about the ministry of the Church as we propel ourselves forward to the implementation of the New Evangelization. I am excited by the genuine renewal taking place at all levels of ministry and hope to see it continue to grow. Our ministries exist so that we can foster relationships with one another and grow in sanctity as we get each other to heaven. Every time I go out to the street to evangelize, every time I meet someone, I meet someone whom God loves, whom God is passionate about, and whom God is jealous for. “This person, this is my Son. He’s run away from home. Tell him I love him.” Our Holy Father Pope Francis is right in reminding us of the urgency of the New Evangelization. It cannot wait. Our enemy is on the prowl. 

Saint Michael, pray for us.
----------------------------------------------------------

ADAM JANKE became Catholic in 2005 after spending years as an anti-Catholic fundamentalists. Through the use of new media evangelizations, the students at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology (www.SalvationHistory.com) helped to bring Janke to into the Catholic Church by sharing with him what Catholics truly believe. Janke now works full time at a small parish in Michigan. In addition, he runs the local chapter of St. Paul Street Evangelization (www.StreetEvangelization.com) in Lansing, Michigan.

GET THE SHALOM APPS

SHALOM APPS ARE AVAILABLE FOR VARIOUS DEVICES. CHOOSE YOUR PICK.