This is the very first homily I preached, at Solemn Vespers of Pentecost, to a Men’s retreat.
The majority of you have come here after a day and a night of a men’s retreat. This is good. And yet some others have gathered here in prayer as well. Let this not distract you men, but rather help you focus. We believe in the “Communion of Saints” which includes the saints in Heaven who pray for us, the souls in purgatory who rely on our prayers, and our brothers and sisters across the world. We are united in prayer most especially in the Eucharist. There is no competition between male and female:there is complementarity.
Now I want to address the men here, and to the women, I encourage each of you: please pray for your husband(if you are married), your father, your sons, and your brothers. Please pray especially to St Joseph that he may help us men to be faithful and courageous.
Men, we are inherently visual creatures. We are constantly on the go or seeking, we are distracted and captivated by beauty. Due to our fallen nature, the devil often uses this to steer us from the path of virtue and holiness. The beauty in liturgy is meant to captivate us-to be a genuine sign of the beauty of God’s revelation. All of creation glorifies God, and in using all these things-vestments, incense, bells, a certain harmony in movement, chanting, musical instruments like the organ, God uses our senses to be captivated by His love and His call to each of us to become a saint. Every fiber of our lives is meant to glorify God!
I am sure you have heard many inspiring things from bishop Olmsted’s exhortation “Into the breach” about the need for men to step up to the plate. I want to share a particular passage which I think is relevant to the reading from St Paul’s letter to the Romans which we just heard.
“Don’t settle for this half-life! The question for every man is not, “Am I called to be a father?” but rather, “What kind of father am I called to be?”” (“Into the Breach”).
While we are present in front of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, let’s ask Him for the help we need to really live out our fatherly vocations. Our Lord is truly present here in the Blessed Sacrament, but he is also truly present in each of us because we have been baptized-we are temples of the Holy Spirit.
Fathers of sons, I ask you to encourage your sons to be open to the priesthood. Mostly you will do this by your manly example of prayer. Repeatedly, Pope Saint John Paull II spoke of his father’s influence in his vocation, especially after the death of his mother: “Day after day I was able to observe the austere way in which he lived. By profession, he was a soldier and, after my mother’s death, his life became one of constant prayer. Sometimes I would wake up during the night and find my father on his knees, just as I would always see him kneeling in the parish church. We never spoke about a vocation to the priesthood, but his example was in a way my first seminary, a kind of domestic seminary” (Gift and Mystery, 20). Fathers, provide this domestic seminary to your sons and daughters. If your children have left the faith, continue to pray for them and entrust them to St Joseph and the Blessed Mother. They understand-think of their suffering as they lost the child Jesus in the temple.
If you are a young man and not married, I encourage you to think about the priesthood. In fact, I think you have an obligation to at least think about it. Only an ordained priest is able to consecrate the Eucharist, absolve sins in the sacrament of confession, and anoint the sick in order to prepare them for the final journey to the judgment seat of God. The call of Christ is to share in his cross, and to offer our lives as a sacrifice of love for the salvation of souls. The devil wants nothing more than to have fewer priests because that means less access to the sacraments, but if you allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you, you will understand that this may be something to which you are called. It is a real battle field, which is much more glorious for eternity than the marines or the seals. It is more dangerous because we don’t physically see the enemy, but we are on the winning side! The Lord may be calling you to enlist in the “long black line”. Think about it and pray about it.
None of these things makes sense unless we pray. As Saint Josemaria put it so bluntly,
“If you are not a man of prayer, I don’t believe in the sincerity of your intentions when you say that you work for Christ” (Saint Josemaria Escriva, The Way, 109).
There is no easy life, and we are constantly struggling-it is a real battle for holiness and virtue. The weapons for this battle are the Rosary, the Eucharist, scripture, the saints, and frequent confession. Especially during this month of May, we must grow in love toward our Blessed Mother. If we are faithful to these, we will win the battle and protect our families and the souls entrusted to us. We will become the fathers that God intends us to become. Only the Lord will satisfy that desire that is within us. No amount of worldly success, thrills, pleasures, or thing will ever satisfy. Not even a Penn State winning streak. We will suffer, but as Saint Paul reminds us, we will be children of God, “and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:17). Mary, Queen of the family, pray for us. Saint Joseph, terror of demons, pray for us. Saints Louis and Zelie Martin, pray for us.