viernes, 29 de enero de 2016

The particular challenges men of faith are facing today

A Bishop Speaks to the Men of His Flock

Bishop Thomas Olmsted discusses his recently released exhortation to Catholic men and the particular challenges he sees facing men of faith today.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix addresses members of the media and chancery staff in December 2010. (CNS photo/ J.D. Long-Garcia, Catholic Sun)
Last fall Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix released Into the Breach: An Apostolic Exhortation to Catholic Men, inviting Catholic men to return to an active practice of their faith and re-assume their roles as fathers in society. 

Citing statistics from the Center for Applied Research into the Apostolate, Bishop Olmsted laments a steep decline in the practice of the Catholic faith—since 2000, 14 million Catholics have left the faith, parish religious education of children has dropped by 24 percent, Catholic school attendance has dropped by 19 percent, infant baptism has dropped by 28 percent, adult baptism has dropped by 31 percent, and sacramental Catholic marriages have dropped by 41%.

“This is a serious breach,” says Bishop Olmsted, “a gaping hole in Christ’s battle lines. … As our fathers, brothers, uncles, sons and friends fall away from the Church, they fall deeper and deeper into sin, breaking their bonds with God and leaving them vulnerable to the fires of Hell.”

Bishop Olmsted implores men to “step up and lovingly, patiently take up your God-given role as protector, provider, and spiritual leader of your home. A father’s role as spiritual head of the family must never be understood or undertaken as domination over others, but only as a loving leadership and a gentle guidance for those in your care.”

In addition to the publication of the exhortation, the Diocese of Phoenix will also be hosting its 2016 Catholic Men’s Conference on February 6. It will feature such well known men’s conference speakers as Chris Stefanick and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, who were asked to read Into the Breach and offer their thoughts about its contents. Mike Phelan, director of the diocese’s Marriage and Respect Life Office, explained, “Using Into the Breach, our plan this year is to talk about strategies to get into the breach.”

As the diocese was making preparations for its men’s conference, CWR spoke to Bishop Thomas Olmsted about his apostolic exhortation.

CWR: When did you start thinking about writing Into the Breach?

Bishop Thomas Olmsted: I had actually been thinking of writing something for quite some time. It arose out of conversations I’d been having with others about Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and his writings on feminine genius; we thought, “Why not talk about the masculine genius?” [laughing]

Pope John Paul gave us some great insight in his 1995 Letter to Women, including the problems with modern feminism. We thought there was a need for a discussion of masculinity as well. This is especially true in recent years, as men presented in the media are not building up the true sense of what it means to be a man.

So, a little more than a year ago, when a woman I respect was making a presentation on the feminine genius, she made a challenge: “Why has no bishop written on masculinity?” That led me to do some thinking, and talking with Catholic men for whom I have great respect about the creation of such a document.

CWR: What was the process of researching and writing Into the Breach?

Bishop Olmsted: In 2015, I invited 20 speakers to come to a mini-synod on the identity and mission of men. These included Dr. Paul Vitz (a psychologist), Jason Evert (chastity speaker), Mike Phelan (director of the Diocese of Phoenix’s Marriage and Respect Life Office), Father Paul Sullivan (vocations director for the Diocese of Phoenix) and Deacon John Scott (a retired army major general). They spent a day making presentations of five to ten minutes each, and we’d discuss the material that was presented. It was an intense day, and I received some good input for Into the Breach.

I had some writing assistance from Mike Phelan and Father Sullivan, both of whom work regularly with me.


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