Basics to arming men of integrity

| January 24, 2019 | 0 Comments

Boot camp — basic training — necessitates commitment, intensity and perseverance for the specific discipline, training program or organization to succeed. And success is measured by how well partakers transfer their skills beyond the basics of this initial training.

When we mention “boot camp,” our reference point is often the armed services. Those camps offer physical, intellectual, emotional and psychological challenges to prepare recruits to serve God and country — for the primary sake of building an effective national defense.

Because I have experienced basic training in the Marine Corps, it is descriptively useful for me to use military vernacular when extrapolating and speaking to a much more serious and challenging discipline: spiritual warfare. The perspective of embracing a strong spiritual defense is certainly as paramount to mankind now as it was in the times of the Old and New Testament.

Twelve weeks of boot camp initiated me into a four-year tour of duty. Basic training breaks down shortcomings and builds up proficiencies to better serve and protect the USA. We Christians in this pilgrimage of life, however, have a much more difficult mission and lengthy journey: to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). And to know, love and serve God has eternal ramifications. The last I checked, eternity is a long time.

Hence, there is good reason to heed the words of Jesus as he trained his Twelve Apostles to take courage under persecution while following his ways: “And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna” (Mt 10:28). Both physical and spiritual warfare were an ever-present threat in the Roman Empire, yet our Lord focused his apostles on what mattered most: the salvation of souls.

Chances are that most of us in this lifetime will not have to face physical dangers in our evangelistic efforts, although there is no guarantee. Arming ourselves as spiritual leaders, protectors and providers, however, does take determination, conviction and follow-up. And that can require some physicality in addition to mental toughness. Committing to a lifetime of prayer, study and action can be a daunting endeavor in a secular world — especially one in which we are caring for others who are under our watch.

Whether you consider it basic training or continuing education, learning how to properly navigate sacred Scripture is a good start to help witness, teach and practice what you preach. A series of Catholic Watchmen-sponsored, one-day Bible Bootcamps under the “drill” instructor Jeff Cavins have garnered enthusiastic responses from participants. Overwhelming, yet simple, was one short summary from a great friend of mine who recently attended the event at St. Maximilian Kolbe in Delano.

“All this history woven into the story of salvation made it comprehensible,” the high school teacher said. “Just a snapshot — and yet it became more clear six hours later.”

Six hours — now that is a compact recruit training program!

After Marine boot camp — similar to other U.S. armed forces — you prepare for a military occupational specialty (MOS): artillery specialist, chaplain, infantry, machine-gunner, mechanic, pilot and the list goes on. It will be your primary lot in military life. Yet, there is always room for movement and improvement on the job, as there is in any field of work — including God’s work. And that includes advancing your skills in spiritual warfare, building upon your basic training.

Patrick Madrid — the renowned American Catholic apologist, author, radio and television host — started with the basics. As our guest speaker at the upcoming Archdiocesan Men’s Conference March 23, he will offer strategies and tactics based on Scripture to help arm men of integrity to engage in spiritual warfare. I expect them to be compelling, compassionate and convincing — rooted in faith, hope and charity.

Trust God. He knows what your spiritual occupational specialty (SOS) is. Bible Boot Camps, the Archbishop Flynn Catechetical Institute, or other intense spiritual and biblical undertakings will equip and arm you to better serve the Lord. The opportunities are abundant: apologist, catechist, clergy, lay leadership, religious life, street evangelist, teacher, witness, etc. Pray about it. Talk to your priest, deacon or spiritual director.

Most important, don’t forget to talk to your family. Like my friend, in his own words: “I simply want to have answers for my children as they grow.”

And that is “esprit de corps” to the Catholic Watchmen movement.

“In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:16-17).

Semper fidelis.

Deacon Bird ministers at St. Joseph in Rosemount and assists the Catholic Watchmen movement of the archdiocese’s Office of Evangelization. As a permanent deacon ordained in December 2017, he and his wife, DiAnn, are also members of All Saints in Lakeville. They have two married children and four grandchildren. Reach him at gordonbird@rocketmail.com. Learn about the archdiocese’s Catholic Watchmen initiative at rediscover.archspm.org/the-catholic-watchmen or at facebook.com/thecatholicwatchmen.

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Category: Catholic Watchmen