Brotherhood moves the hearts of men

| Deacon Gordon Bird | October 25, 2018 | 0 Comments
Deacon Gordon Bird, far right, stands among local men who made a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in  La Crosse, Wis

Deacon Gordon Bird, far right, stands among local men who made a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in
La Crosse, Wis., Oct. 6. COURTESY DEACON BIRD

One of my favorite parts of the Ignatius Press movie “Restless Heart: The Confessions of Augustine” is the saint’s response to the accusations of the Donatists for his past pre-Christian wretchedness: the seeking of pleasure, wealth, power and glory. As a bishop defending Catholic doctrine, including his own journey of faith, Augustine first admitted openly his past sins. Ensuing with a compelling discourse on how close God is to all mankind, despite the human condition, the Doctor of Grace concluded: “God is more brother than any brother; he is more friend than any friend; more lover than any lover.”

We all have memorable lines, tidbits, adages and clichés that stick with us over time. We usually recall such wisdom from our parents and grandparents, mentors in life, a good book, a movie with redeeming value, or maybe a dynamic speaker at a seminar or retreat. Timeless, holistic reminders that ring in our memory banks as experiences through life bring them to task.

Events from the last few months to the present moment have reminded me of the importance of brotherhood, friendship and the love of Christ as prescribed by the following: “Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love of the brethren, a tender heart and a humble mind” (1 Pt 3:8).

Brotherhood is about men praying together, lifting one another up and keeping each other accountable as spiritual leaders, providers and protectors. This past summer with those purposes in mind, a small group of men’s ministry leaders within my home parish met in fellowship on the deck of my abode. Held later in the day about twice monthly on a Friday afternoon, six to eight men would show up to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet for brotherhood — men mentoring men — and other needs. We would discuss “business for Christ’s sake,” which includes family and work, then end in prayer. And yes, pleasantries with temperance were part of the picture “On the Deacon’s Deck,” as this Christian brotherhood venue affectionately became known.

People respond to personal engagement. Christian brotherhood is personal, it is prayerful and it is active. Since the onset of the Catholic Watchmen movement in our archdiocese, the emphasis on brotherhood groups — men mentoring and engaging with other men regularly — is garnering and gaining more traction throughout our parishes. I have been blessed to witness the parish leadership of men in both Lakeville (All Saints) and Rosemount (St. Joseph) that encompass a range of activities from pre-evangelization events to the augmentation of missionary discipleship. Recently I experienced a daylong pilgrimage to La Crosse, Wisconsin, with a busload of Catholic brothers. As a potpourri of brotherhood with a common faith and a devotion to the Blessed Mother, we traversed uphill in unison to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe — rosary in tow. Brotherhood groups keep men engaged year-round. Their goals are common and simply boil down to making men better — married, single or celibate — men of integrity. Spiritual men with drive and purpose.

Catholic, Protestant or secular-based, research shows that when men deem to be better spiritual fathers on the home front, it complements the spiritual efforts of those with whom they live. One can guess accurately that this role has often been left to the auspices of the wife and mother. Yet, studies are remarkably staggering and revealing when it comes to their findings. When spiritual leadership is robust among men in households, the faith does indeed resonate and tends to stick in multi-fold fashion among the hearts of their families — both within and outside their homes.

Brotherhood is a qualitative dimension of the Christian life that reaches beyond data sets. Building fraternity and evangelizing men in monthly parish gatherings is just one fundamental, dynamic discipline of the Catholic Watchmen movement. All seven disciplines of the initiative are meant to be active inside the hearts of men — starting at home. As brothers of Jesus with Catholic Watchmen fundamentals inside, we learn and live to participate in and witness at the various parish activities, archdiocesan events, community affairs and the workplace — in the image and likeness of God — more brother than any brother. The sort of brotherhood that offers sacrificial, undying love. Every day keep encouraging one another (Heb 3:13).

Deacon Bird ministers at St. Joseph in Rosemount and in a new assignment, assisting in 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.

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