The price of fraternity

| Vincenzo Randazzo | February 21, 2017 | 1 Comment

A dentist, an IT buff and a radiation therapist walk into a bar. They each pay $2 for two beers and they make a toast to Our Lady.

This isn’t a joke; it happens at 5 p.m. every Tuesday at a bar in northeast Minneapolis, and it’s been a tradition for more than four years. They are usually there together with a financial advisor, a businessman, two canon lawyers, a writer, a carpenter and others. Many are married, some are fathers. It’s not uncommon for 20 men to meet there to share a pint at this simple weekly tradition.

It started with two men celebrating a feast day. Now, it feels almost as obligatory as Mass. Most of the men are Catholic, but it’s not on any parish calendar or in any bulletin. It has never been tweeted, hash-tagged or written about until now. But that’s not because it is a secret or some sort of exclusive boys’ club. These men are friends, and that’s why they meet up. And the happy familiarity of the patrons and staff at the bar seems a testament to how good and unvarying their friendship is.

For many of them, gathering on Tuesday evening is the highlight of the week. It shows no sign of stopping, and I would credit its longevity to four of the friends and their steady attendance. Despite being busy with wives, children and work, they die to themselves — and their wives do, too — in order to live Psalm 133:1:

“How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together.”

Fraternal benefits

All these beer-drinking men would testify to the spiritual benefit these Tuesdays have provided over the years. Their wives agree. They have grown in friendship, grown as men and even grown in prayer. The sense these men have of the importance of intentionally taking time for good brotherhood speaks to an important need in our local Catholic culture.

What does fraternity look like at your parish? It’s so often the case that faithful Catholic staff pine for a program to revitalize their parish culture. But, in comparing some programmatic approach to fraternity to these men at the bar, it’s no question which one has more spiritual fruit: the dollar-pint Tuesday.

My sense is that would-be evangelists too often embrace the latest Catholic fad or scramble in search for the right formula for good community, good catechesis and, for my purposes here, good fraternity. But I think they miss the mark, and I believe St. John Paul II thought so, too:

“We are certainly not seduced by the naive expectation that, faced with the great challenges of our time, we shall find some magic formula. No, we shall not be saved by a formula, but by a person, and the assurance which he gives us: I am with you!”

If we want true, lasting spiritual fruit — let alone good fraternity — then we need to empty ourselves and put on Christ.

Whether you are a fourth-degree Knight of Columbus or a recent graduate trying to fit in at the parish, men know cultivating fraternity is essential to growing in holiness. From the board room to the battlefield, men need to be a part of something greater than themselves. But I will argue that the best kind of fraternity happens when one or two men — possibly without fully recognizing what they are doing — emulate Christ by gathering men of faith together for regular opportunities where they can support one another, lest they grow weary in a demanding world.

Practically put, that means regularly sacrificing time to be with friends.

You recall the words of our Lord, “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.” Honestly, that might mean something as simple as regular beers with regular men of faith.

I’d advise a man to spend at least one hour a week with a few others who are striving for holiness. And while that might be a sacrifice, it’s not unlike steady prayer or regular Mass, or a weekly private dinner with your wife — you will see the fruit over time. Of course, don’t do it to the neglect of your obligations, but rather as a benefit to them. Be prudent. This might seem like something that is unimportant or merely for pleasure. But real friends know that their time together means something much more substantial. And one hour a week to grow in friendship with a brother who shares your joys and struggles can be the difference between life and death in the spiritual world.

For good fraternity, you don’t need a fancy logo, a developed system and a Twitter account. If you have determination for regularity, the will to sacrifice and the support of your family, then all you need are a few good men, prayer and a reason to celebrate.
And probably some beer.

Randazzo is an evangelization manager in the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and director of development at St. Stephen in Minneapolis.

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Category: Catholic Watchmen