Iron sharpens iron

Become a sharper man with some of Denver's men's ministries

Aaron Lambert

Courage. Strength. Leadership. These are but a few of the qualities men were created to exude; staples of masculinity that draw each man closer to God.

Scripture has a lot to say about how men ought to be. God created Adam to be king and overseer of all he had created, and he was called to be a leader to his wife, Eve. Man was also created to be a father to his children, to raise them to know and serve the Lord, and teach them his commandments. While the culture perpetuates several different stereotypes about what a true man is, only God can truly give a man his name and reveal to him who he was created to be. This can be an intimidating endeavor, but the good news is men don’t have to – nor were they created to – do it alone.

Men need other men to stay sharp. God designed it this way. Proverbs 27:17 states, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another,” and this foundational principle is at the heart of the many men’s ministries that exist in Denver and beyond. It’s never too late for a man to seek Christ, and doing so with other men makes the journey even more fruitful. If you’re man in need of a good sharpening, consider one of these men’s ministries.

Marked Men For Christ

Marked Men For Christ was co-founded in the early 2000s by Steve Spicer and Father John Lager, who currently serves as the national chaplain for Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS).

Father Lager has resided in Denver for the past 33 years, and has given many retreats over the years. He recalled that in 1995, it became clear to him that many men’s retreats get “no further than down past the neck.”

“A lot of it was heady and not much was seeking into the heart,” Father Lager said.

He and his friend Steve Spicer began to pray about beginning a men’s ministry of their own. Led by the Holy Spirit, they named the ministry Marked Men For Christ and conceptualized what it would entail.

The reason why Marked Men survives and exists is to build stronger men for Jesus Christ. We just want to build men up. This is one tool of many that help men grow in the reality that grace builds on nature.”

The ministry revolves around a “44-hour experience of intense, experiential opportunities for men to look at their own woundedness and seek God’s healing,” Father Lager said of the weekend retreat, which they refer to as Phase One. The wounds the retreat focuses on are common wounds of man – fear, sadness, anger, loss and shame – and are meant to mirror the five wounds of Christ.

The first weekend retreat was in November 2002; now, 15 years later, over 260 retreats have been done and over 8,500 men have earned the title “marked man for Christ.” What’s more, Marked Men For Christ has reached far beyond the borders of the U.S., having held weekends in countries such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland and even Rwanda and Uganda.

After going through Phase One, men are invited to Phase Two, which allows them to unpack the things God revealed to them during the Phase One weekend, and from there, they have the option to go onto Phase Three, which is an accountability and prayer group that meets regularly.

“The reason why Marked Men survives and exists is to build stronger men for Jesus Christ. We just want to build men up,” Father Lager explained. “This is one tool of many that help men grow in the reality that grace builds on nature.”

If you’re interested in attending a Marked Men For Christ Phase One weekend, visit markedmenforchrist.org.

Patriarch

So you want to start a men’s group, but don’t have any clue where to start because let’s face it: Starting a men’s group can be really intimidating.

That’s where Patriarch comes in.

Started by Father John Ignatius in 2006, what began as a small gathering of men has grown to eleven different groups of men nationwide and an annual fall retreat of about 50 men. Patriarch equips men with the resources and curriculum they need to start a group of their own.

According to the ministry’s website, Patriarch is “based on the premise that God is a patriarch and God’s purpose is to raise up patriarchs.” Ed Lugo, who helps with development for Patriarch, said the goal is for a group of men to be tight-knit.

“They have to have some ownership of their group that allows people to really enter in so there is a healthy dynamic in the group,” Lugo said. “You want the guys in the group to all know each other.”

Because of this, it’s a little more difficult for men to get plugged in to an already existing group. Rather, men are encouraged to start their own group with other men they already have relationships with.

A typical Patriarch meeting begins in the book of Genesis and is generally as follows: there is an opening prayer based on a Psalm, a time for reflection focusing on a patriarch from Genesis, and a closing prayer and resolution where men state how they’re going to utilize the lesson learned back at home with their families.

The fruits of Patriarch can be seen in the ways the mens’ wives respond, Father Ignatius said.

“Wives make space in the schedule because they see the value of men having substantial spiritual fraternal time together, and that the men take more initiative in the spiritual leadership of the families,” he said.

“Whenever you gather men around the Word of God in a prayerful way, grace happens. It’s not just shared human wisdom, it’s shared divine wisdom that’s being applied and being aspired to growing as men, as husbands, as fathers.”

If you’re interested in starting a Patriarch group, be sure to visit patriarchmen.org.

Men For All Seasons

As one of the biggest parishes in the Archdiocese of Denver, it should come as no surprise that St. Thomas More has one of the most thriving parish men’s ministries. Started 10 years ago and still going strong today, Men For All Seasons draws up to 150 men each Friday that it meets during the school year.

Using engaging content and small group discussions, Men For All Seasons is an hour each week that men can come and engage in “spiritual exercise,” as Steve Bell calls it. Bell has been involved in the ministry from the beginning, and is one of 20 core team members who facilitate the program.

“[Men] spend a lot of time focusing on our work, we spend a lot of time focusing on our physical exercise; our point is that spiritual exercise should be as important to our lives as our work and our families and our physical exercise,” Bell explained. “Take an hour a week to exercise the spiritual side of your lives.”

At St. Thomas More Men For All Seasons ministry, nearly 150 men consecrated themselves to Mary after reading through Father Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory. (Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic)

Men For All Seasons has used That Man Is You, Bishop Robert Barron’s Catholicism series and more as curriculum to feed the men who come. Recently, the group went through Father Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory, which resulted in a first for the ministry: on the Feast of the Annunciation, 150 men consecrated themselves to Mary.

Paul Lum Lung and his wife, Colleen, have been facilitating Father Gaitley’s programs at St. Thomas More for the past five years, and as a member of the content committee, it was Lum Lung’s suggestion to lead the men through 33 Days to Morning Glory. Father Gaitley emphasizes the importance of being consecrated to Mary, and that struck a chord with Lum Lung.

“Marian consecration is basically consecration to Jesus,” he explained. “Mary, being his mother, knew Jesus best. By consecrating yourself to Mary, that’s going to enable her to lead you to Jesus.”

Men For All Seasons meets at 6:20 a.m. every Friday during the school year at St. Thomas More Parish.

COMING UP: Should the Church talk about money? If we follow Christ’s teaching, yes.

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In Luke Chapter 3, three different groups asked John the Baptist what they should do to bear the fruit of repentance. John gives three answers: 1) Everyone should share clothes and food with the poor; 2) Tax collectors shouldn’t pocket extra money; and 3) Soldiers should be content with their wages and not extort money. Each answer John gives is related to money and possessions, but no one asked him about that! They only ask how to demonstrate the fruit of spiritual transformation. They don’t grasp John the Baptist’s perspective, that he could not talk about spirituality without talking about how to handle money and possessions.

Jesus puts some harsh words in God’s mouth in the “Parable of the Rich Fool.” In Luke 12:20, we hear: “But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong? Thus will it be for one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”

Alternatively, Jesus provides some great promises on both sides of that parable. In Luke 11:41: “…give alms and behold, everything will be clean for you.” And in Luke 12:33: “…give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven.”

When my wife Cathy and I were experiencing our conversion to the Lord in the early 1990s, we decided we were going to try to live out our Catholic faith to the full: in our attending Mass every Sunday, in our family and in our checkbook.

So, despite four young kids and no way of knowing if we could afford to send them to Catholic school or college, we started tithing. One thing it dramatically did was contribute to our growth in faith and trust in God. We truly believed in God’s promise that He never will be outdone in generosity. And now, 25 years later, we can only rejoice that we still are doing fine despite paying for Catholic schools, colleges and three daughters’ weddings! So what, that we are driving two cars that have 365,000 miles between them!

When we created our will back then, we decided to leave 10% of our assets to the Church. After I became President of The Catholic Foundation in 2012, we became aware of the concept to “treat the Church like one of your children.” We thought that made a lot of sense, so we changed our will to do just that … such that our four children and The Catholic Foundation will each receive 20% of our estate.

Today, we are not sure how our kids will be able to do what we did; with Denver’s crazy housing market, how will they be able to afford Catholic school for their kids, future colleges and, someday, weddings? It looks daunting for them. Shouldn’t we leave them 100% instead of just 80%? For us, it was an easy decision—better to give them a portion with God’s blessing than to think they’d be better off with it all. Besides, they are helping themselves have the best chance possible.

How? By doing their own tithing! I remember years ago, when the business manager at our parish called me to ensure that it was okay that our daughter had made a large contribution to the parish. Cathy and I were unaware she had done so. What had she done? She had tithed her high school graduation gift money. You can imagine how proud we felt.

A “planned gift” through a will or another avenue is the easiest gift to make because it only gets made when we can’t use it anymore – at least, not in this world. Maybe it can be better used by God and his Church. Listen to Revelation 14:13: “I heard a voice from Heaven say, ‘write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, said the Spirit, let them find rest from their labors, for their works accompany them.’ ”

Cathy and I want our works to accompany us, as we are sure you do, too. We have been saved by Jesus for eternal life – let us make sure our faith in that is manifested in our living and in our giving.

Would you prayerfully discern how God is calling you to steward the assets He has entrusted to you? We hope we and you hear these words someday from Jesus (Matthew 25:34): “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Deacon Steve Stemper is CEO & President of The Catholic Foundation. Please contact him at (303) 468-9885 if you would like a meeting to discuss how your planned giving can be used for God’s Kingdom.