“Shrimpin’s tough!” was Forrest Gump’s epiphany upon discovering how much hard work his new career on a shrimp boat was going to be. Well, I could easily share my own realization of just how much work it is to be a good Christian on this ship we call Earth. “Catholicin’ is tough!!”
In Matthew’s Gospel (7:13-14) we are told, “Enter through the narrow gate;* for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” Man, that might be the greatest understatement in all of history. Those are hard words to hear, but the things we are asked to live in God’s favor are just not easy. It’s tough stuff.
Where do I even begin? From the sacraments to the sexy, all these things God has put in our lives can become towering crags to climb or bottomless pitfalls to avoid. Whether it is mustering enough faith to believe that a small white cracker is actually the Supreme Being Of The Universe or finding enough strength to avert my eyes (and thoughts) away from the hot little twenty something walking by me in the frozen food section in Wal-Mart, doing the right thing is not easy. Still, I can assure you I do not want to find myself on the I-666 Super Highway moments after death. So I have to pray constantly that God grants me just enough grace to keep me on the road that is “straight and narrow” even if that means riding on the shoulder most of the time.
Whether you meet on Tuesday mornings or Thursday evenings the hardest thing about being in the Men of St. Joseph is taking our mission outside of the four walls in which we meet. The one thing that makes us who we are as an organization is our shared mission. It is not the coffee, the prayers in the Magnificat, or even our dive into the Sunday Gospel. No, what makes us united and different is our dedication to “put the family in the hands of the Father.” This means that we need to surrender our lives into the Heavenly Father’s hands and that we need to step up to become the spiritual leaders of our families. (Man, Catholicin’ is tough!! ) If I am going to follow through on that mission that means I need to “walk the walk”. I have to use the graces I gather in Mass and the lessons and strength I gather at our MOSJ meetings, and actually go out there and do something about it. Obviously this is much easier said than done. But I am trying. We are all trying.
There are so many ways our mission can manifest itself – praying with our wives in the morning, saying grace with our families before meals, taking our family to confession once a month, helping the needy, or stopping to help the teenager whose car is broken on the side of the road.
The points along the narrow path are countless but we must gain the strength to act when given the opportunity to do so. Making those tough choices along the road is how we become “good”. The tough choices make us extraordinary. Christ didn’t recount the story of the “Average Samaritan”. His story was of someone who made the hard choice to do what’s right.
One small but very, very hard thing all members of the Men of St. Joseph can do to help “put the family in the hands of the Father” is inviting a friend to join our group. I wish I could say it was an easy thing to do, but man, it’s tough. Rejection is tough. Most guys are not going to pounce on your first invitation. They are not going to bounce up and down, clap their hands like a school girl and say, “Yippee, I GET TO GO THE MOSJ MEETING!!!!” (And if they do you might want to reconsider the invite.) No, most men are going to require several offers. In fact, in some cases you may have to pick the guy up to make sure he goes. But the benefits you are offering him are the same ones that have been afforded you through our shared fellowship in the Men of St. Joseph. We have all learned how much easier it is to do what God wants when we lock arm with our brothers. Offering the invitation to others is not easy but it is the right thing to do.
That shared labor in doing what God calls us to do is what gives us strength and it is what brings us back to the Mass and to our meetings each week. This burden is much lighter when it is communal. The fellowship of our mission helps us to stay on that road that is non-too wide. I mean who wants to be in bumper to bumper in after-death traffic with Hitler and the writers of “Family Guy”?
About Chris Teague
Chris Teague is the Evangelization Director for the Men of St. Joseph. Chris is married and the father of three children.