Wisconsin’s Into the Breach Tour empowers men Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Fr. Rick Heilman, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016 -- 12:00 AM


This past September 29, on the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix, Ariz., promulgated an Apostolic Exhortation calling men to step “Into the Breach.” Bishop Olmsted began his exhortation:

“I begin this letter with a clarion call and clear charge to you, my sons and brothers in Christ: Men, do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you, the battle that is wounding our children and families, the battle that is distorting the dignity of both women and men.

“This battle is often hidden, but the battle is real. It is primarily spiritual, but it is progressively killing the remaining Christian ethos in our society and culture, and even in our own homes.

“The world is under attack by Satan, as our Lord said it would be (1 Peter 5:8-14). This battle is occurring in the Church herself, and the devastation is all too evident. Since AD 2000, 14 million Catholics have left the faith, parish religious education of children has dropped by 24 percent, Catholic school attendance has dropped by 19 percent, infant baptism has dropped by 28 percent, adult baptism has dropped by 31 percent, and sacramental Catholic marriages have dropped by 41 percent. This is a serious breach, a gaping hole in Christ’s battle lines.”

Men’s faith formation

More and more bishops, Catholic writers, and speakers are recognizing this “serious breach.” Personally, I have been engaged in men’s faith formation for most of the last half of my 28 years of priesthood.

Just about the time we began the Knights of Divine Mercy apostolate here in the Diocese of Madison, many other men’s apostolates began to spring up. Two of the larger ones here in Wisconsin are Men of Christ in Milwaukee and Esto Vir in Green Bay. Catholic men are hungry for faith formation.

Reclaim the supernatural

Those of us who have been at this for a while are recognizing with greater clarity that the underlying challenge is the need to reclaim the surrendered ground of the supernatural. This is the antidote. An antidote is defined as “a substance that can counteract a form of poisoning.”

The poison we have ingested for at least 50 years is the poison of secular humanism, inside and outside of the Church, which has made men “spiritually sick.”

In a recent article by Bishop Robert Barron, entitled “What Makes the Church Grow,” he points to the dramatic growth of Christianity on the continent of Africa. To what does he attribute this growth?

Bishop Barron writes that it is “because the version of Christianity on offer there is robustly supernatural . . . African Christianity puts a powerful stress on the miraculous, on eternal life, on the active providence of God, on healing grace, and on the divinity of Jesus.”

Men are called to be St. Josephs; the spiritual leaders of their families. But, in order to do this, they must be ignited by the Holy Spirit; they must believe in and cooperate with the power of supernatural grace.

But, if men are not seeking this power or, worse yet, are not even aware of such a power, they are lacking the only real power capable of making them effective spiritual leaders.

A spiritual battle

Bishop Olmsted is correct when he calls this a “spiritual battle.” As St. Paul says, “Be strong in the Lord and His mighty power. Put on the armor of God so you can stand against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces in the heavenly realm” (Ephesians 6:10-12).

But, if we are not seeking the power and armor of God, we stand naked on the battlefield -- no spiritual armor, no spiritual weapons -- prone to every deception the devil sends our way.

We are convinced that the antidote to the modern tactics of the devil -- especially the militant secularism thrust upon us -- must begin by giving men a “taste” of what a “sense of the sacred” actually looks like. We believe this comes by way of powerful regular evenings for men.

Evenings for men

These are evenings that offer Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in a beautiful golden monstrance, swirls of incense, Latin hymns (O Salutaris, Tantum Ergo), Gregorian Chant softly in the background, men on their knees before Christ the King, men in line to receive that “state of grace” through the Sacrament of Confession. These are evenings that assist men in being open to and cooperating with the power of supernatural grace.

Through these monthly Holy Hours -- the antidote to the sickness of spiritual sloth -- priests will gain an army of men who “get it” . . . who now understand that reverence is due our Eucharistic Lord. We can try to “teach” men all we want about the different parts of the Mass, but until they truly encounter our Lord in a setting like this, they will rarely, if ever, truly “get it.”

‘Into the Breach’ tour

With the assistance of the Wisconsin Knights of Columbus, we are bringing this formula to every cathedral or basilica in our state. This “Into the Breach” tour began on the first Friday of Lent at Holy Hill in the Milwaukee Archdiocese.

It was a great night. The men were given such supernatural tools as holy water, blessed salt, Brown Scapular, and a Combat Prayer Book. Also, I brought 12 First Class Relics of saints such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Benedict, and St. Dominic. The men were encouraged to touch their religious articles to each of these relics, making them a Third Class Relic of each of those 12 saints.

Along with Cardinal Raymond Burke, who said, “This is exactly what is needed in our times,” we are building an army of men, ignited by the power of supernatural grace, to stand in the breach and be the spiritual leaders -- the St. Josephs they are called to be.

We are looking forward to our Madison stop at St. Patrick Church (downtown) on Friday, March 4, at 6 p.m. Bishop Morlino is planning to join us. Please plan to join us!


Fr. Rick Heilman is pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Mt. Horeb and Perry and St. Mary Parish in Pine Bluff. He is also the state chaplain of the Knights of Columbus and founder of the Knights of Divine Mercy.


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