Who is more chatty, men or women? You probably can guess my answer at face-value. But when you throw a single variable in there, and change it just a little bit, for example: “Who is more open about problems with new friends?” I believe the answer is: men. You see, if you started a women’s Bible Study, you would be lucky if you could get fellow women to open up about, say, internet temptations within three months of that Bible study getting together. But if you started a men’s Bible Study, the men would be open about internet problems that very first night. I mean it: That very first night you would have a bunch of weeping men. I’m not exaggerating. I used to work with FOCUS and our “thing” was campus Bible Studies. I found generally but not absolutely that men “open up” a lot quicker with strangers, as long as they can trust them to be confidential.
Now, you might say “Yes, that’s just because internet problems are more embarrassing for women than men.” Fine. Then just substitute the word “relationship” for “internet” above, and I still hold to the same thesis: iI you started a women’s Bible Study, you would be lucky if women opened up about relationship problems within three months. If you started a men’s Bible Study, the men would be open about relationship problems that very first night. Same with parent problems. Same with prayer problems. Same with diet problems. Men will be vulnerable more quickly than women. I hold this generally but not absolutely.
Yes, a man will generally “open up” more rapidly about his own problems to a stranger at a bar more quickly than a woman to another woman at a coffee shop (or even a bar.) Women generally need a close friend they trust for a long time to talk about their own problems (even if gossip of others’ problems comes quicker.) But men will confess their sins to a stranger over a stiff drink pretty quickly, for better or for worse.
Men need community with other men more than most men realize. Men need to talk to other men more than most women realize. Yes, women may be better communicators than men, but our feminist society has eclipsed the fact that we men have communications that are generally good on these points: confessional, trusting, direct, vulnerable and tribal.
All of these adjectives lend itself to men’s groups. And since I’m a Catholic priest, I’m going to suggest: Catholic men’s groups. We especially need mens groups getting together as suicide rates have gone up exponentially under this ridiculous coofidocraacy. But don’t stop reading this blog post yet as you say to yourself, “Yeah, I’ve tried Catholic men’s groups and they’re stupid.”
Look, I know how these failures in men’s groups goes. I recently learned that a conglomeration of men’s groups in a part of the country where I used to be on-loan as a priest is falling apart. Why are they falling apart? It seems to be they are falling apart partly because of theological differences. Some were “all just peace love huge and Barney” as someone texted me about the liberals, but then the conservatives were described as this: “I think all the decent Catholics just seclude themselves.”
So here is going to be my initial suggestion: Get a group of like-minded men to do whiskey-and-cigars or soda-and-darts just once a month without being super theological. But make the commitment iron-clad. Unless your wife is having a baby or you’re out of town visiting your parents, you must be at that first Saturday evening event. Or third Sunday. Or first Thursday. Whatever you decide. Make this a time where you can talk about your own problems, but not others’ problems (lest it become a gossip session.) Or even better, make these monthly meetings a non-formal-prayer session where you just tell the guys what you’re thankful for over the past month as you smoke a cigar or sip some scotch.
I’m hesitant to make these sessions revolve around theology or formal prayer precisely because of what I wrote two paragraphs up, again, that some groups went all just “peace love huge and Barney” (was “huge” a typo in the text!?) and the other more traditional guys just “secluded” themselves. Of course, I’m not saying we put the OCP-singers in the same group as the TLM-schola. But you should invite a few “outsiders” or “loners” at your parish, even if the backbone of your group be close friends. We need to “unite the clans” as Michael Matt always says. And this should probably begin with men at your parish, or near-by. I may do a podcast on my suggestion to men’s groups and I may even put a name to it like “St. Joseph’s Men’s Groups.” But for now, just try it.
Such meetings need to aim to have a reasonable goal on frequency of meetings. I believe it has to be reasonable (not every week because this would become impossible within two weeks) but it needs to be formative (not just every year.) So, I suggest every month. But it has to take extremely high-priority in each man’s life. It must be prioritized almost to the point that each man is only given two “passes” a year and then he’s out. That’s the only moral requirement. In other words, the man need not be a saint, but he must commit to this group. Otherwise, the devil will come up with a thousand excuses for each man not to make it.
As I said, maybe I’ll formalize this as “St. Joseph’s groups” but I’m hesitant to inject too much theology or prayer. Why? Because it hit me tonight that many men in the USA are being formed well intellectually but very poorly into communal life and discussions with other men. Many men have no friends. I think most of my readers are already doing the daily Rosary with their families and maybe even learning mental prayer from me. I’m pumped about that. But then I realized that if our world gets darker (as it certainly seems to be) the key to mental sanity will be for men to get together with other men. Such groups will greatly help their families, not pull them away from them, despite the time commitment.
Consider sending this blog to a few friends and see if they would commit with you. But it has to be a commitment, not just a one-time thingy. Oh and last thing: Aim for 5-10 men for each group. I really suggest no less than 5 and no more than 10 for your men’s group of whiskey-and-smokes (or perhaps soda-and-darts during penitential seasons like Advent and Lent) but please do aim for every first Saturday evening or every third Thursday. Try it out. Men need men more than ever now. Go nothing less than once a month.