The Most Reverend Thomas Olmstead, Bishop of Phoenix, Arizona, made clear in Into the Breach, his prescient 2015 apostolic exhortation to men, that we are facing a very real battle in our world today. “[M]y sons and brothers in Christ: Men, do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you,” he writes. The letter is a roadmap of sorts for men. In no uncertain terms he explains the way to achieve victory: “There is no shortcut to holiness, to being the great Catholic men we are called to be. There is no short-cut past the age-old interior fight that each of us must engage!”
Men have a very particular calling. One that involves daily struggles and sacrifice. Too often in today’s world men are not expected to live up to their virtuous calling as men. They are often allowed – if not altogether encouraged – to leave their great potential unfulfilled. Bishop Robert Barron calls this the “Homer Simpson Effect.”
What we need as men is a challenge, an obstacle to overcome, an objective to achieve.
Part of being a man requires accepting monumental challenges and following through until the end, whether at work, in raising our children, being a loving husband, or in our particular hobbies or interests. Being a man means to keep trying, to not give up, and to constantly implore God’s assistance in the face of whatever obstacle we face.
But today’s world says it’s OK if you don’t overcome that obstacle between you and the greatness God wants you to achieve. It’s OK to shrink from a challenge when things are difficult.
In days past, Catholic men would don suits of heavy armor, march thousands of miles on foot, and fight and die in defense of the Faith. Where I live in the Midwest, Catholic missionaries would travel hundreds of miles in the face of unknown and terrible danger to bring the Gospel to native people. These were the challenges they faced. These were the challenges that made men of days past into saints.
Our modern world has its own set of challenges: pornography, “gender theory,” attacks on religious liberty and the right to life, radical feminism, and the list goes on. These are the challenges that can make men of today into saints. But we have to be strong in body, mind, and soul.
What men today need is a pilgrimage.
In fact, we are made for pilgrimage. Our whole earthly life is a pilgrimage towards our eternal life in Heaven. Every time we receive communion, we engage in a pilgrimage to receive Christ under the sacramental veil. Every day we go to work should be a pilgrimage for our family, for our loved ones, for our community, and even for the entire body of Christ.
But too often in today’s day-and-age we don’t see things this way. A true pilgrimage is difficult. It’s too easy to hop in our cars, drive somewhere, and call it a “pilgrimage.” A real pilgrimage involves discomfort, pain, exhaustion, and going beyond where you thought you could go – physically and spiritually.
That’s why the Joseph Challenge Pilgrimage exists.
Organized by lay Catholic men in St. Louis, Missouri, the Joseph Challenge Pilgrimage is a roughly 25-mile walking pilgrimage to the stunning Shrine of St. Joseph in downtown St. Louis – the site of a Vatican-authenticated miracle. The pilgrimage takes place every year on a weekend near the feast of St. Joseph the Worker (May 1st). This year, the pilgrimage is scheduled for May 5-6. All men age 18 and up are invited to participate.
Maybe you have already completed Exodus and are asking yourself: “Now What?” Or maybe you are reading this in the midst of your 90 days of Exodus which will end on Easter Sunday. Regardless, the Joseph Challenge Pilgrimage would be an excellent “Day 91” event. If you’ve never even thought of Exodus, this pilgrimage may be what you need to jumpstart your spiritual life. Wherever you are as a Catholic man, this pilgrimage will be beneficial to you.
Are you ready for The Challenge?
Visit josephchallenge.com for more information and to register.