by MICHAEL OTTO
Jesus needs blokes.
That was the message Bishop Stephen Lowe stressed time and again at a men’s breakfast in Hamilton on August 29.
More than 120 Catholic men filled the hall at St Columba’s School in Frankton for a Blokes’ Breakfast with the Bishop, with Bishop Lowe as the keynote speaker.
The bishop’s talk blended humour, personal anecdotes, sociological data and a resounding call to faith, prayer and action.
“I think it takes guts to go to Mass today,” Bishop Lowe said.
“I think it takes guts particularly in rural towns, where everybody knows what everyone else is doing.
“How many people of your friends or in your workplaces know that you are a Massgoer?” the bishop challenged
“Who do you talk to about your faith? How do you witness to Jesus? How do people know you are a Catholic, a man of faith?
“Because if we aren’t doing these things, not only in our family, and in the world around, then the world will
adopt the spirit of our age.
“And the spirit of our age is fairly scary.”
Bishop Lowe cited the many dangers and issues facing young people in a rapidly changing world. Those include access to drugs, alcohol, pornography, and the use of high-powered motor vehicles.
“So many of our young people are unhappy, they feel lost and they need lights in their lives, lights that offer
them another way,” the bishop said.
“That light ultimately comes from Jesus, but it shines through our lives.
“Jesus needs blokes.”
Throughout his talk, Bishop Lowe referred to a Swiss study published in 2000 .
“Its most pertinent finding states it is the religious practice of the father of the family that above all determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children,” the bishop said.
“It is up to us blokes. In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter his wife’s devotion, only one child
in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother,
between two thirds and three quarters of their children will become churchgoers [the study found].
“Children tend to take their cues about domestic life from Mum, while conceptions of the world outside come from Dad. If Dad takes faith in God seriously, then the message to their children is that God should be taken
Bishop Lowe noted that that study, by researchers Haug and Warner, confirmed that the essential role of the father is as a spiritual leader.
“Fathers are to love their wives as Christ loves the Church, modelling the love of the Father in their most important earthly relationship.
“Fathers are to be a reflection of our Father in heaven who cares for us.
“Fathers play a primary role in teaching their children the truth about spiritual realities. It is time for us to man up, to be blokes, because Jesus calls us blokes to be men alive.”
Throughout his talk, Bishop Lowe cited the example of St Peter as a “bloke”.
Peter did blokey things like fishing, he trusted in his own strength, he tried to work things out by himself, he was impulsive.
But in the end, Peter had to come to the point where he could say, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you”.
The bishop encouraged men to be friends with Jesus and to take this friendship to prayer, and to become alive in Jesus’ spirit.
“Can you say to Jesus, ‘Yes Lord, I love you’?” Bishop Lowe asked.
“Because that’s my vision for the men of the Church, to really be alive in their relationship with Jesus and say,
yes, Lord, I do love you. You are such an integral part of my life. I thank you for my wife, my family, for my abilities, for me being a bloke, because I see you have given everything to me. You have given a sense to my life and you have given me direction to eternal life.”
But a bloke can’t do it alone. Faith has to be shared.
Bishop Lowe shared the example of his own late father, a man of deep faith.
“One of the issues we have as blokes is that we don’t talk about our faith.
“My father had a really deep faith, but he never spoke about it. I saw his witness, I saw how he lived it out. But
he never spoke about his faith.
“When my parents died and I was going through Dad’s treasures I found his first Communion certificate and Mass cards where had attended Mass and Church missions as the New Zealand Army worked its way through North Africa and Italy.
“He knew Jesus in his life, but he wasn’t sharing that.”
Bishop Lowe said Jesus sent out the disciples two by two because he knew they had to talk about their experience of faith and mission with each other.
“Because faith is like love — if you don’t share it, it doesn’t go anywhere,” Bishop Lowe said.
“If you didn’t ever say to your wife — I love you — the relationship isn’t going to go far. If you don’t discuss
things about your relationship, the relationship is going to wither and die.
“And that’s the same with faith — faith has to be shared. It is like we start to bounce ideas off each other, and our minds and our hearts start to expand.”
Before Bishop Lowe’s talk, MC Mike Baird led the men in showing their appreciation for the women volunteers, without whom the breakfast would not have happened.
Several local priests attended the breakfast, and the newest one, Fr Danny Fraser-Jones, said grace.
Mr Baird said the response to the men’s breakfast idea was beyond the organisers’ wildest dreams.
Men came from places outside Hamilton, such as Auckland, Tauranga and Cambridge, he said.
“There’s something about being in a room where there is so much Catholic testosterone — I don’t know how else to put it. There’s an energy here,” Mr Baird added.
He mentioned a plan to make Bishop Lowe’s talk available as an online video.
As a follow up, the organisers are planning a MenAlive weekend at Frankton on November 7 and 8 this year.
Note:  “The demographic characteristics of the linguistic and religious groups in Switzerland” by Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner of the Federal Statistical Office, Neuchatel. It appears in Volume 2 of Population Studies No.
31, The Demographic Characteristics of National Minorities in Certain European States, edited by Werner Haug and others, published by the Council of Europe Directorate General III, Social Cohesion, Strasbourg, January 2000.
According to a Christian Post article in 2011, the study reported: 1. If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 per cent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 per cent will end up attending irregularly. A quarter of their children will end up not practising at all.
2. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 per cent of the children will subsequently become regulars
themselves, while a further 59 per cent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight per cent will not attend.
3. If the father is non-practising and mother regular, only 2 per cent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 per cent will attend irregularly. More than 60 per cent of their children will not attend.
4. In homes where the father was a regular church attendee and the mother irregular, 38 per cent of the children
went on to regularly attend church, 44 per cent attended irregularly and 18 per cent did not attend at all.
by MICHAEL OTTO