Bob Feeney believes that as a young man serving in the Army during the Vietnam War, the Blessed Mother saved his life. In the years since, his devotion to her has done so much more than that for him.
Feeney was raised Catholic but wasn’t much interested in prayer at the time he was drafted. Realizing the real dangers he was facing, he committed to praying the rosary regularly. The horrors he saw on the battlefield made him all the more fervent. When he was critically wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade during the 1968 Tet Offensive, he vowed that if he survived he would honor the Virgin Mary.
“When I got out of the Army, I just knew that God wanted me to be his mother’s apostle,” Feeney said. He became a coach, a teacher and a mentor to young people on the value of prayer. He has authored several books on devotion to Mary. Now facing a rare and incurable immune disorder, he puts his life in her hands once again.
“I really don’t know how much longer I have to live,” he said. “I’ve given all my suffering to her. I said, ‘Mom, this is a gift for you. Please give it to God.’”
Feeney and several experts on men’s spirituality are featured in the “Prayer” episode of the Knights of Columbus’ Into the Breach video series. The series and its accompanying study guide are inspired by a 2015 apostolic exhortation of the same name by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix, which challenges Catholic men to step up and fulfill their God-given vocations for the sake of their families, parishes and communities.
It’s a problem when men are irregular in the practice of their faith. Men tend to want to take charge of things, solve problems on their own and rely on their own strength. For some that means not even looking to God for help. Such men fail to recognize that God is the source of all wisdom, all strength, all that empowers us.
“Humility is the foundation of prayer, and I believe that it’s very masculine,” said biblical scholar Jeff Cavins. “A man can either walk in pride and say, ‘I don’t need anyone’s help,’ or a man, which I believe is true masculinity, can say, ‘I know who I am in relationship to my heavenly Father and my King. And I am going to bow to him. And I am going to carry on a conversation with him and find out what does he want me to do.’”
Prayer is vital to a man of faith if he is to face the challenges of living out his vocation. That deep, personal relationship with God and with his Church that empowers him to grow in the masculine virtues so that he may provide for and protect his family is formed and nurtured by a disciplined prayer life. A relationship of that kind requires a daily investment of spending time in conversation and contemplation with God.
“Men can integrate prayer into their daily lives in so many different ways,” said Mark Bartek, a regional director for the evangelization apostolate FOCUS. “I think this is one of the critical elements for what it means to be a man.”
Sometimes, people are hesitant to pray or attend Mass because they believe they are not holy enough. But there’s a saying: The Church isn’t a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners. We pray in order to find strength, healing and guidance.
That’s why it’s important for Catholic men to spend time in solitude before God, praying and reading Scripture, according to Jared Zimmerer, director of the Word on Fire Institute.
“This is a very noisy world. God speaks to us in solitude,” Zimmerer said. “The best growth in the spiritual life typically comes around from people who sought that silence and that solitude.”
Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, a Catholic speaker and evangelist, recommended seeking that silence before the Blessed Sacrament.
“I would strongly urge men to go to eucharistic adoration,” he said. “When you’re discerning something in your life as a man, there is no better place to go than in the silence of eucharistic adoration; not to discover what you want, but what does God want for you.”
But prayer is not only to be done alone. It should be incorporated into the family too as part of a man’s role as spiritual leader.
For a married man, that includes praying with your wife. That “allows for an intimacy, a bond that’s even deeper,” said Father Paul Sullivan, vocations director for the Diocese of Phoenix. “And that’s why in marriages where there’s prayer, they stay together so much longer.”
Whether married or single, prayer is essential for all men who strive for sainthood, according to Mark Houck, founder of The King’s Men, a men’s spirituality organization.
“You just think of the things that a man can deal with on a daily basis,” Houck said. “And he needs to have a rudder. And prayer really is that.”
To view episodes of the Into the Breach video series and to access the study guide and other resources for promoting the series in your parish, visit kofc.org/intothebreach.