I am not a morning person. Particularly a Saturday morning person.
My idea of fun is a good book and a bad movie on television enjoyed together after midnight. Since I work for a living, this guilty pleasure is reserved mostly to Friday nights. Which explains my relationship with Saturday mornings.
Yet there I was, crawling out of bed at 5:45 a.m. on a Saturday. A fellow had asked me if I would meet with his parish men’s group. They had been reading my book and hoped for a little prayerful discussion. (Shameless plug: “A Guy’s Guide to the Good Life: Virtues for Men,” Servant Books, $13.99.) I agreed and asked where. He gave me the name of the parish, then said, “The guys usually get there around 7:15 on Saturday morning.”
“What for?” I asked.
“For the meeting,” he answered.
I had already said yes, so I couldn’t back out. I mumbled something about making sure there was coffee. Catching my wiseguy drift, he said some men were a little divided over that starting time. At least I felt better that the division wasn’t about starting earlier.
So a few weekends later I’m pulling up grumpy to the parking lot of the church A few guys were already there and introduced themselves. “Kinda early,” I observed. And one of the guys answered that he worked first trick and had been up since 4. As God is my witness, he was smiling.
Things started in the usual way when men gather. Somebody had to figure out how to get in and which room we were invading. Then the guys joshed around for a few minutes, razzing each other over everything from how many doughnuts were being eaten to who had the ugliest shirt.
The pastor joined us for morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. We read from Psalm 119: “I rise before dawn and cry for your help, I hope in your word. My eyes watch through the night to ponder your promise.”
The pastor had to leave to get ready for a funeral Mass and one guy had to take off soon to sell cars for a living.
We talked. Nothing profound was decided, no great thoughts that had never been thought before.
But good men were wondering about the challenges of living the Faith in today’s world and how they could do better.
No theological heavy lifting. No laments of quiet desperation. Just the Faith, bare-knuckled and believing.
I was in the company of men. These were guys going through the day-to-day, trying to infuse every moment with Truth. As usual in these things, I wasn’t teaching. I was learning.
I’m reminded that the Faith isn’t lived on any grand stage. The guys live the Faith in their families, in their neighborhoods, in their jobs. They teach the Faith to their friends and their children without even realizing that they are doing it all the time. They evangelize their small corner of the world with every breath.
When we left after a closing prayer, it was still early. And I still had a Saturday morning to go, one of God’s tender mercies.
Men can get lost along the way. As men get older, they tend to wonder if all they worked for, all they were really passionate about, made any difference. If they are not careful, they can lose hope.
But then they find the company of men. Good men, like those who get together in a small-town parish in Southwestern Pennsylvania on a Saturday morning.
“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk 1:78-79).
Robert P. Lockwood writes from Pennsylvania.