With the start of Lent I am sure that many of you have probably defined some Lenten disciplines to prepare your hearts to receive Jesus Christ in a deeper way as we celebrate his passion, death, and resurrection for our sins, and the sins of the whole world. However, if you haven't fully settled on a Lenten plan yet, or even if you have, I want to offer you the excellent "775 Challenge Plan" for Lent, which I received from Danny Abramowicz, who many of you know as a Catholic men's leader and author, and a popular speaker at Catholic men's conferences. Below is Danny's introduction to the plan, followed by a description of the plan's "7 Challenges" and "5 Ways to Obtain Graces".
Please use this Lenten plan, as the Lord leads you, and feel free to distribute it to other Catholic men.
May God richly bless you during this Lenten season of grace,
National Fellowship of Catholic Men
775 Challenge Plan
I would like to share with you a challenge plan that the Lord has put on my heart. Men throughout salvation history have been open to and have accepted challenges from God, and by doing so, their lives were changed and they became holy men of God, which he has called them to be and us to be.
Lent last for seven weeks and this plan is called the "775 Challenge Plan," which stands for 7 challenges to take effect over a 7 week period of time and the 5 ways to obtain the graces needed in order to give us the inward strength to complete these challenges. By accepting this 775 Plan we are giving the Holy Spirit permission to remold our lives.
Maybe, this Lent, instead of giving up something, we, instead, can accept these challenges from the Lord and with His graces can succeed in changing the lives of each and every one of us.
Of course, once you review the plan, the 5 ways to obtain graces are the bare minimum amounts of times-you can add to these numbers as the Spirit moves you.
My prayer is that each of us will accept this challenge and, hopefully, cast our nets and ask one other man to join in this challenge-preferably a family member.
7 Challenges/7 Weeks/5 Graces: The Challenges
- 1. Challenge – God is challenging us to come to realize that it is time to stand up and be counted, and make our spiritual life a higher priority in our personal lives. (Mt. 6:33)
Support (Holy Spirit)-Brothers, isn't it about time to give God at least a portion of our time and effort? He is like the United Way-all He wants from us is His fair share. We spend incredible amounts of time on all kinds of various things but when it's time for the Lord, we are too busy or we could not care less. THIS ATTITUDE HAS TO CHANGE.
Opposition (Devil)-Why do you want to waste your time on all that boring stuff? If you go to church on Sunday or every so often, that's plenty good enough. All you need to do is treat people OK. I promise you, if you get involved with that spiritual business, YOU WILL END UP LOSING ALL YOUR FRIENDS.
- 2. Humility-Humble ourselves before our awesome Creator, as the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph did, so that He can begin to change our hearts to become holy men of God. (Sir.3:18)
Support (Holy Spirit)-Brothers, many of us in this world are not in awe of the Lord: we treat Him as though we are on equal ground with Him. Our pride prevents us from recognizing Him as our Lord and Savior. Only the Lord can change our stubborn heart to a heart that can accept Him as our Savior so that He can mold us into holy men of God. ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS GIVE HIM PERMISSION.
Opposition (Devil)-Hogwash! In this dog eat dog world you live in there is only one way-every man for himself. If you want to climb to the top, do it your way and don't depend on anyone-including God. Remember, Frank Sinatra's song, "I DID IT MY WAY."
- 3. Service-Open our minds and hearts to His word and the teachings of His Holy Catholic Church, so that we can better serve God and our fellow man in our everyday lives. (Mk. 9:35)
Support (Holy Spirit)-Brothers, we have been placed on this earth to serve God and our fellow man; not to be self-serving. The world tells us to grab and obtain as many things as possible, and this will make us successful and happy. But deep in our hearts, we know that the only way that we will be truly happy and at peace is to SERVE GOD AND OTHERS.
Opposition (Devil)-You talk about serving others? You'll end up getting shafted in the deal. You need to take care of yourself and don't worry about others-that's their problem. If someone needs help, let them go to God for help. YOU HAVE ENOUGH ON YOUR OWN PLATE TO WORRY ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE.
- 4. Boldness-Once we have been touched by the Holy Spirit inwardly,, we then go forth to boldly proclaim Jesus Christ to our fellow man that He is the Way, Truth and Life. (Mk. 16:15; Jn. 14:6)
Support (Holy Spirit)-Brothers, we boldly make our opinion known concerning our rights and privileges as citizens of the United States. Also, we enjoy having discussions with each other concerning sports, politics, and entertainment: but when it becomes time to defend our faith or proclaim Jesus Christ in our lives, we become mute. We need to ask the Holy Spirit, our personal trainer, to give us the courage to boldly PROCLAIM HIM IN OUR WITNESS TO OTHERS.
Opposition (Devil) How many times do I need to tell you-a good Catholic never talks about two things and that is religion and politics-that's God's job. Another thing, you start talking about Jesus to people and they will start talking behind your back, "THERE IS THAT JESUS FREAK!" DO YOU WANT THAT HANGING OVER YOUR HEAD?
- 5. Commitment-Commit to the Lord that you will attend or start a men's sharing prayer group for at least seven weeks/sessions and that you will attend at least one men's conference. (Ps. 37:5)
Support (Holy Spirit)-Brothers, we commit all sorts of time to watching sports or reality programs on TV, or attending various sports or social events or participating in fantasy leagues; but if we are asked to get involved with a men's prayer/sharing group, we avoid it like it's the plague. We make the excuse that those types of meetings are for women and weak people-real men don't get involved. REAL MEN DO GET INVOLVED with prayer/sharing groups.
Opposition (Devil)-Committing to church once in a while, on Sunday, is enough. Who wants to attend a men's prayer meeting with a bunch of pansies that complain and tell sob stories? IF I WERE YOU, I WOULD STAY WITH YOUR REGULAR GROUP OF GUYS-at least they have fun and knock down a few ‘brewskies' and tell some great jokes.
- 6. Fellowship-We will ask the Holy Spirit, while attending these small sharing groups to give us the courage to be open to share with our fellow men what is truly in our hearts. (1Jn. 1:7)
Support (Holy Spirit)-Brothers, most guys have a difficult time sharing especially about things that are personal in our lives. Typically, you ask a guy, "How is everything going?" And his response is, "Everything is great." When, in fact, things are not going well at all; he is having problems at work or in his marriage or he has health issues and he has nowhere to go to share these things with other men. Everyone needs a place of fellowship where they can share their concerns and know that THESE MEN TRULY CARE.
Opposition (Devil)-Real men keep personal things to themselves-they don't share it with others. It's none of their business. Other men don't care about your problems, they have their own! I WOULDN'T TRUST THEM-THEY'LL GOSSIP.
- 7. Perseverance-Persevere in prayer to ask Jesus to give you the strength and the courage to follow through with these challenges. (Eph. 3:14-21)
Support (Holy Spirit)-Brothers, the reason that many of us won't either step out or stay with attending or starting a men's prayer group in our parish, is because we are fearful for what other men will think of us. We are simply ashamed to admit that we attend a prayer group. In fact, I can remember a young college man telling me that he would tell his friends a lie rather than admitting to them that he attended 5PM Mass on Sunday evenings for fear that they would make fun of him. We must persevere in prayer to ASK JESUS TO GIVE US THE STRENGTH AND COURAGE TO OVERCOME THESE FEARS.
Opposition (Devil)-Why do you want to join something like that? None of your buddies will join even if you would like to. So, you'll be stuck in that deal by yourself. Think about it! If your buddies found out that you attended those fellowship meetings, they would ‘bust a gut' laughing at you. It's not about needing courage, it's about using your head and common sense. ASK JESUS TO HELP YOU WITH SOMETHING ELSE-LIKE HITTING THE LOTTO.
7 Challenges/7 Weeks/5 Graces: 5 Ways to Obtain Graces
- 1. Make a good confession (Mt. 16:19)
Support (Holy Spirit)-Brothers, the thing that prevents us from having true peace, joy, and happiness in our lives is guilt brought on by our sinful nature. Jesus provides us with another means to get rid of sin and guilt by instituting the Sacrament of Penance. It is simply this easy-go to the priest and spill the beans-don't hold back-fire away. And it doesn't matter how long it has been since your last confession. Once you receive the absolution by the priest, IT WILL BE LIKE SOMEONE TAKING A GORILLA OFF YOUR BACK.
Opposition (Devil)-Why do you need to go into a box and tell another man your sins-all you need to do is say under your breath that you're sorry that's good enough for the BIG GUY. Besides, that should tell you something. HOW MANY GUYS DO YOU KNOW THAT GO TO CONFESSION?
- 2. Pray daily (Lk. 18:1)-(15-30 minutes) including Scripture (2Tim. 3:16)
Support (Holy Spirit)-Brothers, without prayer we don't stand a chance to survive spiritually. Daily prayer is the key to beginning and sustaining these challenges, or for that matter any other challenges that we face in this life. Start out by setting aside 15-30 minutes per day, at your most convenient time. Incorporate some reading of scripture during this time-FOCUS ON THE GOSPELS.
Opposition (Devil)-You don't need to set aside that much time to pray-just say BIG GUY UPSTAIRS HELP ME and that's sufficient. Besides, the only people I ever see praying are women, the sick and after a tragedy occurs. Plus, YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED BY LAW TO PRAY IN PUBLIC PLACES.
- 3. Attend Mass/Receive Eucharist-(2X during the week other than Sunday) (Mt. 26:26-28), Mk. 14:22-24, Lk. 22:19-20, Jn. 6:47-58)
Support (Holy Spirit) Brothers, do you think that Jesus suffered, died, was buried, resurrected from the dead and ascended into heaven just for us to attend 11:00 a.m. Mass on Sundays only? I don't think so! Jesus personally instituted the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist for us. WHY WOULDN'T WE WANT TO RECEIVE HIM AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE/
Opposition (Devil)-Just look around at the statistics-it proves that not many Catholics are attending Mass, especially men. So why should you go? Plus-DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE THAT IT IS REALLY JESUS' BODY AND BLOOD? COME ON!
- 4. Pray Rosary 1 or 2 times per week (Jn. 19:26-27)
Support (Holy Spirit)-Brothers, so many people have a problem with Mary, especially our Protestant brothers. Why the big problem? Everyone agrees that she is the mother of God, so let's look at Mary from that angle. If someone asked your mother to ask a favor of you on their behalf, what would your response be? No? I don't think so! I think, 99.9% of the time your response would be, "O.K. Mom." MARY IS OUR INTERCESSOR TO HER SON-CASE CLOSED.
Opposition (Devil)-Can you imagine walking around with rosary beads dangling from your hands-that's real macho! Plus, you really don't even know how to say a rosary. WHY DO YOU NEED TO PRAY TO MARY? WHY NOT GO STRAIGHT TO THE TOP?
- 5. Attend Eucharistic Adoration twice during 7 week period. (ccc #1418)
Support (Holy Spirit)-Brothers, receiving the Holy Eucharist is the most powerful source of grace, but being in the presence of the Holy Eucharist also brings forth a reservoir of graces. All we really need to do is come before the Lord just as we are-full of our anxieties, trials, temptations, sufferings, etc., and present them to Him-and then remain quiet outwardly and inwardly and ALLOW HIM TO MINISTE TO OUR HEART THROUGH THE POWER OF HIS HOLY SPIRIT.
Opposition (Devil)-I hear that they can't even get enough people to sign up to cover all the time slots. So it must not be that big a deal. Try to picture yourself sitting there for 1 hour-in silence without any music, TV, cell phone, etc. NO WAY!
[Many thanks to Danny Abramowicz for allowing us to use his "775 Challenge Plan" for Lent. Used with permission. Danny is a Catholic men's leader, a popular speaker at Catholic men's conferences, and a former all-pro wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints. Danny is also the author of the popular book, "Spiritual Workout of a Former Saint", which can be ordered from the National Fellowship of Catholic Men at www.catholicmensresources.org/.]