The Importance of Fraternity
"Man, created to live in the image and likeness of God, is called to unity..."
Man, created to live in the image and likeness of God, is called to unity, for God himself is eternally a unity of persons, the Trinity. As Christian men, we belong to something much bigger than ourselves: the body of Christ. Somehow, we’ve forgotten this in our culture and replaced the good of fraternity with the fairytale of the self-made man.
We are at our best when we are surrounded by men who are encouraging us, admonishing us, and hoping for us that we might be uncommonly free men. No businessman, no athlete, no great pastry chef ever achieved their greatness on their own they needed others to help hone their skills. This is what fraternity is. As the book of Proverbs says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). On the simplest level, Exodus is meant to be just that: men journing together as the People of God, becoming who they are.
"They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers." (Acts 2:42)
Exodus Men who speak of the freedom they were able to experience during their spiritual exercises consistently give abundant credit to the great fraternity they built along the way. The men who have set time aside for fraternity, regularly report how they have become a greater source of grace to their families. This should be no surprise. God values families. His roadmap to freedom is not made to hinder family or community life, but to bring greater grace to it.
As much as you desire freedom, recall that these exercises are not for you alone. They are for your friends, your family, the Church, and your brothers. Don’t allow selfish thoughts to hinder the success God wants to give you. Be ready to make sacrifices for your fraternity, just as Christ made sacrifices for you. Commit to an uncommon freedom for yourself and for your brothers. Commit to your fraternity. Do your part to make your fraternity a committed band of brothers.
What is an Anchor?
“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)
As veteran rock-climbers and mountaineers know, some of the most breathtakingly worthwhile views can only be reached with the use of ropes and solid anchors. A climber or mountaineer’s life often hangs by a rope that relies completely on the weight-bearing strength of an anchor he sets during his ascent or descent. Without solid, well-set, anchors, many climbs would be impossible.
"We cannot ascend to the heights of freedom on our own"
We cannot ascend to the heights of freedom on our own—we have proven this repeatedly to ourselves and to others. Within your fraternity, each man should pair up with a brother. This particular brother is now your anchor, and you are his. If there is an odd number, make it a group of three. No one should attempt this ascent without an anchor. “Climbing without proper anchors is foolish...”
As your brother’s anchor, your commitment to him will include checking in with him daily; a simple message or brief phone call can work great. You are also committed to praying for, encouraging, and admonishing your anchor throughout the exercise.
If one of you is struggling, let the other anchor know. You are there to support each other. To do this, you need to be responsible and honest.
How Many Men Should I Have in My Fraternity?
Each fraternity should have 6-8 men. This is based on studies of how the number of men in a small group impacts the effectiveness of the group. Yes, you can have less than 6, but 4 is about as small as a group should be. Yes, you can have more than 9 but more than 9 men starts to get too large. At that size, a group should consider splitting into two smaller, tighter-knit, fraternities.
It continues to surprise me how connected Exodus Men feel to each other even when they are not in the same fraternity. There is something significant, something unitive, about making this bold journey that unites men. Suffering together simply has that effect, especially when it is for as good of a reason as salvation.
How Do I Find Men for My Fraternity?
Ask God where to find your brothers, and then you will go and intentionally ask them. In your church, your workplace, your club, your family, or your favorite bar, wherever the Lord is calling you to find your brothers, go there and make the invitation.
If the Lord is calling you to do something, he will provide the grace to bring it to completion. Is he calling you to take up an Exodus spiritual exercise? If so, he will provide brothers to do it with. This may mean he is offering you the grace of courage to make personal and intentional invitations to men in your life. Some men that you know well, and some you might not know as well. If so, respond to his grace, trust the Lord, and follow him to greater freedom.
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Strengthen Your Fraternity
Here are three proven recommendations for strengthening your fraternity:
1) Consider scheduling a weekly fraternity holy hour. Your daily prayer time can be done on your own, but coming into the presence of the Lord as a fraternity has a mysterious unifying effect, even as each man prays silently on his own. It is worth scheduling a weekly fraternity holy hour, even if not everyone is able to attend every week. And if your circumstances as a fraternity allow for a daily holy hour together, all the better.
2) Go to confession regularly. Regular confession every few weeks (at a minimum, once per month) is a great way to renew your brotherly bonds, both with your fraternity and with Christ.
3) Attend one extra Mass each week. “The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’” If Exodus Men want to discover the real influence of the Eucharist in their lives, let them commit to the holy reception of Christ at least one more day each week. “For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself” (CCC 1324). Past Exodus fraternities have found that attending an extra Mass each week worked best when a consistent day of the week was chosen. Many fraternities paired their weekly Mass with their fraternity holy hour before or after Mass.
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