With Andrzej Lewek – the coordinator of the Men of St. Joseph in Poland is talked by Dariusz Dudek.
We have a very good background for today’s conversation with the Men’s Catholic Church – not only this very nice room, but also the place where we are, it is the parish of St. Joseph in Krakow, and more precisely in a room called “Quarries”, where the Men of St. Joseph meet. It is my great pleasure to talk to mr. Andrzej Lewek, who is the leader of this community – good evening!
I am aware that this “Quarry” is not your everyday place of work and life. What do you do on a daily basis?
Normally I am an IT specialist who works in a corporation – full 8 hours every day, so I have something to do – and besides, I look after my family, which, thank God, I have. I have a lovely wife and wonderful children, so this is a great blessing that I experience every day. Additionally, I coordinate the movement called Men of St. Joseph in Poland and also a little in neighboring countries.
The St. Joseph movement did not arise in Poland, as far as I know… Can you explain the beginnings of this community?
In Poland or in the world?
Let’s start with the world and then we’ll slowly emigrate to Poland.
I laugh at it a bit, but to be honest – it must be said straightforward – that the Men of St. Joseph rose from jealousy. In the United States, at the turn of the century, the Promise Keepers movement, which is – or was – a Protestant movement very intensively influenced men throughout the United States, both Protestant and Catholic. And one day the New England bishops asked why there was no Catholic equivalent? Why is there no movement that reaches out to Catholic men and somehow tries to mold men into masculinity in Catholic? They invited the leaders of various communities in the area to encourage and invite them to create a movement for men. And there was Donald Turbitt who thought, “Well… why not St. Joseph?”. On the basis of this conversation, on the basis of this episcopal inspiration, groups of St. Joseph started to arise at parishes in New England. Donald is from Rhode Island, so these communities were mainly formed there, but also affected the surrounding states. And that’s how it started in the United States, 20 years ago or more, I think.
Why Saint Joseph? Why is he the patron? I thought about it a bit – there were no more “active” men? We know only a few sentences from the Scriptures about Saint Joseph, and we know that he was silent – why is he such a good patron for men?
I think this is a very meaningful silence – it is not that he was silent because he had nothing to say. I think that what is special about St. Joseph, is his listening. He really knew how to listen – he could listen to God, he was able to discover His guidance, His voice and he was very determined to fulfill to what God invites him to, what God calls him to do. He had it all in his heart, it was his desire and he realized this desire on a daily basis through his service. Serving the Holy Family, serving his spouse – Mary, serving his adopted son Jesus. I think that this is the attitude of a man who is very sensitive to God’s guidance, to God’s voice, who does not hesitate to say what God calls him to do, to do it, to implement it.
As I understand it, Men of St. Joseph meet here during monthly meetings. But do you also operate in other places in Poland?
Yes. Generally Men of St. Joseph meet – I do not have precise data, but when we counted it 2 years ago for the purpose of the Men Siege of Jasna Góra, it turned out that there were about 80 places in Poland where the Men of St. Joseph gather.
It is customary to speak of the Church – generally, or perhaps especially in Poland – as a female Catholic Church. In one of Donald Turbitt’s statements, I heard that the task of men in the Church is to restore balance. Don’t displace the woman – of course not – just restore balance. What is this balance supposed to look like?
My experience is that every man needs a group of men, he needs a support environment. I know that here I am putting myself at risk to some who say that you go to heaven in pairs, I am responsible for my wife’s salvation, and my wife for my salvation – yes, all this is true, but our experience shows that we are not able in a relationship as husband and wife work through certain things, certain topics.
In order not to look far – such a very masculine problem as chastity – in marriage and in any other state… We did a chastity workshop a few years ago. This holiday workshop was called “A very male holiday” because we focused on a very male problem. We took such a book, a good – admittedly Protestant, but good book – “The Battle of Every Man”, which is about chastity. Of course, we supplemented this book with the Eucharist and adoration as those places where, as men, we regain strength and are able to overcome our sinfulness or our problems in God. This book was so important that many of us read it and we talked a lot about it. And one day one of our colleagues came to the meeting and said, “You know what? I have a problem”. “What problem?” “So yes… my wife also read this book and she came to me and asked:” Andrew, tell me – do you really think like that!?”.
I think to myself that our thinking – the way women think and the way men think – on such a fundamental topic as sexuality and chastity – are radically different. We just think differently and it is very difficult to imagine that my wife can help me on the way to holiness in this subject. Therefore, I believe that we need male relationships and we need a relationship of mutual responsibility where men are not afraid to ask themselves difficult, embarrassing questions about chastity, honesty, work and fatherhood. These are life topics in which the other man can confront me, check how I am doing.
I think this is a key issue, because manhood and masculinity will never be given by a woman, masculinity will never be found for myself, it must be given in some way – there is no better environment than the community of men. Especially when there was no father in someone’s life to do it. I think that the Men of St. Joseph can be a place of acceptance of manhood.
I think we miss the point where we can say we are initiated as men, where we are released to responsibility. I don’t want to complain, but looking at today’s world, I notice that young men grow up in such a place for a very long time, where they are not responsible for anything, and can do everything. When we look at Israel, this is where the man has been responsible for himself to the law from the age of twelve. And it had been happening since the initiation rite, which was the bar mitzvah. We don’t have it. Maybe something like that should be confirmation. Maybe it should be, but it certainly is not, because confirmation, rather than taking responsibility for yourself, is more of releasing yourself from responsibility for your faith. I think we have homework to do here as men, but also as a Church, so that confirmation really frees us from responsibility. I do not know how…
After all, somehow you have to try, to look for, to take some action. How do you act as Men of St. Joseph your daily and year-long work?
I have already talked about the open meetings that have been held here continuously for over a dozen years. On the other hand, the basis and foundation of Men of St. Joseph program is ” 72 Hours to a Resurrected Life “. You may wonder if 72 hours is a lot or not – these are: 3 days which are 72 hours. The average Western man spends 720 hours in front of the TV every year. And this is only the West, because a few years ago the National Broadcasting Council published Polish statistics, which show that the average Pole spends 1,500 hours a year in front of the TV set. When we look at 72 hours, that’s only 5% of the time we waste in front of the TV. Is that a lot? And yet we say that “I don’t have time”, “I can’t afford it”. I think time is a priority. If we don’t put certain things high in our priorities, we’ll surely lose them.
72 hours is the time it took for Jesus to pass through the Passover into his resurrection life. And we are convinced that if we are faithful, giving God 72 hours a year as men, God will give it back to us in the resurrected life in Him. I am convinced that this minimum plan is a plan that is sufficient to experience the resurrection in Jesus.
What is this program about? First, we encourage you to keep an eye on your priorities, that is, what comes first comes first; what is less important always be less important; so that we don’t get lost and say: “well, work is the most important thing, everyone else has to wait.” No, work is not the most important thing, although it is important. So first we keep our priorities, second we invite men to monthly small group meetings – 2 hours a month, this time can be found, this time can be spent. That gives us 24 hours a year. Once a year, we invite men to a one-day conference, which is 6 hours spent together – a good example of such a meeting is the “Men’s Siege of Jasna Góra”, which takes place every year at Jasna Góra and lasts about 6 hours. And once a year, we invite men to experience weekend retreats. That’s 42 hours, of which an average of 16 is sleeping anyway. These are not big requirements and I think we can all afford it. Unfortunately, we tell ourselves that we do not have time for this. So the 72 hour program is such a foundation, therefore these groups that are formed in different places take care of the monthly meeting and sharing in small groups. We have great resources, for example the book “Signposts”, which, based on the word of God and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, guides men through 52 basic topics of our male life.
What are some other forms of our activity? Experience teaches us that when we live the 72 hour program, we have a desire for more. So we create a space where you can find “more”, for example I like active male groups. On some day, usually Saturday, we get together early in the morning to do something stupid together; to experience something together. Recently we were in a cave – it’s a new experience when you go with a disinfector in the cave, so that you don’t accidentally catch some viruses somewhere – but you can! So we went through the cave together; we go fishing together, go to shoot a bow, go climbing… we like hiking in the mountains, we go skiing; we also go to the Camaldolese matins together. It is an amazing experience when on Advent mornings we go at 5:00 am to meet the Camaldolese Fathers for a common liturgical prayer.
So there are a lot of these forms, in fact the only thing that limits us is our imagination, our passions, hobbies, interests, all of these can be transformed into a space for men’s meetings, which opens us very much to talk about God, faith and our male responsibilities.
And if someone wants to fulfill his vocation to be a real man, a father in the Men od St. Joseph group, how can he do this?
The easiest way is to join the Men of St. Joseph which exists at his parish. But not all parishes have such groups – there is a website mezczyzni.net – there is information, there is a map of various male groups, mainly St. Joseph, but not only that, so I think you can find such a community in your parish or in your surroundings. If not, we invite you to establish a new one. We provide materials, we provide formation for leaders, we provide support for groups that already exist, who can come, help: help start something, help also somehow lead this group at least for some time and I encourage you to ask God… because if He calls us to create such a group, initiate it, He will surely lead us to people who will help us. For our part, we declare readiness to support, lead and initiate such a group and in the formation of leaders. We invite you!
Mr. Andrew, thank you very much for our conversation. If someone feels that God is calling him to this community, it is only necessary to do what St. Joseph did – to act and follow God’s voice. Thank you very much!
Thank you very much!