“Anthony” is like many Catholic men, a husband and father who wants to be the best person he can be for his family. But unfortunately, like many Christian men (as research shows), he also has a problem with pornography.
Research conducted over the past 10 years indicates that such news shouldn’t come as a surprise. A nationwide study conducted in 2014 by Proven Men Ministries, a nonprofit Christian organization aimed at helping men with an addiction to pornography, found approximately 64 percent, or nearly two-thirds, of U.S. men admit to viewing porn at least monthly — with the number of Christian men viewing it nearly equaling the national average. When divided by age, nearly eight out of 10 (79 percent) of men between the ages of 18 and 30 view pornography at least monthly, and two-thirds (67 percent) of men between the ages of 31 and 49 view pornography at least monthly. One-half of men between ages 50 and 68 look at porn monthly.
Watching porn can cause these effects:
• Creates emotional bond with artificial world
• Causes feelings of emptiness, low self-esteem and deep loneliness
• Grows emotionally disconnected from wife and deadens the marriage bond
• Alters view of sex, making sex all about the body, and not about intimacy
• Trains the brain to seek immediate gratification in all areas of life
• Develops a spiral of selfishness where the person ignores his spouse’s needs and is focused only on getting what he wants
• Leads to neglecting family and social obligations
• Creates financial problems, decreases motivation, increases laziness
Sadly, many faithful, loving, goodhearted men are struggling right now with pornography, masturbation and other sexual sins. The difference with Anthony is that he’s doing something about it, thanks in part to the St. Augustine Men’s Group — a group that operates in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Nevertheless, as with any struggle, but most especially pornography, the journey can be a long, painful, secretive and shameful one.
“One of the earliest memories I have of pornography is seeing dirty magazines at my friend’s house while growing up. Back then no one had access to the internet, but because of the society in which we live, I was still not protected from being constantly bombarded with sexual images elsewhere. I have always considered myself a faithful Catholic but this was one area where I struggled to follow the Church’s moral teaching even though I understood and agreed with it. Any time I had thoughts about how bad my habitual sin was, I would suppress them. I would lie to myself about how ‘this will be my last time, and then I’ll stop for good,’ or ‘you can’t possibly resist, so why even try?’”
During his past years of struggle, Anthony said, he had heard about the Saint Augustine Men’s Group on Redeemer Radio.
“I thought to myself that I should attend, but how could I? I would have to tell my wife about my addiction, and I knew I couldn’t do that (or so I thought). Instead, I kept my secret in the dark … right where the devil wanted it to be, hidden and isolated. In the time leading up to my wife finding out, our relationship was becoming more and more distant. The more we struggled to connect emotionally, the more I was tempted to sin. Naturally, this lead to a downward spiral that nearly destroyed our marriage. This all came to a head the day she caught me in sin. I can’t remember a worse moment in my life. Little did I know that this moment would be the greatest turning point I had ever experienced. I decided right then that I was done giving in to this temptation and that I wanted out of the darkness.
“Although she considered throwing me out of the house, my faithful wife made the decision that she would stand by me and help my recovery. She did this even though she was hurt very badly by my sinful actions. Soon after, I was crying in the confessional, making the most contrite confession of my entire life, after which I felt the grace of the Holy Spirit working in me like never before. My wife and I began a new practice of praying together every day, which we had never managed to do in the past. I began praying the rosary nearly every day, asking Our Lady to heal my life and draw me closer to her Son.
It was also at this time that he started to attend the Saint Augustine Men’s Group meetings.
“I was scared to go to the first meeting, but the fear did not last long. The format of the meetings is very supportive. Talking with the fellow members, I was able to learn about helpful resources that are available to assist men like me to recover. Father Ben Muhlenkamp’s advice, the group’s book of daily meditations, and Covenant Eyes software have been key to my recovery. Attending the meetings keeps light shining on the darkness of this sin. With the sacrament of reconciliation being available at some meetings, I have been able to joyfully receive the graces of that sacrament every several weeks instead of the yearly schedule that I had tried to keep in the past.
“So far, by the grace of God and the help of my amazing wife and some true friends, I have not fallen to this sin since my turning point where God’s light put an end to Satan’s darkness. I have strength to resist temptation that I did not think was possible before. My wife and I have the relationship of newlyweds and we are drawing closer with each passing day. Mary is leading me ever closer to her Son, as promised. I encourage all men struggling with sexual sin to join us in putting an end to it, living the life you’ve dreamed of, free from the shackles, to enter into a deeper spiritual connection with God, and to be open to His amazing grace.”
Break through the darkness
Someone struggling with pornography, masturbation or any number of other sexual sins should not be afraid, for he is not alone.
One might feel shame, despair, discouraged or frustrated that he cannot overcome this. And he can’t – alone. But the men of the Saint Augustine Men’s Group are on the journey with him. There is no judgment. There is no ridicule. The men trust one another when they share and as they listen.
It’s a safe place for men who are struggling, but who are seeking to be renewed in mind and heart through fellowship, prayer and the sacraments. Bring your sin, your pain, your desire for change to the light, so God can renew and transform your life.
The Saint Augustine Men’s Group meets twice a month in Fort Wayne and in South Bend. The gatherings are anonymous, so what is said there, stays there.
Anthony hasn’t been the only man helped by the Saint Augustine Men’s Group, there are many more. To learn more, visit www.staugustinefwsb.org.
Biblical sources of strength
What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I concur that the law is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.
Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”
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