Peter Lemieux stepped into the breach more than 30 years ago and never looked back. His wife, Cynthia, has been beside him the whole way.
That’s because decades before Bishop Olmsted issued his “Into the Breach” apostolic exhortation, Lemieux knew men needed training to become strong, spiritual husbands and fathers. So, he decided to take action. He and his wife teach marriage preparation classes at parishes such as St. Timothy and St. Andrew the Apostle and at the Diocesan Pastoral Center. One thing he tells men is that it’s not unmanly to follow Christ.
“A man just needs to look at a crucifix and understand that wasn’t a sissy — that was a real man,” Lemieux said. “We give medals and prizes to soldiers who jump on grenades to save people. And we should. Those are wonderful men that need to be remembered forever. Well, Christ did that for us. That took courage. It took self-confidence. It took a real man.”
At St. Andrew’s, the men in the marriage prep program were taken aside to study parts of “Into the Breach,” such as the call to heroism and self-discipline. “The call to be a good husband and father is a heroic call,” Lemieux said. “It’s one they respond to.”
And though the culture lauds self-discipline when it comes to losing weight or self-improvement, it’s strangely silent when it comes to sexuality.
“It makes no sense,” Lemieux said. “If we want our children to be properly trained and understand the beautiful gift of our sexuality, mom and dad are the ones that have to show them that. From a man’s point of view, it starts with his self-discipline.”
Lemieux pointed to the military images painted in Bishop Olmsted’s exhortation too.
“If you’re going to go to war, you’ve got to be self-disciplined. You don’t want to be on the battlefront surrounded by people who may or may not be committed or who show up not prepared. It’s very important. And what’s more important than your family?”
Lemieux, who’s been married for 44 years, also works with his wife mentoring couples whose marriages are in trouble. Acknowledging that men often have difficulty in asking forgiveness or saying “I love you,” he’s got some matter-of-fact advice.
“There’s no way around it. If you want to make a dollar, you have to get a job.
If you want to have a good marriage, you have to do the things that make a marriage work,” Lemieux said. Sometimes, that means making a change.
Forgiveness and humility are a key part of making marriage work and the Catholic Church, Lemieux said, provides a wealth of resources through the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation.
He also tells men about a time he and Cynthia were at Sunday Mass. He was annoyed with her. “It was probably something stupid,” Lemieux ventured.
“I prayed, ‘Lord, help me to see her with Your eyes.’ Of course, she’s God’s daughter. And you know something? At the end of Mass I had no idea what I was mad at her about in the first place. No resentment or animosity. I felt fine because God answers prayers,” Lemieux said.
He encourages men to be the spiritual leaders of their home and ponder the legacy they will leave their families one day.
“Did you teach them integrity? Did you teach them honesty? Did you teach them about Jesus? As fathers, we only have a few years to do that. We need to put Christ into our family.”
Marriage, he tells men, isn’t a 50-50 proposition. “That’s divorce,” Lemieux quipped. Marriage is about husband and wife both giving 100 percent plus.
“I’ve never been in the military myself, but I’d hate to be going into battle with a guy who’s in 50 percent. I know it’s not mathematically possible to give more than 100 percent but you’ve got to give that in marriage,” Lemieux said.