Many men today don't feel they have any real support when it comes to dealing with the pressures of daily life, and especially when their marriages become challenging. For some years now, several hundred men from every corner of the United Kingdom have been attending Weekends Away For Men, organised by Harvesters, a national network set up to address the spiritual needs of Catholic men and other Christian men who come looking for help. The weekends run from Friday evening through to mid afternoon on the Sunday and include Eucharist, sport (at a range of levels for those who want to participate), lots of time for relaxation - and of course a bar! They are mostly attended by men who, in the past, have experienced being in small groups or new life in the Holy Spirit. Any man eighteen or over is welcome. This year's weekends are being run from 7 to 9 July at Mount St Mary's College, Spinkhill near Sheffield and from 14 to 16 July at Woldingham Park, Surrey, two of England's top Catholic independent schools set in picturesque country settings. This year's principal theme is: 'Men United FC... For Christ' and speakers include Fr Pat Collins - author and senior lecturer from All Hallow's, Dublin, and Gary McCormick from BBC's The Monastery. Seminars will be offered on topics such as: Life in the Spirit; Opening The Scriptures; Sex & Pornography; Stress & Anger Management; Growing In Prayer; Christian Leadership; Making Choices; Personal Loss/Beginning Experience; Husbands & Wives United; Preparing for Reconciliation; Vatican II, and Anointing for Service. James Parker, one of the principal organisers, is particularly enthused about this summer's weekends. He said: "We have a larger number of specialised seminars being offered than in previous years to help address some of the many challenges that face men at the beginning of the twenty-first century. More than ever today men need to be supported - and to know they are supported - as fathers, husbands, as heads of homes and members of the workforce. "With the pressures on many men today, never before have we each needed good friends around us with whom we can talk, share and pray when life becomes tough. These weekends, and the regional men's groups that meet throughout the year, seek to address this need." So what do men who have attended the weekends say about them? "These weekends make me a better man, a better father, and a better husband - and my wife agrees!" says Stuart, a father of three small children from Birmingham. Aidan, who has attended the weekends with his father, said: "I have never felt so close to God as at these weekends. The effects have changed my life." One man's wife was quick to comment about the effects of last year's weekend on her husband: "I can see how much the men's weekend helped my husband, and in particular how it brought great healing to him. The effects have been more apparent as time has progressed. I can see that it took sharing with other men to help him really ask God for the reassurance and peace he has been searching for. I am sad that as his wife I couldn't have helped him more with his spiritual journey. There is something special about being in the company of other Christian men with a strong faith which has helped my husband, and that there are some situations where only other men can really help men." One young man in his early twenties, on attending his first weekend, came away saying: "From my early childhood I had a very turbulent relationship with my father. I resented his authority and very often rebelled against it, which led to problems with my seeing God the Father as a kind, caring and loving father rather than an authoritarian dictator. But over this weekend Jesus has helped me to take steps to lead me back to my earthly father and my heavenly Father." "This is my first year at one of these men's weekends" another man related. "I had been thinking of attending for some years but had kept putting it off. I had a huge burden lifted from me at the weekend and can only say thank you to God for what these weekends and men's groups are achieving." Men from all over Scotland, England and Wales attend. Some decide to come alone. Some bring a friend. Others may bring their son, or their father. Whatever the decision, every adult male is welcome. For further information visit: www.harvesters.org.uk , e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org - or phone 07946 023127.
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