Sometimes I look in the mirror and have grave doubts about my decision: I’ve joined a Catholic men’s group. What’s more, it’s an American one – in Texas, no less – and this stirs a deep-rooted fear that I’ve become ensnared in some sort of Evangelical Bible study.

What have I become? Hanging out with a bunch of mostly much older men – some literally greybeards – and talking God is not what drew me here. The America I came looking for was the sexy, glamorous one of Raymond Chandler’s hardboiled detective novels.

But there’s no getting away from how the discussion group has proven surprisingly enlightening. For one, I’ve been reminded that older white men aren’t all bad – despite mainstream media depicting them as responsible for the world’s ills – and can even be a source of wise advice for younger men flailing around with that ultimate conundrum laid out in the film Alfie by Michael Caine: “What’s it all about?”

The group has also provided a means to reconnect with the theology and philosophy of my youth, which I always relished (I went to Ampleforth).

Each Friday we gather after early morning Mass – again, another source of self-conscious unease: what would my friends say? – to read a short text with religious relevance accompanied by five questions that the group delves into.

During Lent up to 10 men turned up. Since then it’s dropped to around six, though the reduction in numbers hasn’t reduced the meaningful reflections on words from the likes of CS Lewis, GK Chesterton and more modern religious teachers such as Bishop Robert Barron.

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