It’s tough to be a Catholic man these days. It’s an uphill battle, and secular society tries to trip us up throughout. Every day I go out into the world I encounter a culture that engages men with sexual sin and meaningless violence, a culture that tries to tear down any sort of chivalry and honor men have left, and a culture that preaches moral indifference all the while. Manhood is no longer viewed as the sacred and uniquely defining element of our nature that it is. So often the typical man as portrayed by your average commercial seems to be interested in little more than sports, beer, and sex — and keeping his involvement with all three under the radar of that dreaded authoritarian figure known as “The Wife.” Fatherhood is depicted as an annoying ”side effect” of marriage, one which consists mainly of buying things for your children to make up for your lack of an authentic relationship with them. And priests – forget it! Militant secular media likes to paint all priests and religious as either outright child molesters or men with social anxiety disorders fighting to “supress” their sexuality. With this kind of bile permeating American society, it’s no surprise we are facing a crisis of manhood!
Let’s face it, folks. Sometimes, living the good life as a young Catholic guy can seem so taxing, pointless, or even altogether hopeless. Is it worth it when secular society is only interested in mocking you or destroying you? Well, in short…yes. It most certainly is. But we’re only human, and it’s hard to stand up against all this by ourselves. I have encountered more than a few men who are stuck in this rut, either too afraid or too depressed to move out of it. And that’s precisely why I’m convinced we need good friends and Christian solidarity now more than ever. Men, we need brotherhood. Real brotherhood. That’s what I want to talk about with this post. Think of it as my plea for help from you, my brother Catholics: How can we get on the same page and help each other be good Catholic men? I’m going to try to answer that with a couple of brief but practical suggestions.
First, we’ve got to be warriors. Realize that this world is literally a battlefield between forces of good and evil. Out of His infinite love for us, God has given us the gift of free will so that we may choose to embrace Him as our Father on our own accord. But when we choose to turn away from God, we create the void we call evil. Keep in mind, the devil and his fallen angels are not mere fairy tales! They are very real spirits who prowl about trying to trick us or seduce us into turning away from God as they have done. And believe me, the devil knows just what to do to make men stumble. He knows that with just a click of a mouse or a drive down the street a man can choose to turn away from his Creator in sin, and he thrives off this by using every opportunity he can to catch us off guard. As men, we have to identify our individual weaknesses and lean on God to overcome temptations. Men can help each other do this by encouraging each other in the good fight and the quest to be Christ-like. Knowing that you are not alone in the fight against temptation is a powerful source of strength and inspiration. Friendships should always foster virtue and appropriate levels of accountability. We should be working as a team to avoid even the near occasion of sin as best we can. Furthermore, we have the ability to make hope known to each other actively in times of desperation. Sometimes after falling prey to temptation repeatedly we begin to doubt or loathe ourselves and we are further tempted just to give it all up. But brothers help each other get back up and get on the road no matter what a man has done, because there is always hope in Christ.
Second, we’ve got to be gentlemen. A significant part of avoiding temptation and being a virtuous man is always striving to look at others with purity. Guys, you know exactly what I mean! God made us a certain way. He gave us the ability and the desire to ignite a pure and powerful fire in our hearts, our minds, and bodies – but only in the proper, sacred context. The devil will try to lure you into using this force for lust and gluttony. Again, this is why we need a sense of accountability amongst ourselves. We should always be encouraging each other to relate to others and look upon them in total purity, trying to emulate the kind of total love Christ had for every human being by avoiding objectification. This means avoiding certain types of humor and governing what kinds of movies we watch or actions in which we engage with great prudence. It means actively monitoring how we view and treat others. Did a good-looking woman catch your eye? Thank God for such beauty! Pray that all such recognition of beauty directs you to our Creator before all else. And look, if this means you’ve got to change the crowd you’ve been hanging out with lately then take courage and do so, because impure conversation leads to impure thoughts and actions. Besides, eternal salvation is so much more valuable than being “one of the guys.” Men, this also means fostering that special sense of gentlemanly respect we reserve for women. Watch what you do and say around them. Modern society’s talk of gender equality aside, we all know that women and men are not the same, so don’t treat them like they are. Treat men like men and women like women! You can start by polishing up your grandfather’s etiquette skills: open doors for the ladies, give up your seat in a crowded place, maybe put off the cussing when a lady is present. You get the point. I think the devil hates it when we strive to live in a consciously pure and chivalrous manner like this.
Lastly, we’ve got to be holy. I’ve really emphasized how weak we men are in this article so far because I think this is very important for us to recognize. We need to know that only through God can we stay on the right path. Only through His grace can we escape from the devil’s snares. We can’t fight this fight alone. As brothers, we can help each other realize this by not being ashamed to engage in common prayer, to frequent Mass and confession regularly, and to spend time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as regularly as our schedules allow. Secular society and its adherents today very often deride the man of prayer and holiness as being somehow weak or superstitious. Often, even men that come from a religious background view prayer as sort of an unmanly thing. This is far from the truth! Just look at the twelve apostles. These guys were made up of rough fishermen and tax collectors and the like, but their relationship with Christ led them to become men of profound faith and reverence. Just like them, we need to be engaged in active dialogue with God, and it is especially important that we encourage each other do just that – to dwell in God’s presence and become men of prayer and lovers of sanctity.
In Mark 2, we see a great illustration of real brotherhood. It’s one of my favorites. Jesus was teaching in a crowded home when a group of men lowered their crippled friend through the roof to reach this Messiah everyone was talking about. Well we all know how the story ends: The man’s faith in Christ healed him. But I’ve always wondered how it started out. What wonderful friends the crippled man must have had to do that for him. They did the best possible thing one friend can do for another: They brought their friend to Jesus! We could really stand to learn something from this, guys.
Look, I’ll wrap this up. We are in a spiritual and cultural war and it’s time for us to start fighting back as a team. Remember, culture is a conversation. We can’t just abdicate our moral responsibility to engage in that conversation. All of us, young and old, need to pursue our call to authentic manhood; we must be soldiers of Christ and brothers in Christ. Savvy?Tags » holiness, life, manhood
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