Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in one of Connecticut’s largest news dailies. He holds an MS degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
There is a crisis in our society — a crisis in masculinity. Men need to man-up and save their families and themselves from destruction of not just the physical but the spiritual kind — their very souls.
So emphasizes a wake-up call for men in a new short, challenging and inspiring film called “A Call to Battle — a short film on ‘Society’s Crisis in Masculinity.’” This film on YouTube is another clarion call, like a bugler signaling men to charge into the fray, from the Diocese of Phoenix.
It directly grows out of Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted’s apostolic exhortation to Catholic men released last Sept. 29. He gave it the perfect title: Into the Breach.
In a no-nonsense way, Bishop Olmsted stirringly calls men to become the men God calls them to be. In the exhortation, he says: “Men, do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you, the battle that is wounding our children and families, the battle that is distorting the dignity of both women and men. This battle is often hidden, but the battle is real. It is primarily spiritual…”
He stresses: “Herein lies the fullness of masculinity; each Catholic man must be prepared to give himself completely, to charge into the breach, to engage in spiritual combat, to defend women, children and others against the wickedness and snares of the devil!”
Film Accents the Message
This new short film brings that message home in images and insights from others that should move men’s hearts and minds, and challenge them to courage, to step into the breach at this critical time. And that means ALL men.
We’ve always been called to be soldiers of Christ. Now, as the spiritual battle rages in every quarter, the film and the exhortation from which it grew wants to gather the troops to step into the breach. It’s a manly call to arms.
“Never in the history of humanity has there been so many wives without husbands and children without dads, all because of broken masculinity,” one priest in the film says.
“The man’s responsibility, really, is to be the spiritual leader of the family” and that “has been abdicated,” strongly reminds another man — no one is identified in the film by name because the focus is on the message.
As one title card stresses, this film is a Call to Battle. We’re told “a man first loves sacrificially — by giving, by serving, by protecting.” And in order to do that, we’ve got to build on the rock of the quintessential man — Jesus Christ, who laid down his life for others.
The film and the apostolic exhortation make clear it’s a heroic sacrifice, a self-mastery, which men are to don as a uniform for soul and character. It shares ways how men are called to that sacrifice so that they can then serve and protect others.
Wives, daughters, sons, grandchildren are waiting — waiting for us to be the men God called us to be, one speaker asserts.
Another reminds that the “Church has given us so many weapons to defend ourselves, to defend our families. But we have to use them.” And use them — Mass daily if possible, frequent confession, prayer, and so on — because this is a battle, a monstrous spiritual battle that we can win if only we man up with heaven’s help.
“When Jesus Christ is the operating principle in the male, he works through them,” assures another speaker. “He can penetrate hearts and souls in a way that we cannot do on our own.”
One after another in quick sequence, in a sentence or two, person after person from the age spectrum appears on screen giving these quick bursts of strong advice and encouragement. Stirring music underlines every new thought and revelation.
“I hope men will read Into the Breach so that they can discover the battle that we are engaged in,” concludes a recognizable Bishop Olmsted who courageously calls men to assume their God-given masculine role.
The good bishop reminds me of a Catholic General who not only inspires the men but who leads the charge into the breach.
Can we not help thinking also of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, a Doctor of the Church, a Capuchin of great saintliness and kindness, a saint of miracles whose boundless devotion after the Mass was the Rosary and the Office of the Blessed Virgin? He inspired an army outnumbered nearly 5-to1 to save Christian Hungary.
After the victory of Lepanto, Moslems had conquered a large of Hungary. Called to help, Lawrence felt accountable for victory. In his speech to the army, he not only inspired them with his own confidence, but astride a horse and with crucifix in hand, he led the army which unhesitatingly followed him into the battle.
Despite dangers on every side, he was miraculously not even wounded. In a second battle days later, again he held the crucifix visible to all and cried out, "Forward! Victory is ours."
It was, and everyone credited the victory to Lawrence.
With stirring music, images of happy father with children, family, outdoors, in church, playing, praying, the film ends with words written on the screen — the call to arms Bishop Olmsted made to conclude his exhortation: “Be confident! Be bold! Forward, into the Breach!”