The Catholic Church needs Godly men — as does the family, which St. Joseph reminds us.
“Like St. Joseph, all men are called — as friends, and husbands, and fathers — to lead, to act, to form and to protect. And to do these things, all men, like St. Joseph, must be men of prayer,” wrote Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., in a column to celebrate Jesus’ earthly father’s March 19 feast day.
Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted’s recent letter “Into the Breach,” which Bishop Conley’s op-ed referenced, illustrates the importance of male participation in religious and family life. The Catholic Men’s Fellowship conference on Feb. 6 in Phoenix discussed these important topics, too.
Bishop Olmsted discusses how artificial contraception and pornography have deeply wounded men, along with their families, ultimately exhorting men to go into spiritual battle.
Because male participation is so critical, bringing men into the Church inspires the ministries of author Dan McGuire, Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers (who was a speaker at the Phoenix conference) and Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Ore.
McGuire, an associate professor of theology at the University of Great Falls in Montana, is the author of Marching Orders: A Tactical Plan for Converting the World to Christ.
He said that to be a man is to “be a guardian and protector for my family, to be a leader in terms of faith.” He traces the current crisis of masculinity to a third generation of fatherless families, as well as how few men attend church.
In addition, modern life plays a role. As McGuire commented, “The culture is about subverting the family.”
In contrast, fathers should combat that: “Fathers teach how to be men, what to look for in a man.”
He said that the rejection of Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae (The Regulation of Birth), along with pornography, are significant aspects of this subversion. He said that the culture usually portrays men as perpetual adolescents or as wimpy.
McGuire has read Bishop Olmsted’s “Into the Breach” and said the bishop’s analysis of the crisis of masculinity is spot-on.
“Men have been spectacularly absent,” McGuire said. “We need to present faith as an adventure, a challenge. The stern, demanding face of Christ is absent [in many men’s lives].”
Deacon Burke-Sivers, a speaker and author from the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., published Behold the Man last September. Like McGuire, he believes that pornography and the culture of contraception have damaged men and the culture in general. “It has made men timid,” Deacon Burke-Sivers said. “Adam was put in the Garden to protect and defend.”
“The Word became flesh — physical manhood,” he added. “We need to pay attention to the Word of God, have an Emmaus experience that invites us into relationship [with Christ].”
On the crisis of masculinity, Archbishop Sample said, “Men have been marginalized.”
“Men have been pushed to the sidelines in their faith, [but] they are to be spiritual leaders in their homes and families,” he said. “They have no vision of who they are called to be … [but] men have a unique role as spiritual leaders. They need to step out, man up. It means sacrifice.”
Archbishop Sample also spoke of how gender ideology has been very damaging and how Pope Francis is critical of it. Gender is “what we receive from the hand of the Creator. (Gender ideology) is about erasing all sexual difference and complementarity. It’s not respecting the natural order. It has an effect on young people who are very impressionable.”
McGuire remains hopeful: “Our diocese has a lot of younger priests reaching out,” he said. “This needs to come from laymen, permanent deacons, with men taking on a leadership role,” in order to build up and mentor the men in their parish communities.
McGuire sees civilization built on the family, with “men and women performing their roles properly. When the family suffers, the culture suffers.”
To attract men to the treasures of the Church, McGuire said, “We need to present discipleship as a challenge, an adventure — to slay the dragon [of sin].”
On his own writing, McGuire said, “I hope to present a religious practice that’s not all group hugs or bubblegum. This [Massgoing] isn’t just a woman’s concern, [with] men sitting in the car reading the paper while the family goes to Mass.”
As a former Marine, McGuire said he’s instilling in men that “this is the war you were baptized into. It’s about the strategies and tactics as a warrior. … It’s about telling men to grow up and stop hiding from the role, to stop feeling sorry for themselves. This is your job; go do it. I was in the infantry. I’m a blunt instrument.”
McGuire’s book follows the format of military orders as a Marine. It follows the steps of a mission, using St. John Paul words, “Family, become what you are.” Next, McGuire gives a situation (intelligence analysis), mission statement, execution, obstacle-breaching plan, administration and logistics, and then a command and signal. He said that the two major obstacles to men growing in the spiritual life are misunderstood human sexuality and the fear of being perceived as judgmental.
In his book, Deacon Burke-Sivers uses the topics of theology of the body, fatherhood and work, as well as St. Paul’s description of the armor of God in Ephesians 6, to explain what’s at stake.
He said, “Men aren’t being challenged firmly and directly. It’s about telling them to go to Mass rather than watch football. Lots of men think they only have to be ‘good people’ to go to heaven. Men have to be priests in the home. It’s about standing up to contraception, cohabitation and porn.”
The deacon, who regularly appears on EWTN, grew up in a fatherless home after his parents divorced. His godfather, scoutmaster, the monks who ran his high school and his wrestling coach were his mentors, showing him what true manhood looks like.
“Young boys need men in their lives,” he stressed. “A woman can’t teach a boy to be a man.”
He continued, “Men have to have each other’s backs, the support of other Godly men.”
“The family is the center and heart of civilization,” he stressed. “A good marriage is of one man and one woman. The family is the most-pressing issue [in society]: not immigration, not climate change. We need to step up to live our faith with passion.”
Archbishop Sample has local initiatives for men, men’s conferences and ministries still in development in order to help men live their God-given role. He said, “God creates male and female; the male contribution to culture is vitally important. Men should be confident in who they are as men. The Church offers a beautiful vision of being in the image and likeness of God. Truth is truth; the Church has it right.”
The archbishop considers St. John Paul II’s theology of the body helpful for men in particular. “As a priest for 25 years, I’ve been friends with married couples. When men understand the theology of the body, they have respect and reverence for women, and there’s spiritual growth. It’s a powerful transformation for men.”
Anna Abbott writes from Napa, California.