Behold the Man
A Catholic Vision of Male Spirituality
By Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, with a foreword by Archbishop Alexander Sample
Ignatius Press, 2015
296 pages, $18
To order: EWTNRC.com
This book appears at a timely moment, in this Year of Mercy (and this week’s release of the post-synodal exhortation by Pope Francis on family life).
Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers — a graduate of the University of Notre Dame who holds a graduate degree from the University of Dallas; he is considered by many to be one of the best Catholic preachers from the pulpit, as well as on radio and television, including EWTN — has written a highly readable and very practical book for men seeking an authentically Catholic male spirituality. As a bonus, Archbishop Alexander Sample of the Portland (Ore.) Archdiocese has contributed a long and excellent foreword.
Deacon Burke-Sivers draws from Scripture and the teaching of the Church to encourage men both to “man up” as the heads of their families and share their faith in their households and in their marketplaces.
Deacon Burke-Sivers roots Catholic male spirituality in the covenant relationship with God. Although all of us, male and female, are called to take up our crosses and follow Christ, modeling our lives on Jesus, in a particular way men are presented with Christ as the perfect example of how Christian manhood is to be lived.
Anyone picking up this volume should be prepared for a very sobering analysis of what ails modern culture, both inside and outside of the Church.
Deacon Burke-Sivers provides examples of the low state of popular culture and also the effect of the lack of deep and unapologetic commitment to faith on the part of many Catholic men.
Referencing a study that shows that if the father does not attend Mass regularly, only a small percentage of his children are likely to as adults, he challenges men to take a leadership role in living and passing on the faith. Also be prepared for what is ultimately a hopeful picture of men putting on the armor of faith, hope and charity in a meaningful and serious way.
This book should most certainly be read by those approaching marriage, as well as those already married. Women should also want to place this book in the hands of the husbands, brothers and sons in their lives, because it provides them with the roadmap to become the men they should be (and reminds them to stop and ask for directions if they become lost along the way!).
As St. Paul counseled the men he converted to Christianity at Ephesus, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved he Church and handed himself over for her.” After all, Jesus Christ is the ultimate model of manhood, and he laid down his life on Calvary and also in countless acts of service to those around him.
Authentic male spirituality, then, has to make room for similar sacrificial love by men, especially toward the women in their lives and the children who look up to them and rely on their protection.
Only in this way will marriage and family be able to win the world for Christ and his Church.
Opus Dei Father C.J. McCloskey is a non-resident
research fellow of the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington.