The following article was published in the June 2019 edition of Faith: West Tennessee. I am grateful to that publication for allowing me a platform to write about fostering real masculinity in our world today.
A 2008 survey on religion in America revealed something disheartening: “Less than half of Catholic men (48%) feel that ‘religion is very important in their lives.’” I wonder what that statistic is now, more than a decade later. No matter the year, that statistic definitely indicates a crisis in faith and masculinity. Even the current scandal and crisis that racks the Church in the United States is, in part, a crisis of understanding what true masculinity is and living out that understanding in a healthy, holy way.
The reality is that we value, we pay attention to, we worship, the things that we feel make a difference in our lives. We are created with a need to worship. Every man worships something, even if it isn’t the Judeo-Christian God of biblical revelation. It might be his retirement account. It might be a sports team, or a dream of future athletic prowess for his children. It might be sex, even pornography. It might be a house. It might be a political party or candidate.
It is a crisis indeed when more than half of Catholic men (52%) feel that those things make a bigger difference in their lives than the Catholic faith makes. We need to help men realize why faith, specifically the Catholic faith, is the reality that makes the most, the greatest difference in their lives.
Pope Francis has taught us that faith is “light for our way,” a light that opens up “vast horizons which guide us beyond our isolated selves” (Lumen Fidei, no. 4). There is no more important point that men need to recognize and achieve. Men are given the mission go out of themselves and care for the people God has placed in their path. This means their wives and children, for sure, but it also means their co-workers and neighbors. Men are servants and stewards before all else.
Service and stewardship are the only things that will bring men (or any of us, for that matter) to true and abiding happiness. They are the things that make the biggest difference in men’s lives. A man will never be satisfied by created things of lesser value, not sports championships, not ever-growing bank accounts, not sensual pleasures of food, alcohol, or sex. Still, we men try to substitute these things, thinking that they will bring us to ultimate satisfaction. Instead, we must face our own flaws and shortcomings, hand those over to the Lord, and be ready to let Him change our hearts into hearts for service and stewardship.
In order to begin or continue this process, I offer a month-long challenge for all men reading this article.
- Make at least ten minutes for prayer every day. Learn the Examen prayer of St. Ignatius, pray a decade of the Rosary, or just sit in silence listening for God’s voice and direction. These are the ways that the Holy Spirit will enter into your soul.
- Regardless of your weekly schedule, make Sunday Mass your top priority. Beyond that, prepare for Mass each week by spending a few minutes with the Scripture readings. Finally, discuss one thing that God gave to you during Mass with your family or a friend.
- Get to Confession sometime during this month. Make it a good Confession, even if that means making an appointment with the priest, so you can dive a little deeper. Get clean. Get back into right relationship with God.
- If you’re married, have at least one conversation each week with your wife about faith. For at least 15 minutes, put away phones and tablets and turn off the television. Share an insight that you had during prayer or from the Mass readings. Ask her how she would like to grow in her faith; and ask her if she sees ways that you can grow. Conversation leads to communion, and there is no more important human communion than communion between spouses.
Taking up these four habits for thirty days will help each of us realize that faith does make a lasting difference in our lives, and we will become better for all those who we are called to serve in this life. The only way to overcome the other scandals and crises that are affecting the Church these days is to begin by working to overcome the crises of faith and masculinity. Let’s get to it, men!