03 Mar Stand, Men of the West!
In the world today we are facing a crisis of masculinity. The radical feminist movement has created a situation where men are being devalued and relegated to the outskirts of society. All that is feminine is celebrated, and, in a sense, glorified, but the beauty of masculinity, the creative strength which God gave to men, is seen as oppressive and aggressive.
I would like to take some time to share some reflections of Pope St. John Paul II on masculinity and the need for men to become leaders in the family, Church and society again. Nothing that I say here is meant to degrade women or lessen their dignity. John Paul II, in other places, devotes a lot of time to discussing the feminine genius which I will discuss in another post. This post is for the men.
Throughout history every great civilization has been characterized by great leaders who shaped the people and world around them in amazing ways. Some examples are Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope St. Gregory the Great, and many more. These great men were only able to achieve what they did because they recognized the creative strength which God gave to men. Greatness can be defined as follows:
“Greatness is found ultimately in a largeness of soul which is expressed exteriorly in a way that exceeds the ordinary in order to inspire and lead others.” – Dr. Jared Staudt, Become the Leader You Were Meant To Be
What all these great leaders had was character, an interior strength of being that served to guide and direct their actions in the world. Without the interior greatness which character provides, exterior greatness is impossible. In order to cultivate interior greatness a strong spiritual life is necessary. So to sum up, all men are called to greatness, but we can only be great if we have a strong spiritual life that is expressed exteriorly in order to inspire and lead others.
John Paul II, in a reflection on the story of the rich young man in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 19:16-22) says that fallen men are characterized by a certain male arrogance and a lack of willingness to give of ourselves. He says “we have a spirit of conquest or domination in the various spheres of life” and we may be tempted to see religion as more of a woman’s affair. He says we are “more at home in the role of Nicodemus who only recognized Jesus at night when no one else would notice.” Our spirituality is “characterized by a fear of what others might think” and we have “a tendency to take everything from Christ in a spirit of conquest, but turn away when he asks us to give.”
In the above quotes John Paul II outlines the problems with the current status of men. He laments this situation and says this type of “male Catholicism is not interior or deep enough…we men do not have a deep enough interior life.” He goes on to say that “Christ said to go out and teach so teach.” This is not meant for bishops and priests only, but all men are called to teach in their families, with their friends and in their communities. All of us are called to share the Gospel with those we meet.
Christ’s conversation with the rich young man ends with Christ saying “sell all that you have, give to the poor and come follow me.” John Paul II tells us that this is an offer and a challenge. Christ is encouraging the young man to leave behind everything he has and knows in order to live a life of service to others. At the core of every man’s heart is the desire to give of himself in service to others but our possessions, fears, and insecurities often prevent us from going out becoming all that God created us to be.
The Church is at a crossroads in the modern world, especially in Western Europe and North America. We are being attacked on all sides. There are enemies within the Church and all around the Church. Every aspect of Christian life is being striped away by a secular society which is characterized by selfishness, pleasure seeking, and a radical feminism which seeks to destroy the distinctions between what is masculine and what is feminine in a misguided quest for equality. The antidote to the crisis we face is strong men who make examples of themselves by giving of themselves in service to their families. St. Paul tells us in his Letter to the Ephesians the mission of every man when he says “husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Or in the words of John Paul II “it is the duty of every man to uphold the dignity of every woman.”
When God created Adam we are told that God placed him in the garden to till and keep it (Genesis 2:15). In Hebrew, the words used are “Adodah” which means “to care for or cultivate” and “Shamar” which means “to guard or protect.” Thus, the original task of Adam was to care for the garden and to guard and protect it. In Genesis 3 we see him failing in his task of protecting the garden by allowing his wife, Eve, to be confronted by the Enemy. When Satan approached Eve, Adam should have stepped in to protect his wife, even if that meant sacrificing his life, but he was afraid because the serpent, in Hebrew “Nahash” which means “dragon” or “large venomous creature”, was a fearsome creature. So Adam allowed his fear to overwhelm him and he did not even try to defend his wife. He failed to fulfill his God-given task. We often think that Eve was the one who is most responsible for the fall but both Adam and Eve played a role in the fall. Adam failed to defend Eve and Eve failed to trust God and instead listened to the lies of the serpent.
Christ, the New Adam, became a man to make up for the sin of the first Adam. He provides us with an example of what it means to guard and protect your bride. Christ died on the Cross for the sins of all of us. Everyone who is baptized is a member of the Church, which is known as the bride of Christ, or the New Eve. So Jesus did what the the first Adam failed to do. He gave his life to defend His Bride, the Church, from the lies of Satan. Christ confronted the Enemy in battle and won the greatest victory the world has ever known. And he is calling each man to follow him into battle against the Enemy. We are in the midst of a culture war; a battle between the culture of death and the culture of life. We have been assured the victory through the death and resurrection of Christ, but we must take up arms in this struggle, and fight for our families and for our beliefs. We must stand strong against those who want to destroy all that is great and beautiful in the world.
Jesus, speaking to St. Faustina, a Polish nun, said “always fight with the deep conviction that I am with you. I will not delude you with prospects of peace and consolations – on the contrary, prepare for great battles. Know that you are now on a great stage where all Heaven and Earth are watching you. Fight like a knight, so that I can reward you. Do not be unduly fearful, because you are not alone.” Diary of St. Faustina No. 1760.
The Lord of the Rings is my favourite story of all time because Tolkien showed how the struggle between good and evil plays out in the world. Sauron, the Dark Lord, is the perfect representation of Satan as he is determined to conquer the whole world and cover it all in darkness. He wants to destroy all that is light and beautiful and turn it into a dark wasteland like Mordor. He does not even allow the sun to shine in Mordor and all his servants, like Satan’s demons, fear the light. Sauron is a fallen creature, and because of his misery he wants to destroy the joy of all other creatures.
One of my favourite scenes in the whole Lord of the Rings Trilogy is Aragorn’s speech to the men of Rohan and Gondor when the Black Gate of Mordor opens and the final battle between the forces of good and evil is about to take place. This scene is a rousing cry to rally the men for one last fight in the hopes of defeating Sauron, the dark lord, once and for all. The soldiers believe that this is a suicide mission, but they are willing to lay down their lives, so that Frodo and Sam have a chance to destroy the one ring in the fires of Mount Doom. Even though this battle will probably be a miserable defeat for the united forces of men they have the courage to stand and fight for the freedom of the rest of Middle Earth. The victory they hope to win is for their wives and children, not for themselves.
In our own fight against evil, in the daily struggles of life we can often feel discouraged and lose hope. We can feel overwhelmed by the powerful forces surrounding us, but what is important is that we keep fighting. Even if it means we lose our lives. Whether we struggle with pornography, masturbation, lust, alcoholism, drug addiction, laziness, anger, depression, or any of the hundreds of other pitfalls which can cause us to lose hope we need to remember that it does not matter what we are struggling with, all that matters is that we pick ourselves up every time we fall, and continue striving for the greatness that Christ calls us to. Rise, men of the West, and defend your family, defend the Church, fight the Enemy. I leave you with the words of Aragorn to inspire you to become the man you were born to be and join the fight to protect our families and the Bride of Christ, the Church.
Viva Cristo Rey, Long Live Christ the King!