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Thursday, November 20, 2003

Thoughts on the American Church's "Man Problem," and Raising Catholic Men.

These are the easiest posts to "write"--just cut and paste from commenters. I posed the following thesis, and asked for responses. [If you need additional grist for the mill, here's my quiet reflection from earlier this year on the liturgical turnoffs confronting Joe Catholic on Sundays.]

"[I]t's going to take a rediscovered ideal of true Christian manhood to pull the American church out of its spiral.

Any ideas?"

First, some excellent advice from Fr. Ray Williams:

Ideas on how to counter the fleeing of the men from the Church... I suggest that you concentrate on the next generation, and hopefully other men will join in this great project of being a real father. Men, band together ever so often for Catholic fellowship.

Advice to fathers:

First, boys should SEE their fathers' devotion to God and the Church. Show him that prayer is manly (because it is -- the most important and difficult thing I do). Try to stay away from priests who are effete (these days that might be difficult) and the silly liturgical gimmicks they like to experiment with. Avoid small group sessions that involve excessive "sharing."

When he is old enough, show him the movies of The Lord of the Rings and/or read the books to him, and tell him that much like men have to take up the sword in this world to fight against evil and secure the good, so must we always fight the spiritual warfare. Heaven, in spite of the insipid sermons you hear, is not easily attained; St. Thomas spoke of its attainment as ARDUOUS (this narrow and difficult path that leads to the Kingdom), and men, boys like challenges, especially as their character is developed so that they realize they must accept the challenge for the sake of others as well, namely their womenfolk.

Tell your sons, especially while you're together hunting, fishing, hiking, bowling or whatever, about St. George, King St. Louis of France, St. John Bosco, Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More, St. Dominic, King St. Stephen of Hungary, St. Cecilia (so that they realize that men have no monopoly on courage and sanctity!).

Teach them deep devotion to Our Lady, and so remind them that every man, priest or layman, must give himself to a woman, the husband to his wife, and all of us to the Blessed Virgin Mary (and the priest in a special way to Holy Mother Church).

Teach your sons to deny themselves. Practice with them some mild and doable asceticism. Remind them that it is not manly to crave things, especially comforts, and to whine when we do not get them.

Keep reminding them that there is nothing sissy about really loving God. Emphasize the FACT that Christ is Lord and King and tell your sons how the Scriptures describe His fearsome return to this earth.

Fathers, show great affection to your children, so that your sons may love you the more generously and so imitate your virtues the more earnestly.

Teach your sons Latin.

Make gentlemen out of them.

Commit them to God often in prayer.

Three additional suggestions from Joe D.--bible study, stronger emphasis on the Holy Spirit and prayer specifically for wisdom--also strike me as worthy of serious consideration.

Finally, Craig points out that part of the problem might be that the Church doesn't challenge or otherwise expect much from the guys:

Simple. Give them something to defend, an honorable aspiration to pursue. Seems that the military does a good job of this; the appeal of the military is in the shared mission and ideals (duty, honor, and country) put into practice, and the personal ties that come from building up such an organization. The military consciously attempts to show gratitude for sacrificial loyalty to and defense of its ideals.

So what is the mission of the Church that corresponds to all this? There are a few Special Forces units in the military that can be told to enter an area and do what needs doing within broad parameters, but most units need orders with some specificity to them. If the Church wants laymen to carry out its mission in the world, it needs to ask something specific of them to do.

Does the Church ask for men to leave their suburban parish and go plant a new one? Does the Church ask for men to contribute their labor? Or is there an attitude that the work of the church is for professionals and "church ladies" to do, and the men's job is to shut up and write checks?

The Church does ask for vocations to the priesthood, but that call does not apply to 95% of men given their current state of life; what contribution to the Church's spiritual life does it ask of the 95%?

Good stuff so far, but I'm always willing to listen to more.

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