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What’s a Manly Man and How Can We Get More of Them?

Father and son

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Fr Robert McTeigue, SJ - published on 01/15/15 - updated on 06/07/17

Goals, resources and allies in the battle to restore the male soul

There is a battle underway for the male soul—and the good guys are losing. If they lose, then everyone—and I mean everyone—loses too. In my last column, I asked, “Who wants good men?” I answered, “Satan does—and the world doesn’t.” I described there some of the academic, legal, social, cultural and economic forces arrayed against men as men, and pointed to a spiritual root:

Satan hates God and creation. He hates what God has made. He hates the human race made in the image and likeness of God. He rages against the incomparable dignity—a dignity that the pagans could not imagine and the moderns could not comprehend—conferred upon human nature by the Incarnation of Christ. To hate what is authentically human is to hate God and His Christ. It is not surprising, then, to see Satan conspire against men as men and women as women.

Spiritual problems require spiritual remedies. In this column, let’s identify some goals, resources, and allies. And since grace builds on nature, we can turn to some natural helps as well.

Goals: The authentic masculine charism can be summed up in one word—“father.” All of the qualities of noble masculine character, including strength, courage, discipline, initiative and sacrifice, to name just a few, are brought to bear in a father’s vocation. The natural male impulse is to beget life. Honorable men who are fathers (both physical and spiritual fathers) call forth life, provide for life, and give both roots and wings to the physical and spiritual life entrusted to their care. A fine summary of the vocation and gift of fatherhood can be found in James B. Stenson’s little book, “Successful Fathers: The Subtle But Powerful Ways Fathers Mold Their Children’s Characters.” There he writes:

History has shown that children don’t need comfort and convenience from Dad. What they really need, as a normal and natural necessity, is a living manly example of firm character and conscience—a man who shows them how to live the virtues we esteem most in people: religious conviction, active considerateness, critical discernment, serious and loving responsibility, mastery over oneself. The children need to sense, quietly and unconsciously, that their father is a hero.

Any father who seems a hero to his children is the object of their lifelong devotion. He is not remote and unapproachable, a severe authority-figure. On the contrary, he is his children’s greatest friend, and unconsciously a model for all their other friendships. He is a source of happiness, confidence, humor and wisdom. The children’s respect for him and his values serves to anchor their years of adolescence, to thwart peer-influences and the allurements of materialism. We must emphasize: This deep respect, like all respect in human affairs, derives from the perception of strength.

Now, pause for a moment, and imagine what it would be like if it were true that all (or most) fathers (both natural and spiritual) matched Stenson’s description. How different our homes and families, our parishes and schools, our communities and laws would be! A culture that had ingrained in its bedrock a habit of successful fatherhood would surely be a truly humane culture that glorified God. And just as surely, ours is not now such a culture.

Because of the Fall, and the resulting wounds to human intellect and will, the restoration of the masculine vocation of fatherhood requires a divine intervention. In my last column, I quoted Cardinal Louis Pie, who in his Christmas homily of 1871(!) declared: “Do what you will: only from God you will get men.” That is why in my last column, I wrote that we must begin with “repentance, reparation, intercession and obedience.” Repentance—we must turn our hearts and minds away from the corrosive lies of diabolical origin about authentic masculinity. Reparation—we must replace fallen men and failed fathers with the good men now capable of serving as fathers of the physically and spiritually orphaned. Intercession—we must pray for all men, past, present and future (as well as their natural/spiritual children), to invoke God’s blessing on what is weak and what is good in them. Obedience—we must know and act upon God’s design for men, as He has inscribed that design in  their very

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