Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Men, Masculinity & The Master
Notes from a Men's Retreat at Mary's Mountain

Father John J. Lombardi 

Men: Are you following the Divine Master-Jesus Christ-by being a holy man today?

Who are some of the most influential men today? Well, arguably: Lance Armstrong (dominating the Tour de France-third straight year), George Bush and Pope Benedict XVI. Armstrong may inspire men to think about prowess and power-that's certainly part of manhood. President Bush, in the limelight all the time, may invoke thoughts about savvy ness, just like any other politician. Pope Benedict should make us think about religion and spirituality, of course, but also about our (male) souls. Three men, three aspects of maleness: Do you have prowess, as a Catholic man today? Do you use savvy and shrewdness, and also make your soul and spirituality center of your life?

Male Spirituality-Stages:

In the formation of young men today when you teach young boys in the youth-maturing process-you may think of Christ Found in the temple (Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary).Jesus-the-child amazed His "parents" with his maturity. I know of a very young boy (age 5) who received His First Holy Communion-precisely because his dad taught him enthusiastically about Christ's Real Presence, helping the child to mature speedily .In the teen-adolescent-times-do you teach your young man, as in a "spiritual training camp" way or send him off to a mercurial, chaotic "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" fervor of world and secularism? In the raising of him towards conscious discipleship (Confirmation) do you allow, or even promote the "I was a Teenage Rebel" mentality or bring him to church and other spiritual events with you? One young man, close to his dad and the sacraments (daily Mass, Rosary) just went to India and came back grateful for the lessons of poverty, rugged spirituality and service. Regarding the young man in your life do you allow him the pollutants of the drug and Mammon culture or have a "spiritual-border patrol protection program" in place to protect him and promote his soul life? The Devil is all around prowling upon us (I Pt. 5:8), so be vigilant and victorious in spiritual formation for men !

Meditate upon the attributes of the Heavenly Father. Perhaps you may picture Him above, as did Michelangelo (greatest painter ever?!) in a human fashion, with beard, vigorous muscles and penetrating eyes. Okay, God is pure Spirit, but…The iconic beard may signify Wisdom: -do you have religious knowledge, about the world? The muscles point to Power: You don't have to be male to have power but it is a provenance of males. It may mean authority, dominion or rule. All these attributes can be used for good or evil. We men need use them rightly for God's Kingdom.

Male Heroes-- In the Bible and our Sacred Tradition: We have many men to inspire and lead us. Yet, today, mentors, heroes and even saints are being stripped from our midst-either neglected or rejected. Let's look at some, briefly describe and learn from their main attributes…Moses- lead sinners to salvation Promised Land (do you lead sinners from enslavements to holiness?). Aaron-was seemingly, compared to Moses, "second rate"-but: needed. How can you be "in the shadows" and also yet use your skills and talents to help others? Abraham: one word describes him: faithful. R U toward God? Your wife? - Job? David - in the Bible represents all us men-a fallen sinner redeemed. The Prophets: these guys-men like Jonah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah-were raspy religionists leading others to repentance and righteousness. Frankly, in these relativistic times, most folks don't like their types, esp. when they remind us of sin, but…we're called, as men to be like them in certain situations…St Augustine-changed from sinner-sensualist to saint. He shows us (esp. thru his famous book, "The Confessions") the Beauty of God vs. sensualism, which may mean pornography for many men today. St Augustine overcame his sins and sensualism, so can you. Desert Fathers-these gritty guys of the Egyptian desert were warriors of Spirit--kinda like Catholic conquistadors, who explored the inner desert of the soul and body and promoted the ways of asceticism needed for men of all times. Thomas More-this martyr (husband, and father of 4) stood up to King Henry by denying an illicit divorce, and refused Henry rule over the Catholic Church in England. Thomas was murdered, despite blackmailing and threatening him. St Thomas defended and loved God first, his own family second and his job third (I saw this very message on a truck flap while on the highway once!). St Louis of France: This King shows us that power and prayer go together. Mass is first-and then all other so-called important things after! St John of the Cross: Okay, a lot of things in life are important-a car, a trophy wife, sports, fishing; golf-blah, blah, blah. But, is Union with God (even despite persecutions and challenges) important to you as it was for Fray Juan? John learned and taught a total, all-quenching Thirst for God, which likewise meant Nada, meaning "no" or "nothing"-i.e. Denying any and all obstacles which hindered the soul's union with God. St John shows us how to get and stay focused. St Francis Assisi-was not really a sissy (as some pronounce his name and place of birth). He shows Catholic men can counter the riches of the world and how every male, who is targeted by such, can be freed.

Allesandro Serenelli-who murdered-in-attempting-to-sensually abuse Maria Goretti (in 1904)-shows us that the most hardened criminals can repent and get on the Path! Allesandro was let out of jail after repenting, became a Third Order Franciscan and led a holy life. Matt Talbott-was a drunk in Dublin, Ireland, and took a pledge to abstain from alcohol for a month, and eventually was healed, by daily Mass, rosary, Confession-So: be free of addictive substances. Max Kolbe: priest of Auschwitz, who died in the stead of an innocent Jewish man in the prison camp, shows us men we need to standup for family and sacrifice.

Now, men, after such a list of inspiring heroes, let us consider: our relations to God. What is your prayer life like? How do you relate to each of the Divine persons of The Trinity/ Do you? Reflect on the attributes listed above, of the Father. How about the Son-do you see Him as both Good Shepherd and Savior? Beloved and yet Master of your soul? Re. The Spirit: Do you seek a relationship with Him? Do your really know Him? Do you seek His gifts and fruits (cf. Isa. 11 and Gal. 5)?

Also, have you ever heard the term, "Spiritual Fatherhood"? -Begetting spiritual children is not just for priests and bishops, but for all, (I Cor. St Paul="I became a Father to you"). We are called, believe it nor not, to give knowledge, "spiritual birth" to others. But this is not always easy today in an antagonistic world towards Christianity and Catholicism.

We men also need to discern the Balance that Jesus Christ, the God-Man, inherently had within Himself-both strong and soft attributes of a masculine life.

Jesus was both tough with Pharisees/ and in His demands for discipleship (cf. Lk. 9:23), and also affectionate and soft, as in His relationship to the Beloved disciple, and His famous counsel in Mt. 11.28. Do you seek him in this balanced way? Do you strive for this balance yourself?

Three Ideological Challenges to Men and Masculinity Today:

Feminism: stymies sexual identity of males, young and old, and sometimes uses intimidation and confusion over roles of men-as husbands, fathers, maturing masculine guys…We all need to recognize these tactics and re-challenge them back.

Homsexualism -as distinct from individual persons with homosexuality, is a collection of movements trying to confuse the sexual identities of males, challenge the traditional family designed by God and sometimes promote illicit sexual practices. Relativism is a philosophical "un-system" which implies that any truth or value comes only when compared to other things and that there are no absolutes. We men need to confront these reigning philosophies and help others-women and families and children-to be free of their hurtful affects. Pope Benedict once called relativism the most harmful, damaging philosophical error today. Ergo: we need Doctrines-without being doctrinaire!

Now, for Five Pivotal Points of Christ's life To Help Men be Catholic Men

1. Disappearance-Finding in Temple: i.e., "Be your own Man." Everyone wants to conform to something. Society and culture, dissenters from the Faith, and sinners want you to. No, Be your own man. We men, just like everyone else need healthy-balanced autonomy which also includes solitude. Autonomy means not independence or lone ranger- machismo but, rather, healthy holiness: separation from the secular crowd, sensualism, and inordinate need of others. We can be like spiritual cowboys, holy boy scouts and surfers in religious sense! Re. Solitude: this means you need a life of prayer and alone time with God, and then re-integrate back into family, home community-God first.

2. Apostle-Picking: "For men only" (like the hair product?!). Yes, -sometimes. Just as it would be unwise and reckless to ask a woman to join a football team (she'll get hurt, possibly seriously so) so it is unjust for men to never join with other men for some activities so as to help and inspire them precisely to help woman and others. Jesus picked only male apostles and therefore our Holy Catholic Church has only male priests. We need accept this as Sacred Tradition. Men can accept this and promote it without prejudice or hurt towards women. Thereby men can build up what is unique to them as a holy "band of brothers"

3. Transfiguration (Lk. 9: 28-36). The Lord Jesus took Peter and James and John up a Sacred Mountain (a new Mystery of Light in the Rosary) and showed them His Divinity. The Lord shows us fortitude-to go up a mountain-not to ignore it. We men today need go up mountains-embracing challenges, trials, and arduous duties. So, stick with it-in marriages, jobs, vocations, in Church's straying form the Faith- become-holy thru these ways. We also need strength (which is a basic "engine" to get up mountains physical and spiritual ones). So nurture and cultivate the disposition for being in for the long haul. Never give up!

4. Peter's-Betrayal and Mandate-the First Pope betrayed Jesus three times. How will you men, having betrayed the Lord, like Peter, become His disciple, and overcome your sins? Don't despair…How will you, receiving the Lord's Mandate to follow Him, heal as Jesus did. How will you also show compassion and challenge together, shrewdness and simplicity-sometimes hard for men in today's dog eat dog world. At the resurrection Jesus gave Peter further commission to "Feed My sheep". In today's relativistic world it is hard to propose absolute truths but that's our male, spiritual-fatherhood job to assert Truth. Be not afraid.

5. Cross-crucifixion-cf. Philippians 2:5 "Though God He (Christ) emptied Himself" How will you men assume the God-given maleness of your noble birthright and also humble yourself, in servant leadership like Jesus our Leader? What do you need to let go of, renounce, abandon?

Now, here are the Top Three Most Important Challenges to Men today

1. Family: the world wants to split you, wife, children, and greater family apart. Jesus and the spiritual life want to keep you together: How will you respond?

2. Spirituality: the world wants you to always think of your self, as a busybody and work you into workaholics and robots. The Spiritual Life wants you to remember you have a contemplative nature; you are a soul; you are called to visit with God in solitude and rest in Him (Mk. 6:31). The World wants you to see yourself primarily as a bundle of unbridled passions, a conflagration within, and lure you into self-abuse and lust towards woman…The Spiritual Life wants you to see yourself as a spiritual soul, capable of sublimation (transferring negative energies into positive ones) that you can fast and sacrifice and learn from the Virgin as a Lady and therefore respect other ladies.

We men have a noble calling, though challenging in today's world. Be a man today. A Catholic Male-following the holy and healthy example, the Divine Master Jesus Christ.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi