I write this week from the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament here in Hanceville, Alabama. What wonderful people in such a blessed place — if you have not had the chance to visit the Shrine that Mother Angelica, her sisters and supporters built in great devotion to Our Lord Jesus, I would encourage you to do so. We are all in need of renewal, and this is a wonderful place to be fed in the Faith!
Speaking of needed renewal, have you seen the Diocese of Phoenix’s short film “A Call to Battle”? I can’t encourage you strongly enough to take ten minutes to prayerfully listen to Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s call for men to break from and stand against the corruption of our culture.
Please just take ten minutes to watch it, and share it with the men in your life. It is so edifying to hear a shepherd speak so clearly to the role of men and fatherhood in a culture that no longer recognizes the value of fathers, and of men who are unafraid to be men.
Sure, we see the exaggerated stereotypes in the media: The Lothario, the player, the super villain/hero — or more commonly, the weak dope who gets pushed around by everyone while joking about it. Feminism has long been a direct attack on men and masculinity, and as we saw again this week with a famous feminist saying she would vote for a rapist if he supported abortion, feminism also has become an attack on women and even life itself. It is certainly true that the traditional roles which conform to our biology and spirituality were certainly abused throughout history, often seeing women treated as lesser persons in many cultures. But with the attack on every vestige of traditional masculinity and femininity we attack the trunk of the tree that supports a culture, leaving men and women in what seems like endless antagonism, and both sexes confused about their roles today.
Enough of this, says Bishop Olmsted. Men and women are given an equal dignity as they are both made in the image of their Lord and God. Their complementarity is written into their very bodies. It is absurd to reduce the beauty of male and female equality in dignity to a false interchangeability of natures. We don’t have to recall here the absurdities now being forced on our nation by a radical gender ideology — HLI engages in these issues constantly.
But it is not enough to watch the spectacle of a rapidly disintegrating culture and look for a place to hide. Men in particular have a role specifically as men and they do not need to apologize for it. A healthy masculinity comes with a deep desire to both lead and to serve, to protect and defend, to provide and share.
These are the facets of Christian fatherhood, to which every man is called regardless of his state in life. For shepherds like Bishop Olmsted, this means a very demanding spiritual fatherhood, taking seriously his role as a leader of the Church in his diocese, and great concern for those under his care. Priests share in this great service to the Church and the world, providing sacraments and guiding all under their care closer to Our Lord, closer to heaven.
Men who are blessed to be fathers of children know intensely the responsibility that comes with this great gift. It is true that many men are today blind to their roles as fathers, and as we look around us, we see the effects of this blindness.
Yet in the Catholic Church we are given an amazing array of gifts to strengthen us as men and as fathers. It is time that we started taking this seriously, that we recognize the gift of our vocation as fathers and acted accordingly, with generosity and courage, with wisdom and solidarity.
It is time that men started supporting each other, building communities of brothers who make virtue a priority, who will challenge each other to live in love and truth their role as fathers. Brothers, we need to stand squarely against the onslaught of pornography, addictions, and attacks on our families. We need to, as Bishop Olmsted says, stand in the breach, ready for battle with a culture that prefers that men be effeminate and inconsequential.
True men will not stand for this. They will stand shoulder to shoulder and protect each other and their families and communities. They will prepare for the battle that is already raging around them. This is not a call to violence, it is a call to sacrificial love.
It is not too late to wake up and renew your sense of fatherhood, whatever your current state in life. I would strongly encourage you to watch the short 10 minute film, to read Bishop Olmsted’s apostolic letter, and to invite your friends to discuss it and see how your band of brothers can stand together and defend your families and communities.
We begin where we are, not in some ideal place or time. We are given the sacraments to strengthen us, and if we know where to look, more than enough grace to sustain us. Thank God for His many gifts! How can we not be grateful? And how can we stop this deep gratitude from moving us to share God’s love with the world?Into the breach, my brothers!