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Will The Real Men, Please Stand Up?

“Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of His love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling” Guadium et Spes, 22

A principal element of the crisis of authentic masculinity is the fact that men, and women for that matter, suffer from an identity crisis. With all the “identity” issues in the news, you may think we are facing a new problem. I would argue this identity crisis goes back all the way to the garden when Adam and Eve lost sight of who they were. The serpent told them if they ate the fruit, their eyes would open, and they would be like gods (Genesis 3:5). They forgot they were made in the image and likeness of God. Like the first Adam, we men have lost sight of who we are. Bishop Olmstead puts it this way:

People have become either so confused or so arrogant as to attempt to dictate their masculinity or femininity according to their own definitions.

Masculine identity has been an issue on my heart long before reading the Into the Breach. I would dare to say that there isn’t a person who hasn’t ask the question: who am I? After a lot of prayer and reading, I understand my identity is not about who I am as much as it’s about whose I am. I am a beloved son of the Father, and because He loves me (and you), He sent His Son to take on human flesh to show us whose we are.

If I want to know what authentic masculinity is, I simply have to look at Jesus. I have to do more than just look to Jesus; I must “encounter Christ at the Mass.” Each time I receive His Precious Body and Blood, I consume Him so He can consume me. In this encounter we must become what we eat and echo St. Paul when he said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Understanding who I am in Christ is so important especially as a Catholic man in youth ministry. So many men define themselves by their job. It is unhealthy to think that what I do defines who I am. I am blessed to work in youth ministry and have had multiple opportunities to glorify God in what I do, but I am first a beloved son, second a husband and then a youth minister–in that order. I have to remind myself this often or lose balance.

Secondly, numerous young men in our churches are struggling to figure out who they are and too often don’t have men in their life to be a solid Christian witness and mentor to them. I have a responsibility to help them understand their identity in Christ and so I must recognize my identity in Christ. Bishop Olmstead uses the model of male saints and the “virtue with which he is associated, as well as the sin which opposes that virtue. When we identify our sin and the needed virtue, we can identify which saint’s intercession will be particularly helpful.” These saintly men can help us overcome sin and be men of virtue led by Christ.

  • St. Joseph (Trust in God – selfishness)
  • St. John the Baptist (Humility – arrogance)
  • St. Paul (Adherence to Truth – mediocrity)
  • St. Michael the Archangel (Obedience to God – licentiousness and rebelliousness)
  • St. Benedict (Prayer and Devotion to God – sloth)
  • St. Francis of Assisi (Happiness – moralism)
  • St. Thomas More (Integrity – double-mindedness)
  • Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (Chastity – lust)
  • St. Josemaría Escrivá (Boldness – worldly fear)
  • Pope St. John Paul II (Defending the Weak – passivity) *

In Into the Breach, Bishop Olmstead shares some great practices all Catholic men should adhere to on a daily and monthly basis, including:

Daily

  • Pray
    • Prayer has to be one of the most important aspects of being a Catholic man. We must be in constant dialogue with our Father whose image we reflect. Someone once said, “If you’re too busy to pray, you’re too busy”.
  • Examine your Conscience Before Going to Sleep
    • This is one that I have a hard time keeping up with, but it is so fruitful. Keep it simple; review the day (good and bad), thank God for the blessings, ask forgiveness for sins, say an Act of Contrition.
  • Go to Mass
    • This should go without saying, but unfortunately there are far too many men skipping Mass. This is where we truly encounter Christ, who shows us who we are.
  • Read the Bible
    • Like prayer, this needs to become a daily occurrence in your life if you want to know Jesus. I try to live by Fr. Larry Richards’ motto, “No Bible, no breakfast. No Bible, no bed.” Let the word of God bookend your day.
  • Keep the Sabbath
    • We have to find a day we can Sabbath. If you have to work on Sunday, make sure to take a day to rest, and I don’t mean a day that you work from home. It needs to be a day that you are unavailable except to your family.

Monthly

  • Go to Confession
    • I once read that St. John Paul II went to confession once a week. He’s a Saint now, so we can trust that a sure path to sainthood involves frequent visits to the confessional.
  • Build Fraternity with Other Catholic Men
    • “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens his fellow man.” (Proverbs 27:17) If we are to grow as men, we need other men to encourage and challenge us to be better men.

I would like to leave you with a challenge. As you consider who you are in Christ, spend time in front of a crucifix. Christ’s crucifixion is the best image of authentic masculinity for it shows what a real man does. He loves.

This question of how do Catholic men love is a great lead into the next question the Bishop addresses. So until next time, I leave you with the words of David to his son Solomon, “be strong and be a man.” (1 King 2:2)

* List of Saints was taken directly from Into the Breach by Bishop Olmstead.

About the Author

Bert Hernandez

Bert is married to his beautiful wife Justine and they have two dogs Bono (named after St. Bonaventure) and Jello. After graduating from high school, he worked in the automotive industry for 12 years. Bert served as a volunteer in youth ministry for 5 years when he felt God calling him to full time ministry. Bert has been in full time youth ministry for 7 years and is currently serving as the new High School Youth Minister and Confirmation Coordinator at St. Peter the Apostle in Boerne, Texas. His most current project is a Theatrical Performance on puns, it’s a play on words.

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