The Crisis and the Catholic Man
Today there is a crisis in the spiritual life of Catholic men. This crisis facing Catholic men is a loss of who we are as men. Once, the Church offered the necessary tools to help men cultivate a strong interior life based upon Christ and Gospels. Older men became spiritual fathers to younger men and prepared them to become true men who could face a hostile world, live a life center upon Christ and become good husbands and fathers.
The renewal of a Catholic men’s spirituality would mean a re-discovery of the traditions and teachings of the Catholic Church as they have been passed down to us by the Fathers of the Church and to develop the strength and wisdom to safe guard them for future generations. We would be following in the footsteps of great Catholic men such as St. Athanasius, St. Augustine, St. Benedict, Alfred the Great, Charlemagne, the Crusader’s, St. Thomas More, Jan Sobieski, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, St. Pope Pius X, G.K. Chesterton, Bishop Fulton Sheen and J.R.R. Tolkien. Having a disciplined life of prayer, fasting, work, contemplation, sacred reading are the tools used by Catholic men to shift their minds and hearts towards God. What is extremely important to Catholic men and their spirituality is the building of a community of like-minded men who will support each other and who will pass on the traditions to the younger men.
The Catholic man of today will have to choose between conformity and compromise to the world or embrace a willingness to fight and live courageously in defense of what is good and pure and beautiful in this world.
The Crisis Before Us
Everywhere one looks today, one sees a society and church in crisis. There are homeless and street people in greater numbers. Gangs terrorize our neighborhood’s and the elderly are ignored by their loved ones. Everyday life is a struggle for families. There are the constant attacks from a humanistic and materialistic society that is ripping the family apart and trying to redefine what it means to be a man or woman. All this destroys any dignity or self-worth of a person. We could say that nothing is really new. That these are conspiracy theories. Or it’s just that the media coverage is wider spread than in past times. You know that these are the excuses given all the time. They say we are better and smarter than our parents, our grand-parents and our great grand-parents but that way of thinking is really at the heart of the crisis we face. We are not better but in fact we are more ignorant and dare I use the word “stupid” than our ancestors. Yes, we have better technology then in centuries past but the human intellect and moral wellbeing has been “dumbed down”. We have turned our backs on our own Western Culture that makes us who we are as Western men and women. What is replacing our moral and philosophical traditions is a subjective, relative and modernist ideology that places the human being at the center of the universe. To make matters worse there is the redefinition of morality that is totality at odds with the teachings of out forefathers.
The crisis has now moved into the human heart and there the most devastating affects upon humanity are taking place. It destroys our humanity. It has dethroned God from the human heart and has made it a heart of stone. It replaces compassion, love and hope with despair, hate and hopelessness. It has destroyed an objective belief in God and replaced it with the subjective belief in the human intellect. We find ourselves at a crossroad today. If we continue to destroy our culture and follow this path, we will be laying the foundations of a dark age that will far surpass the one that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire.
The crisis that we face as a society has its roots in the Protestant Revolution. Martin Luther may have started out as a “reformer” but what he accomplished was a destabilization of the social order that had existed for a thousand years. Western Civilization has been in decline ever since. The bedrock of Western Civilization before the Protestant Revolution was Christendom which is the inheritor of the Greek and Roman Civilization. The church, both the Eastern and Western branches is known as the “Church Militant” that is made up of both sinners and saints and this has played out in various degrees throughout its long history. When Luther chose to “reform” the church, he was doing so in a period in which there were more sinners running the church than saints. Instead of being a reformer in the way of St. Francis or St. Bernard, Luther chose to be a rebel and a destroyer. From 1517 to the present day the Catholic Church has been in retreat and this coincides with the decline of Western Civilization.
The crisis is now within the church and since Vatican II, the church has lost its way. Despite some tolerable documents to come out of the Council, the church has managed to lose its soul. It has become too focused on social justice and not on the wellbeing of the souls of the faithful. As secular society continued to move towards Relativism and Subjectivism and away from the traditional ideals of our forefathers, instead of the church staying true to its mission, many Bishops and Cardinals chose to water down church teachings to try and fit in with the atheistic secular society. They interpreted the documents of Vatican II in the so called “spirit of Vatican II” and as a result caused only confusion within the church. We saw what has happened to many of the Protestant denominations from the early decades of the twentieth century to the present as many of them have succumbed to the Relativism and Subjectivism of secular society. Now, this same element that has devastated the Protestant church is working within the Catholic Church and in particular the Roman Catholic church.
The Catholic church as a whole is in retreat world wide and this is most prominent in Europe and North America and this is the reality of the church today. The church is retreating to the margins of society. We will most likely lose our Basilicas, Cathedrals and universities. Many Cathedrals in Europe today are tourist attractions in which you must pay an entrance fee to enter. Mass is rarely said if at all. We may even go back to home church’s and we may become an underground church as in China. The point is, I believe God is pruning back the vines to get back to the main branch. He is pruning back the vine so that the Light of the Son can shine in. As the church retreats, we are going back among the poor, the homeless, the orphans, the sick, in a sense back to our roots. We will have to make our stand on the margins of society and brace ourselves until the turning of the tide, just as the Maccabean.
The average Catholic man in the pew wants to know how they should live their lives in light of the gospels. They want to know how to become a good and decent man. They want guidance in cultivating a deep spiritual life and a deep relationship with Christ. Catholic men need grounding in their faith. Christ said to Peter; feed my flock. Peter and his bishops today have been starving the flock and many are falling by the wayside. Why are so many Catholic men leaving the church? Because they are not being feed with real food, nourishing food that feeds their souls. This is why we have seen an influx of men turning to Eastern religions over the last 50 years because those religions teach people how to be good and decent human beings. I know, I did this myself once.
The Long Retreat
What we feel in the face of this crisis is a longing deep within our souls that we belong to another world that is beautiful and real. How we behave as we face the crisis of losing everything that we hold dear to our hearts can also give us the courage to believe in something worth fighting for. J.R.R. Tolkien called this; “fighting the long defeat”. What is good and pure and worth defending to a Catholic man? It is Jesus Christ, Mary his mother, the church, her teachings and nearly two thousand years of history that built Western Civilization and last but not least, our loved ones.
The long retreat is the facing of great odds that appear to be overwhelming but at the same time, standing fast and holding in our hearts the hope of victory. The point we must remember is that the world and creation is diminishing as a result of sin. Satan is at work in the world to further this diminishing and is constantly attacking the souls of men and women. He wins battle after battle and we seem to be in constant retreat, but, as Christians we also know that the war has been won by Jesus Christ and the Cross. Our task is to hold out to the end until the “Return of the King”.
We do find ourselves in the same story that began with the first chapter of Genesis. and this gives us hope. We find today that the Catholic Church is under attack from outside and from within. Catholic men and women are under attack. Catholic families are under attack. Our Western civilization is under attack and what are we going to do with the time given to us? What would the heroes of the great stories of the bible or from our church history do in a time like ours? We didn’t ask to be born in these times but here we are and it is our turn to defend what is good and pure in this world. We owe it to our ancestors who lived before us. We owe it to our families. We owe it to Jesus Christ. We owe it to ourselves. Are we to turn belly up or hide in a hole? No, we must stand up and face the “Shadow” that is threatening to destroy all we love. The road will be long and painful and there will be fear but hope in Jesus Christ will triumph in the end. The re-awakening of the true Catholic spirit that defends what is good and pure in this world but at the same time knowing that we may lose, even possibly losing our lives but still fighting on all the same has to begin with someone. Why not you and me? Hold fast and become a man of God.
“Let us rise up now and fight for our lives,
for today is not like yesterday and the day before.”
1 Maccabees 9:44