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But something has gone badly wrong!
Yes, it has. We need to go back to the four roles given to a man – primacy, procreation, provision and protection. As we said earlier, if these are ends in themselves, they become aberrant. Primacy becomes selfish, narcissistic and a desire for dominance at the expense of others; procreation becomes recreation without consequences and ends up denigrating both men and women – but particularly women – and destroying lives and families; provision becomes greed, materialism and exploitation, while protection becomes violent self-preservation.
Without virtue and self-sacrifice, without understanding their paternal purpose, men clutch at these roles in an utterly childish and egocentric manner. No wonder women are aggrieved! Where are the strong, virtuous men laying down their lives for them? Where are the clearsighted leaders and self-disciplined protectors of the family? All that women can see are grasping, desperate, self-centred, vacuous little boys whose only desires are for personal gratification.
But it goes deeper than this. Part of the catastrophe in the Garden of Eden was Adam’s failure to protect Eve from the temptations of Satan. He sat back and watched as Eve was led astray by the Serpent and offered the chance to be better, greater, wiser than he – to be like God, in fact. God created Adam to be the head of his new Creation with Eve as helpmate, yet here was Eve being seduced by something ostensibly far superior. This offer looks as good to women now as it did to Eve then. Why simply be the helpmate if the role of Goddess is being dangled in front of you?
Still, what was Adam thinking? This woman, this extraordinary being and stunning pinnacle of creation, this completion of himself … and yet, the fear of losing his own life in the face of Satan keeps him an inert and passive bystander. There is no warning for Eve from him, no rush to stand between her and the Serpent, no picking up the nearest weapon to crush its head. At least Eve had the balls to answer it back! Had Adam fulfilled his role as protector, would Eve have resisted the temptation? God only knows, but He tested the metal of His first child and immediately found him wanting. Not much has changed in men as we reach this current generation.
And that’s not everything. When Adam and Eve are cast out of the Garden, God punishes Adam by making him live by toil and by the sweat of his brow. God punishes Eve, too, with pain in childbirth. The rest of history is the story of man avoiding toil and sweat and doing his utmost to make his life comfortable. We tend to call this ‘progress’ or, latterly, ‘technological advancement’ but either way, man has increasingly divorced himself from his warranted punishment by avoiding physical labour and retreating into a cocoon of drugs, leisure and entertainment.
Take these two points: duty superseded by an infantile attempt to hold on to power without responsibility; punishment avoided by a childish pursuit of pleasure. If you were a woman, wouldn’t you be mad at men? Wouldn’t you aim to throw off your own punishment to be like them? If the man won’t step up to the plate and toil by the sweat of his brow, why should the woman be expected to look after him and his offspring? Indeed, why should she have any offspring in the first place? They will only hold her back from her own desire for power and pleasure. Once again, man retreats as a submissive bystander and now watches the woman being seduced into killing her own children for the lure of freedom and independence.
How do I create an environment in which this mission can be carried out effectively?
The blueprints are already in place! If you are a priest, that environment is your parish. If you are a married man, then it is your home, the Domestic Church.
For now, let’s concentrate on the latter. Forget the saying and all its connotations, that “a woman’s place is in the home”. Home, more than anywhere else, is the natural environment of the man. Numerous studies have shown the overwhelming, deleterious impact of the absent father on his children. Almost every societal ill can be traced back to the lack of a good father in the home. Far from the home being the place for women and children, a man must be the one to mould the household into a fitting dwelling for the family of God. It is the man’s household; he was the one who proposed a household when he proposed to his wife. It is now his duty to see that, in every respect, his home is in order.
Traditionally, this meant a division of ‘blue’ jobs and ‘pink’ jobs, playing to the natural strengths of men and women. With the advance of technology and the rise of the service industry on the back of higher wages and two working parents, many ‘blue’ jobs (and a number of ‘pink’ ones) have been made redundant and outsourced to businesses. This makes it easier for a man to neglect his duties and to sit back and relax – often leaving the woman annoyed at the amount of work she is still expected to do.
In this modern context, a man has many opportunities to lay down his life. He could throw out the games consoles and the televisions in order to spend more time with his family; he (and his wife) could agree work arrangements that keep them at home more often; he could learn some of the masculine crafts associated with smallholding and renovation, in order to keep his homestead connected to the natural world and in good repair; he could organise the children with routines and chores, making sure they themselves learn a range of skills for their own future households. The list could go on.
One unavoidable task for the father, however, is the passing on of the Faith. How else does the Family of God grow if His children aren’t taught? Contrary to belief, this is not the task of the mother. Of course, in the early days, a child learns prayers and virtues on its mother’s knee, but the active intervention and example of the father is what keeps the Faith alive in the family.
St. Augustine emphasises the father’s spiritual headship of his family in his Sermon 94 on Selected Lessons of the New Testament. He goes so far as to compare the father’s role in the home to that of bishops in the Church:
Discharge our office in your own houses. A bishop is called from hence, because he superintends, because he takes care and attends to others. To every man, then, if he is the head of his own house, ought the office of the Episcopate to belong, to take care how his household believe, that none of them fall into heresy, neither wife, nor son, nor daughter… Do not neglect, then, the least of those belonging to you; look after the salvation of all your household with all vigilance.
This is pretty strong stuff! Do you see your home as a domestic Church and yourself as the Bishop thereof?
There is a close correlation between the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Matrimony. If you haven’t discovered St John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body and the subsequent illumination by Christopher West, then I would strongly encourage you to do so.
Where the priest is the arbiter of Sacrament of the Eucharist (and of most of the other Sacraments), it is the husband and wife who make present the Sacrament of Matrimony. The spouses are, in effect, the priests of their own sacrament.
This should make a real difference to how we view our marriages and the homes in which our relationships are lived out. Our homes should be the temples keeping the sacrament holy. The marital bedroom should be the sanctuary; the marital bed the altar, our bodies (and our wife’s in particular) the tabernacles. The marital act is the holy ritual that brings us close to Christ’s spousal, life-giving, love for us, in laying down his own body for our own sake.
How holy, therefore, are our domestic churches? Are our children and visitors invited to join us in communion around the meal table? Do they hear the Word of God proclaimed within our walls? Is there sacramental beauty on show? Is there liturgical ritual in our daily lives? Do we make our bedroom a holy place of rest and restoration? Is our spousal union caught up in prayer and praise?
There is still much for us men to do!
It's a tough assignment! Are there many other men doing this?
I’m sure you know the gimcrack phrase that starts, “When the going gets tough …”. Men have, in the fabric of their being, all they need to step up to the mark, however tough the assignment. It’s just that we are in danger of losing the memory muscle of what it means to be men, and of how we utilise our masculine talents.
We are leaders, logisticians, global organisers, risk takers, adventurers. We are men of broad vision, strong physical attributes and tremendous problem-solving abilities. We can take up this challenge once again, like the men of old, and restore fatherhood and masculinity to their rightful places.
But we’ve never done it alone.
An apocryphal advert placed by the explorer, Earnest Shackleton, poetically captures the magnificent masculine spirit:
Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.
There is implicit recognition that men don’t succeed on their own. Even together there is a chance of failure, but great glory can still be found in collective setbacks. Individual failure is simply ignominious - and who is there to tell the tale?
Men working in fraternity have stories to tell, memories to share, lessons to learn, skills to pass on and friendships to forge. Men keep each other sharp; men encourage each other to greater feats of heroism; men are willing to die together for a worthy cause. Men learn masculinity from other men.
Search out fellow Catholic men. Form or join a parish men’s group. Grab the opportunity by the balls and place your own valiant advert for men to join your great adventure.
This sounds great! Finally, is there anything else I should be doing?
There is nothing wrong in adopting positive masculine traits to help scaffold your way to becoming an authentic and mature man. There is some truth in the term, fake it until you make it. Our bodies adapt to our mindset and our minds are shaped by our physical dispositions. Ask any athlete what it takes to develop a winning mentality and they will tell you it’s a combination of finely tuned physical skills and a mind that oversteps mental barriers. They will also tell you they use every type of psychological support to hone their performance.
So, grow a beard, smoke a pipe, drink whisky, go to the gym. Create a workshop, a study, a vegetable patch or chicken run. Smarten up your wardrobe, buy a good watch and some quality aftershave.
You are, after all, on a mission from God.