“In creation, God laid a foundation and established laws that remain firm, on which the believer can rely with confidence, for they are the sign and pledge of the unshakeable faithfulness of God’s covenant. For his part man must remain faithful to this foundation, and respect the laws which the Creator has written into it.” [CCC 346]
In establishing a sure foundation for Catholic masculinity, we rely on scripture and the wisdom of the Church to confirm and extend what we understand, in part, about ourselves through the veiled expression of our bodies. We know we are men because we are physically different to women: our genitalia and sex drive tell us this, along with our attributes of strength and size. Our temperament as men is different to that of women: our predominant desires of establishing order, of building and subsisting and of protecting our material goods brought about humanity’s civilisation, with a magnificent purpose often hidden from men today.
Read here for a detailed and enlightening explanation of Adam’s role in the Garden of Eden.
However, as Catholic men, we should know that our masculine nature is oriented to a particular end, to a divine purpose. Man, drawn from dust, is invited by God to rule His creation and to co-create His family, keeping it safe from harm and reflecting to it – in a bodily manner and through close unity with God – aspects of God’s loving paternity.
According to Scripture, God conferred four particular traits upon Adam by which His family could recognise, in human form, His paternal bounty: the ability to initiate new life; the faculty to lead, rule and care for this life; the capacity to provide, through strength and wisdom, a nurturing space for it, and the means of protecting it through his power and watchfulness.
The task given to all men through our forefather Adam is to be an icon of God the Father to our own spiritual or biological families. Anything else goes against our nature and leaves us disoriented and lacking in purpose.
And God said, “Be fruitful and multiply”. Gen 1: 28
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. Gen 2: 24
A man is the wellspring of life.
A husband sets out on the road of initiating new life at the point at which he proposes to his future wife. That proposal is a suggestion for her to join him in his divine mission of extending God’s family on earth.
A priest gives life to the faithful of God’s family through providing them with the holy sacraments.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image …; and let him have dominion over … all the … earth.” Gen 1:26
To the woman he said, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Gen 3:16
For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church. Eph 5:23
It is a particular task for men to understand just how they should exercise sacrificial authority in their marriages and homes, or in their parishes if they are priests. Their leadership should create a holy environment and great clarity about the way the family walks along the path to salvation. The closer a man lives according to the will and love of God, the more humble and acceptable his authority becomes.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it. Gen 2:15
Technology has diluted a man’s understanding of what it means to provide for his family by the sweat of his brow. It has become a barrier to his utilisation of masculine strength and ingenuity, and a means by which his sole breadwinning capacity is diminished. Technology blurs the distinction between what a man and a woman can do; it reduces the need for men in a particular way and leaves them confused about their innate desire to provide. For the God who drew men from the earth calls them back to work it in all manner of ways.
Technology is not evil of itself, and provision is not merely about material sustenance. But technology can also distract men from their key task of providing spiritually for their families. Social media, streaming video, computer games and instant access to entertainment softens men’s discipline in prayer and the spiritual life. The absence of a deep interior life in the father creates a God-shaped void in the family, as he negates his duties in teaching and passing on the Faith.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to … keep it. Gen 2:15
‘Keep’ (shamar in the Hebrew), carries a distinct meaning: ‘to guard,’ implying the need to ward off potential intruders. The strength of the word is such that it is used again in Genesis when God sets the cherubim with the flaming sword at the gates of Eden to guard the Tree of Life after Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden.
A man’s task of protection is not primarily about the physical defence of his family. It is about the profound importance of his spiritual protection against the evil one. It is a task that encompasses his own need to establish a pure and steadfast heart within himself so that he is not the very gateway of evil; it is incumbent upon him to find and defend those gaps where evil can slip through into his family; it relies on his watchfulness and prayer, his discipline and courage to ward off the attacks of the devil on the family of God.