Being Faithful Isn’t Manly?

Football Praying

Whether on the college campus or not, in America I’ve noticed that the public doesn’t seem to think that having faith is manly. People seem to think that people who pray are a bunch of sissies who have problems controlling their feelings. A “real man” takes care of things himself and leaves nothing to chance, they claim.

Obviously I’d beg to differ. As a man myself, I have found that my faith has taught me how to grow as a man and be the best one that I can be.

First off, a man must be rational. This is the first task of any man, to wrestle with and find the truth so that they can live the best life possible. What sort of man lives his life according to some sort of fairy tale searching for the fountain of youth or Atlantis? A man ought to live for the truth, not some sort of fake reality- someone who lives in their own little world isn’t a man… the proper description would be insane. There is a God and an eternal reality for us all, and this can be known through philosophy and reason. After wrestling with this and coming to know the truth, the best way to live as a man is to keep that in mind at all times so that we can learn to be responsible protectors of creation and providers for those in need. And who is a better example of this than Jesus, who taught us that the things of God are worth so much more than the things of the world. Just take a look at the beatitudes in Matthew 5!

A man is responsible, he doesn’t just let his life slip away due to alcohol, drugs, pornography, or any other addictions. A man lives with clear convictions and holds to them even if that means that he might have to suffer for them. A man is accountable for his actions and strives to be the best son, father, coworker, citizen, teammate, etc. everyday. Who is a better example of this than Jesus, who followed God with all that He did so that He could teach humanity how we can live best.

A man is humble and a team player. Nobody wants to be on the same team as a ball-hog or work with a coworker who never communicates with the rest of the team. People who are angry and unreasonable ruin relationships and leave a trail of inefficiency behind them. They are a cancer to whatever group they are a part of. Through faith, we learn that we need to encourage others at all times and realize that our talents are merely gifts from God to be used for the benefit of all of humanity instead of being used for selfish gain. Jesus taught us this by never showing off His power any more than He needed to, but simply trusting in God that eventually the disciples would learn to be faithful and follow Him with their whole hearts, without forcing them to.

A man protects those entrusted to him, especially his family, friends, and nation. A man doesn’t just lie down and let evil happen to them, but sacrifices even to the point of death for those under his care. With a secular philosophy, there isn’t much reason to do this at all. In that case, it’s a dog eat dog world where the poor get poorer and those defenseless get taken advantage of without men who stick up for those in need. But we all know that a real man never wimps out of protecting others. Jesus is a fantastic example of this because He gave up His very life freely so that we all could be saved from eternal damnation. God didn’t just sit back and say, hey, I’ll let someone else do the work.. maybe John the Baptist or Elijah! No! God Himself came down as Jesus, walking the walk instead of just talking the talk.

A man provides for his family and those in need. What do you call the boss who lives extravagantly while his employees are barely making minimum wage? What do you call the father who fathers a child but leaves the mother to raise him or her all alone? What do you call the dad who finds time to drink with his friends every night while his children never get to see him? These are obviously selfish and horrible examples, but by living with faith, we can learn to put others first before ourselves instead of forgetting that essential way of life. Jesus gave us a great witness to that when He bent down to wash His disciples’ feet, showing them that the last will be first, and the first will be last.

A man honors his God. As a father, you expect your children to respect, obey, and have a relationship with you. If they don’t, it is very disrespectful. In a similar way, we need to apply this to our relationship with God. God is our Father. Do we respect Him in how we act and talk about Him? Do we speak with Him? Do we love Him? Just a like a good father, God loves us unconditionally and desires to have this relationship with us. Who is better to consul and comfort us than our loving Father?

What I really seem to have focused on is how having faith helps us to be the best men that we can be. It seems to me that without faith, there is no need for virtue. And without virtue, there is no manliness. Come to know Jesus and live for Him, and I promise you that He will constantly challenge you to become a greater man than you were before.

This is an awesome clip I wanted to throw in here with some of the Seattle Seahawks players- who will be playing for the Super Bowl next weekend- talking about their faith.

Be honest, are you happy with how your life has turned out so far?

I saw this post on Reddit a few months ago and I thought it was so interesting to read the posts, so I wrote it down to blog about at some point. You can check out the responses from Reddit here.

Yea! Life is awesome!!!

Honestly… I often think of my life as a movie. Not a super exciting action movie,  or even a movie where anything extremely dramatic happens like people dying, or having to run to save my life from zombies, or even from war. It’s a very regular movie about a white kid from the suburbs. :-D But what makes life exciting is the individual decisions I’ve had to make, the things that I’ve got to experience, the friendships and family time. I definitely see a tale of good and evil (though perhaps less pronounced), just like any good old movie.

Just like any good movie, I have so much purpose in my life! A lot of that comes from recognizing the differences between good and evil and trying to always be on the good side so that I can make this world a better place. This purpose and meaning gets me through the hard times. Despite being a super happy excited guy who gets along with everyone (haha but I’m not afraid to talk and even disagree with regards to religion and politics ;-) ), I have had some rough times in my life as well, just like everyone else. I wasn’t born the person that I am and I sure as heck won’t die who I am right now either. But the joy of it all is that opportunity to continue to grow to become who I (and everyone else!) was meant to be, a saint!

There were people out there who helped me when I needed it the most, and I want to be that person for others as well. Often what makes me the happiest isn’t when I’m trying to help myself but when I’m trying to help others. Seeing changes in other’s lives is absolutely priceless and as a Catholic missionary I get to see that regularly! I just praise God because it was really His work not me and I marvel at how not only are they are living in relationship with Jesus now, but this will lead to a lifetime of them doing the same for others! It’s one of the most fulfilling things ever!

Even in the hardest times, thanks to those great friends and role models that I’ve had and the working of God in my life, I’ve come to know that God has my back at all times, even when I’m in the darkest moments. I know that even if this phase of life doesn’t go so hot, I can hope in life with Him forever. That keeps me grounded. I think we see people all of the time have a couple of unlucky breaks, and then all of a sudden their life spirals out of control. But with faith in Jesus, even the most unfortunate things in the world could happen to me, and I still have hope. Despite everything that can happen to me in this life, if I live it to the best of my ability loving God and others, everything will be okay.

I’m not living for many of the things that people think of when they think of being successful: being famous, powerful, rich, hot, whatever. So that kind of puts my “happiness” more dependent on my relationships and quality of life. Honestly I know that I’m probably not strong enough to be happy without having someplace to live, some friends, and to be liked by most people. But my happiness shouldn’t even depend on that. It’s more realistic this way anyways: what our culture feeds us is just lies to make us buy more stuff or support a cause that they want us to. These things don’t fulfill us the same way as authentic love does. Jesus’ beatitudes reveal that even the poorest of the poor will have joy in the Kingdom of God, and that’s what ultimately lasts.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Jesus in Matthew 5:3-10

I’ve been blessed, but I sure as heck have made mistakes, too! Mistakes humble me and make me remember that I’m not perfect or a “finished product.” In these mistakes I have hope in Jesus’ forgiveness and I especially love being able to go to confession so that I can be forgiven as Jesus instituted that sacrament to do. Talk about a weight off of my shoulders.. and knowing of how easily God forgives us encourages me to forgive others too, the people who have wronged me in the past. The way to peace in the world starts with forgiveness.

In sum: The gift of life has been a joy and I’m so thankful. I feel so blessed. I’m sad that many others on that Reddit thread don’t enjoy life as much, but hopefully one day they’ll find Jesus, the source of eternal joy.

“I keep the Lord always before me; with the Lord at my right, I shall never be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure, for you will not abandon me to Sheol, nor let your servant see the pit. You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at  your right hand forever.” – Psalm 16:8-11

Too Wise to Get Married?

Many “wise” and “experienced” Americans love to advise young adults to never get married, since “it isn’t worth it.” I may not be as experienced, but I’d like to disagree.

Is this really the best message to be sending to the youth of the world? This message demoralizes young adults, making them think that they are not perfect enough to get married. It makes marriage seem hopeless and a waste of time. “Live for yourself first.” I don’t know about you, but when I live for myself, life is booooorrrriiiinnnggggg. It’s when I’m helping others out that I come alive.

I agree that you need to go into marriage with the right mindset, it is a big responsibility, but you can’t just throw out the baby with the bathwater. Complaining about how bad it is isn’t helping anyone have a better marriage.

A major issue with this line of thinking is that it signals that marriage is only about what is best for ourselves, and if not, we can take the easy way out. If my spouse doesn’t treat me right anymore I should just end it. If I’d rather be with some other woman, I should do that since it’s all about me, right? If my kids are too much work I don’t have to be responsible for them. That’s the line of thinking that has been encouraged, and it leads to bad consequences for spouses and children everywhere.

The ridiculous thing about that line of thinking is that that’s not even LOVE. Our culture likes to say that everything’s about love, right? Well if marriage is all about love, then it shouldn’t be about us. Love isn’t selfish, it’s selfless. Marriage should be about doing all that we can for our spouse and for our children. It’s about doing what is best for them even if it is an inconvenience for you.

Of course marriage is hard. We understand that, and I’m not arguing against that. Often it is not the big decisions but lots of little ones that breeds tension. But that doesn’t mean that marriage doesn’t work. We don’t drop out of school because we have to do homework until late at night every night. We don’t quit work just because it is hard. Living your faith is difficult, but we don’t give that up because of that. If you want to do ANYTHING good in life, it is going to be hard, but it’ll be worth it.

The mindset that marriage is all about us seems to be a reason for many of the problems in our society. Divorce, abortion, contraception, cheating, single parent homes, domestic abuse, and more are the result of me-first marriages.

Instead of complaining about how hard marriage is, we need to encourage each other that marriage and love is worth it. It is about selflessly helping your spouse and children, building a foundation for a great society. A society with strong families has a strong foundation.

Our society needs to learn how to love again. When we learn how to love, we will learn that marriage is worth it. Bashing marriage will not help to foster stronger families and a stronger society. I don’t know about  you, but I’m too wise to not love.

If I could be remembered for one thing..

I don’t care if I’m the smartest. I don’t care if I’m the most popular, the richest, the best looking, or the most talented.

I want to be remembered for being someone who loves passionately. God, friends, life. I want to be remembered as someone who lives a vibrant life of hope, always looking to encourage others.

Talking about it doesn’t do anything. Gotta go live it.

Love

Signs of the Transition to Manhood

Lately I’ve been thinking more about what it is to be a man. We talked about it in bible study this week for much longer than I was expecting, and it was one of the better discussions I’ve had in a few weeks.

This got me thinking of some of the talks that I heard at SEEK Conference last month about manhood. Dr. Johnathan Reyes did such a great job of comparing the signs that differentiates a boy from a man, and I’d like to share them with you:

  • A boy is occupied by looking for fun. A man is occupied by his duties.
  • A boy worries about whether others like him. A man cares more about whether he is respected.
  • A boy is self-focused in all that he does. A man keeps his thoughts and gaze outwards, thinking of others first.
  • A boy chooses the most comfortable option. A man makes sure to choose to do the right thing.
  • A boy avoids responsibility. A man is responsible. In the business world, a man accepts the responsibility of owning a project.
  • A boy becomes discouraged and gives up. A man perseveres through trial.
  • A boy doesn’t change the environment that he is in. A man improves every environment that he enters.
  • A boy views women as objects, as a “collection of body parts.” A man sees women as the whole person and respects and honors them in what he says and does.
  • A boy needs rules to act uprightly. A man is self-disciplined.
  • A boy brags about his accomplishments. A man does not exalt himself.
  • A boy avoids commitment. A man’s word is good and he honors vows to death.
  • A boy is governed by his passions. A man is governed by the truth.

This is a challenging list. But I think that it is important that we challenge ourselves and hold ourselves to a high standard (see the self-disciplined part). Are you where you want to be? I know that it’s a struggle. It is much easier to work on your journey to manhood when you do it together with a good friend or two. Share your desire to grow to become a better man with one another. And don’t forget to pray! Ask God to help give you the grace to overcome sinful tendencies.

Make war on sin, and start living like a man. Turn this Tedashii song up!

Boys to Men

I talk a lot about people in general and the universal call to holiness, but it is very important that us guys become the men that our society needs.

George Bailey

We need men because:

  • Men stand up for what’s right, even if nobody else is- As a society, we are better than “do whatever makes you happy.” No, there is purpose in life, and as men we need to make sure to do the most virtuous thing in all situations, even if it means doing what’s harder. Other guys might be watching porn or eyeing up girls, but we are better than that (and women certainly deserve better!!!). Don’t do it, AND have the courage to let them know what you think.
  • Men are not afraid of leadership- Where are the Abraham Lincolns and Martin Luther King Jrs today? We need leaders who have the backbone to stand up for what they believe in, whether it is popular or not. The truth does not depend based on a popular vote. And lead spiritually as well, especially if you are a father. From a study I remember seeing, kids whose father takes them to church are 4 times more likely to continue going to church than those who only go with their mom. Lead your family in prayer, teach them the faith. You don’t have to know everything, just share what you do know and make an honest effort to learn more.
  • Men work hard- whether at work or at school, too many guys take the easy way out by being lazy and just getting by. We see it every day. Life matters, we should work hard because what we do can help others. Also, we can glorify God through our work by offering it up, as  St. Josemaria Escriva showed us. Being a lazy father is right up there, too. Help your wife. Spend lots of time with your kids. Sitting around, drinking beer and watching sports isn’t as manly as lazy guys would like you to think. Ask their wives how manly they think that is..
  • Men protect women’s hearts- It kills me (The Catcher in the Rye anyone?) when guys are flirty with no intentions of committing to a relationship. Do you have any idea how much more girls think about that stuff? Being a flirt is for boys, for 6th grade. If you want to be a man, you’re going to have to commit to a girl. Ask her out. None of that hooking up stuff- that just leads to regret anyways. It means making a sacrifice, it means loving someone. Take her out on dates. It’s real people that we’re talking about here, real hearts and real feelings, so stop treating it like some sort of video game. Treat her right, and it’ll be so worth it.
  • Men stand up for those who can’t defend themselves- Do you ever catch yourself thinking “oh dang, I wish someone would help them..”? If so, you’re in the perfect opportunity to help that person. We have the ability to help people, let’s take use it. This means putting yourself second to others. Care for the sick, stand up for the rights of all people, whether they look like you or not, born and unborn, sick and poor.
  • Men support each other- Use positive encouragement instead of ragging on every guy who is “so much worse than you”. Support the other men in your life by helping and encouraging them when they are down.

I have a strong conviction that the devil wants to rid the world of upright men. Without good fathers, society will crumble. (The same thing goes for women, of course, and the family in general. See the pattern: he’s taking them all down!)

I’d love to see men that hold each other accountable, so that we can all strive for virtue together. Stop settling for mediocrity, and start striving for excellence.

Some of my favorite male role models:

St. Joseph- The “quiet” foster father of our Lord. We can learn from him to trust God and our wives and put our family before ourselves in all things, even if it means escaping through a desert to a different country to save them.

St. Maxmillian Kolbe- The “selfless” man. This priest was in a nazi concentration camp when another man with a family was going to be killed. St. Maximillian offered to take the man’s place and died by starvation. We can learn from him how we must always put others before ourselves, even complete strangers.

St. Peter- The first pope that always messed up. St. Peter was bold and brash, and often made foolish decisions, like denying Jesus THREE times. But despite his mistakes, he had a strong faith and always strove to do what was right. He died a martyr for the faith by being crucified upside down in Rome. We can learn from St. Peter that we all mess up, but we must cling to our faith in Jesus first and foremost before everything else.

Risk

Men of the world,

If you want to make a difference, you’re going to have to get off of the couch and take risks. What worthy pursuits are there that do not require a risk?

In order to become a great football player, you have to risk injury in games, practices, and workouts. If you don’t get off of the bench, you can’t help your team win.

In order to be successful in business, you have to take a risk, whether that is in starting a new company, hiring a new coworker, or deciding which plan of action to take in dealing with a problem.

In order to marry the girl of your dreams, you’ll have to put your pride on the line and ask her out in the first place. Tough enough. And even at that, you’ll probably have to go through a few unsuccessful dating relationships before you find the one. Not to mention the potential difficulties that come with marriage in the first place. (Want to be a great dad? Put yourself last, forgive quickly, look to help others before yourself, have clear communication with your wife, see things from others point of view too)

Just to love itself takes risk. There’s no way around taking the risk out of love, as much as people try. If there wasn’t a chance of hurt and heartbreak, how could it be called love? Love without risk is more like “liking,” it doesn’t satisfy. Nobody is just satisfied with “liking” someone but rather experiencing and loving someone, whether that is a friendship or a relationship.

Really, isn’t it the risk that shows just how much you love, how much you care? Didn’t it mean a lot more when Michael Jordan played through the flu in game 5 of the 1997 NBA finals against the Utah Jazz than game 6, even though he scored more points in game 6 and they won the championship? People remember game 5 more than game 6, even though that was the clinching game. And of course there’s the stories about the sacrificial love of parents for their children: they’ll die horrible deaths just to save their children.

The risks you take in life will show the world how well you love. Man up, bite the bullet, and make the world a better place, no matter what the world might do back to you.

Friendship and Flirting

The following is a guest post by Vincent Kania, seminarian for the Diocese of Joliet.

When we have begun to embrace a life of purity and chastity, I have found that we are able to better understand love, and so develop deeper and more meaningful friendships with others of both sexes. As we come closer to others, we can run into problems concerning how we should interact with the opposite sex so that we can further live out purity and chastity in an emotional sense. As we strive for this, I believe our objective should be to develop meaningful friendships in which we can lead each other to Christ.

Although we must make sure to respect others and be concerned for their thoughts and feelings, I don’t think this goal can be achieved through scrupulosity or gloominess. An honest and well-intentioned friendliness and joy will go much further for developing healthy and fulfilling friendships and relationships than being excessively reserved. God made us to interact with each other and to find enjoyment in these friendships and relationships, so we should embrace God’s gifts and thank Him for his generosity. But we do need to have an awareness of ourself and others so that we can live with integrity as we pursue friendships and relationships. Here’s a couple of practical considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Show great respect for the opposite sex at all times. Make sure to keep physical boundaries in place and never say anything or act in such a way that might demean someone of the opposite sex. We are made up of body and soul, so what we do with our bodies will affect our hearts and the hearts and emotions of those around us. If we make an effort to show respect in this way, your friends will notice and will return that respect to you in the form of trust and confidence.
  2. Understand yourself, especially your intentions. Know thyself. We often flirt in order to get attention and so find fulfillment or boost our own self-esteem. If this is the case, then we are lying to the other and are not living in integrity. We may also end up playing with other’s emotions and sending signals that we do not intend. But if your intentions are not to mislead anyone nor boost your own self-esteem, others will see your honesty and genuineness and you won’t have to worry as you enjoy time with your friends.
  3. Understand your friends and those around you. This is essentially my blanket statement to say that there is no hard and fast rules for this kind of thing, you need to use your judgement and your knowledge of the friendships you have. Know how others will understand and react to your words and actions and then respond appropriately. They also may have intentions different than your own or may be tempted to flirt in an unhealthy way. Understand also that, in a group, paying particular attention to one person to the exclusion of others can come off as flirting and lead others to jealousy. Now you can not control others and this jealousy may come up regardless, but it is something to keep in mind. Prudence is a must for these situations, and if you are unsure about something you were going to say or do, odds are it’s better to hold back.

Our objective was to develop friendships in which we can lead one another to Christ. Union with Christ is our goal and must always be our goal. And we must understand that only in union with Him can we realize our true selves. Pope John Paul II calls it an “interior independence” in which we find our strength, dignity, maturity, and confidence by the side of Christ. We must seek to understand the truth about ourselves, about our fallen nature and our need for love, and respond to this truth by seeking a relationship with Christ alone. When we come close to Him we can be set free from “love as necessity, restriction, mere occasion, or eroticism” and come to know that Love which will fulfill our deepest selves.[1] Once we have found Christ and always seek Him as our ultimate fulfillment, then we can open ourselves to real friendships with one another, free from jealousy, fear, and despondency. Our former Holy Father concludes:

“So the only thing I can tell you is that you should draw closer and closer to Christ, and not just superficially as a passing frame of mind, but with your whole heart, your whole being and your whole life. Seek Him and draw closer to Him….“In the path of love which life entails, always remember that above every love there is one Love. One Love. Love without constraint or hesitation. It is the love with which Christ loves each one of you.” [2]


[1] Pope John Paul II, The Way to Christ, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc, 1984, page 33-40.
[2] Ibid.

Fatherhood

In honor of the Solemnity of St. Joseph, it’s a fantastic day for another post on manhood, specifically fatherhood!

So I’d like to start by stating that many of the issues that we like to talk about nowadays are “women’s issues.” But as much as they might be seen as “woman’s issues,” many of these issues are created by the failures of men and fathers.

For example, the problem of abortion is created by a lack of maturity by men. The choice of having sexual relations with a woman is a major choice that you don’t just do for fun. No, a man should recognize that this action naturally could lead to pregnancy, and with that a greater call to self sacrifice for the mother of his child and his child.

The problem of prostitution and pornography is also created by a lack of self control by men. These “industries” hurt both women and men by treating women as objects of pleasure instead of dignified human beings and trapping men in addictions that are very hard to break. This openness that our society has to these industries also makes it hard for men to remember to treat all women with respect and dignity.

The problem of children growing up fatherless is quite obviously failure on the part of men. What a horribly selfish crime it is that a man would help bring a child into the world, in what is perhaps the most intimate act on earth, only to never be a part of raising and caring his child?

Many children may have fathers but they do not spend enough time with them. I found a fantastic study from the US Department of Health and Human Services on the impact of fathers on children here, that I will be referencing for the rest of this post. According to the study, the way that children see their father treat their mother goes a long way in how they learn to treat others themselves. Sons learn from the good example of their fathers to treat women with respect and dignity at all times, and daughters learn from their fathers’ example how they should be treated by men as they grow up. The study even shows how fathers who do not control their anger or treat their wives with respect often father children who are anxious, withdrawn, or anti-social. On the academic side, the study shows that children whose biological fathers are highly involved in their lives have higher IQ scores and get better grades. The study even notes how it is important for children to be raised not just in a household of cohabitating parents but in a household of married parents. The sad truth is that if the parents are not married yet even though they are living together, it is much less likely that they will ever get married. And if they don’t get married, it is much less likely that they will stay together. Men need to man up and commit, for the sake of their wives and children! The last issue that the study addresses is how children with an involved father are more emotionally and socially secure and outgoing, especially as youths. These children are less likely to suffer from depression or get involved with crime and drugs.

All Christians are called to priestly, prophetic, and kingly roles. As men, we are specifically called to provide for our families and those in need, to teach and instruct others, and to lead in what we say and do. We must follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, thinking of others first and ourselves last. It is very important in our modern age, where we see a void of strong and selfless men in society, that we encourage each other and challenge each other to man up and start living for others instead of ourselves. By doing this, we will be addressing many of the current hot topic issues of our society right at the source.

St. Joseph, pray for us, that we may be men of faith, love, and courage, caring for all of the women, children, and needy in our lives!