10 Ways of Living as a Son of God

Mass on Ramapo Mountain

  1. God literally died for you. You are a son of God and you get your worth from His love for you. God willed your existence out of love. You are not just a product of chance. God willed YOUR existence, He created you exactly as you are, and He loves you as you are. He sees you as His son, and wants to see you prosper and live with the fullness of life that He wants for you. Jesus said, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” in John 10:10. That’s pretty cool, huh?! And I haven’t even hit on the part about Jesus dying for us. He thought that we were worth dying for even though we had already messed up. So remember that even when things aren’t going well, Jesus believes in you and wants to give you another chance.
  1. Men are called to serve and protect. In the story of Adam and Eve, after Adam is created, “God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it” (Genesis 2:15). God gave Adam and all men this duty, to “cultivate and care” for all of the Earth. This includes all of the plants and animals, but most importantly all of humanity. The Hebrew translation of “cultivate and care” is the word “Shamar,” which means to protect and keep.  So God wasn’t just giving us a job of being gardeners, but being protectors of all of God’s creation.  Our job is to honor God in all that we do and to selflessly serve and protect all others in our care, our wives, our families, our communities, those in need, and to even care for nature too, as  Pope Francis has put out so beautifully in his latest encyclical, Laudato Si.  A man is called to sacrifice of himself for others. Our ultimate model of manhood is Jesus Himself, and He gave us a very clear message that we need to put ourselves last in serving others. Sometimes this is in very heroic ways, like soldiers, police officers, and firemen. But we can also give of ourselves for others in everyday matters, like going out of our way to help a friend or someone in need, letting people go before us in lines, and making time to spend with your family instead doing what you want.
  1. Your masculinity doesn’t depend on what you look like. In our culture, there are these lies that in order to be a true man, we need to be super big and ripped. We see this all over: on sports, in commercials, in the locker room. This is a lie. Some men are naturally skinny or overweight, this has no bearing on their manhood. Sure, it is healthy to be in shape and to be able to do some heavy physical labor, but don’t be tempted to think any less of yourself if you don’t have big muscles. God judges us for what we do, not what we look like. In addition, remember that you can act like a man even when you are relatively young. Don’t let your elders convince you that just because you’re young, you’re destined to make mistakes and fail until you’re older. There are plenty of 10 year old boys who live much more manly lives than 40 year olds, by pursuing virtue and excellence in everything that they do.
  1. Pursuing virtue. Once I was privileged enough to attend a talk specifically on manliness at a Catholic conference (another shout-out to FOCUS!), and I was surprised to learn within the first few minutes that the essence of manliness is simply cultivating and living the virtues. Ultimately, this post could simply be about the 7 virtues, but I guess I wanted to flesh them out a little bit more for the sake of making them a bit more practical. The Catholic Gentleman has a wonderful post that highlights the importance of virtue that I would highly recommend, but the 7 virtues are prudence, temperance, justice, fortitude, faith, hope, and charity. The first 4 are called cardinal virtues that we can train ourselves in, and the final 3 are called theological virtues which are gifts from God. In your own life, your best bet is to pick out one of the cardinal virtues at a time, research them so that you can understand them, and then continuously work at attaining them. As for the theological virtues, your best bet is to take those into prayer each day, asking God for those gifts. He will provide.
  1. Treating women right. One of the easiest ways to distinguish a man from a boy is how he treats women. A man always treats women with respect, seeing them as a human being with their own life, needs, relationships, and feelings. Boys are sometimes tempted to use women, for their bodies, for a sense of emotional comfort, for power, etc. One of those general rules of thumb to apply here is to see every woman as your mother, sister, daughter, etc. This includes women that you see on screens and images. Would you treat one of them the way that you are treating this stranger? And beware, pornography may seem harmless at first, but it has a crippling effect on you and your relationships with the more beautiful sex. A huge way that we can honor women is by having chaste relationships with them. Save sex for marriage, and make sure to draw the line clearly with how physical you BOTH feel comfortable being with each other if you’re in a committed relationship. Save the “test drive” for cars, because women are so much better than that. It’s an insult to even compare them to cars. If you aren’t willing to lay down your life for them for the rest of your life, you have no right to a “test drive,” this is a go big or go home issue. On a lighter note, some things that I love to see men do for women is to open doors for them, let them eat first, paying for a date, listening attentively, and not talking down to them- especially with regards to subjects like sports and cars where the stereotype is that women don’t know anything about that. Oh yea, and if you’re Catholic, letting your wife / girlfriend / children go before you to receive Holy Communion. What a better way of sacrifice then letting them receive Jesus first?!
  1. True to our promises. A man is as good as his word, goes the common saying. “Let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation,” warns St. James in James 5:12. How often have you been affected by this in others? One of the most common issues where we see this in the 21st century is Facebook events. I’m guilty of putting “maybe” down for about 5 events in a row, only to never change to yes or no and never showing up. Doing that hurts my friends who went out of their way to invite me and don’t have any idea if I’m coming or not! And this can be applied to greater things, too.. How many times have we encountered people who are always promising to do things and never follow through? We stop taking that person seriously, don’t we? Perhaps the most important promises that affect each one of us are wedding vows. Each one of us has a mom and a dad. And most of our parents, at least at one point in time, were married. They promised to be love and serve each other, through good times and bad. They promised to be faithful to each other for their entire lives. They promised to marry each other for life. Yet, unfortunately, about half of marriages end in divorce. Dang. Talk about a broken promise. Think… they promised that they would love and serve each other in both good times and in bad. So as much as I feel for couples going through difficult marriages, divorce never really was an option according to their vows. Unfortunately these affects have wounded countless numbers of young people in my generation, who are now the likely generation in recent memory to ever get married. There is hurt everywhere because of broken promises. Long story short, a man keeps his word, even if it is very difficult. Even if just each of us as individuals try to get a little better on this, I think it would go a long way in changing the world.
  1. Taking the initiative to pursue a woman. For young men, assuming that you aren’t called to the priesthood or religious life, one of the most exhilarating times of our lives is attempting to win a woman’s heart. Notice how I used the words “pursue” and “win”, verbs that imply that you actually try. You don’t usually find the woman of your dreams by just sitting around waiting for her to walk through your door, but by going out and living life, and meeting her doing the same sort of things that you like to do. Don’t be afraid to take a chance and ask out a woman that you’re interested in! Rejection stings, but you’ll never have a shot if you don’t ask! Unfortunately there seems to be a lot of young women out there looking for relationships and potential husbands, but not many men going out and asking them. Instead, our culture has made hooking up seem like a normal thing to do. This is no way to treat a woman, to use her for her body with no thoughts for who she actually is as a person… to just try and get messed up enough that you don’t even know what you’re doing. That’s not being a man, that’s being an animal. A man goes out of his way to protect women and treat them with respect. The end goal of a relationship isn’t sex or physical pleasure. The end goal of a relationship is life-long friendship, love, and helping each other become closer to Christ. Kids are nice too, when we’re talking about marriage ;-)
  1. Be sharpened by other men. Man was not created to be alone. We were actually created for community. I’ve already mentioned some cool things about relationships with women, but in general fraternal friendships are just as important! Jesus recognized this when He gave us the Church. It wasn’t just Peter alone who continued Jesus’ mission on bringing God’s Kingdom to earth in the Church, but the 12 Apostles, and the 72 Disciples, and countless others! Jesus founded the Church as a community, and it grew as a community. We are all the Body of Christ, and we are stronger together as a “body” as opposed to “a lone ear” or “a finger and two toes.” A pretty cool bible verse that highlights this is Proverbs 27:17, which says, “As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens his fellow man.” Of course this applies to women too, but I love the imagery of iron here and I think it speaks very clearly to men. When I am alone, I am more vulnerable to temptations and not always the person that I ought to be. When I am surrounded by my good friends, they encourage me to be the best that I can be in all things. One simple way that I’ve noticed this is in prayer accountability. As a missionary, I challenged men to commit to praying daily, as I do, so that they could grow closer to Jesus. Beforehand, most of them had never had a very regular prayer life, but after I challenged them to start one and continued to check up on them, they started making impressive improvements and I could see their lives change as they grew closer to Christ through prayer. Accountability and encouragement is one of the best ways that we can help build each other up as men.
  1. Only satisfied by God. This world is great. God has given us so many people to become friends with and countless other joys. But as tempting as it can be to strictly chase the things of this world, we have to remember that in the end only God will satisfy us. We were made for God, and nothing less will give us peace. We will always be wanting more… until we are finally with God, and we will have never-ending peace and joy, ecstasy really! So with that in mind, make daily prayer a part of your schedule, and make sure to be faithful to Sunday Mass and regular confession. Our relationship with God starts right here on earth.
  1. God’s son. Did you know that God desires a personal relationship with you? Kind of like any other friend, except He’s Jesus and He created, unconditionally loves, and died for you! Now, if you’re anything like me, you get a bit turned off by that mushy “God loves us” stuff. The girls eat that up, but for us as guys, it doesn’t really work. I think we need to take a different approach. God gave us two basic ways of seeing Him: as our Father in God the Father, and as our brother in Jesus. Some of us aren’t blessed in having a father or brother in our lives that gives us a glimpse of the true love and care of God/Jesus. As a Father, God cares for us at all times. He watches out for us, is ready to give us advice, and gives us everything that we need to live joyfully as His sons. As a brother, Jesus modeled for us a firm commitment to putting God first in all that we do, a strong work ethic in our day to day labors, compassion and care for those around us who need mercy and help, and is a friend whose shoulder we can lean on whenever we need some support. God is much closer to us than we think and remembering that He is by our side at all times will help us through the good and the bad times ahead.

I hope and pray that these tips inspire and encourage you! God bless!

Note: A couple of months ago I published a post about being a Daughter of God, which inspired me to write this one as well for the guys!

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!