Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Three Roles of a Man: King

“You gave me this staff to rule over scorpions and serpents. God made it a rod to rule over kings.” –Moses (from the movie The Ten Commandments) Think back to your childhood. When you would watch shows or see movies or comics that had a hero in it, a masculine leader who was unafraid of the dire consequences of putting his life on the line, was that who you wanted to be? Or were you more the type that never wanted to cause any problems and wanted to be a face in the crowd? If that was you then I am sorry but this is not for you, but I highly doubt that any man can honestly say they wanted to be a face in the crowd. All men want to be leaders. We want to make a difference and make our presence known, not for ourselves but for the glory of a cause higher than our own. As Father Corapi has said, “We are all kings in exile.” God put men on this earth to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth….. and behold, it was very good.” This is a divine calling to leadership and kingship for all men. In order for men to take on the kingship God speaks of in the book of Genesis there is one thing that married men must do……we have got to have kids! Without a bloodline what kind of kingship do we have? Why is it that men think in order to be the boss they should wait until they are ‘financially stable’ to have children? When God promised Abraham that he would give him more descendants than there are stars in the sky, it is evident that God was proving the point that men should be proud to have children and see them as their own royal bloodline. “And God said to him, "I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your body. The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you." (Genesis 35:11-12) Entire societies have fallen and will continue to fall when men do not lead in a masculine way. In order to fulfill our duties to the utmost, as leaders, we have to know what it calls for and what duties are to be expected from us. I am sorry to say that because of past experiences of kings and bad leaders of the world when a person thinks of a king they think of the Stalin and Hitler types of leaders who rule with a bullwhip and fear. But we have the ultimate example of kingship in the person of Jesus Christ. When Jesus was crowned with thorns He showed all men what the crown of true kingship looks like. If we are to take upon our lives the kingship that we are all called to, blood and sacrifice is imminent. If we are to take up the challenge of becoming the kings of our household we must give all that we are to the very last drop. We are not to adorn ourselves with precious things that make us feel more important than we really are. If the crown of true kingship is a crown of thorns we are to realize that life must be a difficult road or else we cannot be true royalty. “How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.” (1 Corinthians 4:8-9) A servant of the world is the man who deserves a crown of monarchs. As kings of our household we are to protect and dignify our queens. The queens of the middle ages were adorned with as high of praise as the king. The respect and loyalty of the descendants is given to the king but the love and devotion is given to our queen. As kings we are considered the band of the wedding ring, a little rough but stable. Our queens, our beloved wives, are to be the diamonds shining in the light. When a diamond is in the dark no person can see the beauty that radiates off of it, we as the kings have got to bring in the light of truth and love to our wives so that they may shine like the diamonds that they are. Our children will learn how to treat their spouses from how their father treats their mother. True kingship is nothing without our queen. So one thing that all men must remember is true kingship requires sacrifice, and without sacrifice there is no victory. We must all accept the challenge at hand to strive for true kingship, in the eyes of the Almighty, lest we become slaves to sin and death. “We are either kings or pawns of men” - Napoleon Bonaparte

Friday, March 11, 2011

Three Roles of a Man: Prophet

Men are called by their nature to be the ones to sow the seeds of faith, within their families and society in general. The word prophet these days unfortunately does not hit that place in the heart of men that it used to. The word warrior makes the hair on a man’s neck stand up but there are unexpected similarities between a prophet and a warrior. A prophet is someone who brings the good news of the Gospels to all in order that they might have freedom from sin. A warrior fights for a cause, freedom for instance. A prophet is somewhat of a tool for the use of God, a warrior is a tool for the greater cause. A prophet tells the truth no matter what the end may be; a warrior fights for truth no matter what the end might be. A prophet fights with his words; a warrior fights with every talent he has. A prophet gives until his last breath, a warrior fights until his last breath. A prophet is a warrior and a warrior is a prophet. As Christian Catholic men we are summoned to both. So how can we be both warrior and prophet fighting in a non-physical battle? I think Ephesians 6:10-17 said it best, “Draw your strength from the Lord and from His mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with you loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” St. Paul was calling the men to battle in this passage. God has already given us the ability and the means to fight. Let us not forget that God is a warrior at heart as well. All throughout the entire Old Testament it is one battle after another, God even tells generals what to do in order to win fights. All we have to do is have absolute faith in Him and then learn how to fight. St. Peter, our first Holy Father, was one of the best examples of a warrior prophet. He was not a perfect man; he sinned just like all the rest of us. In fact, he denied Our Lord at the most critical time of His life. He was a humble fisherman, not one of the most learned men at the time, but he had a passion deep down inside of him that Jesus recognized. Our Lord does not want men who are passionless and timid. He wants a humble man but a wild one as well. St. Peter was that man. He had his weaknesses, he had to pull his foot out of his mouth a few times, usually because he was so passionate about what was going on that he didn’t think before he talked, something all men can relate to, but the vigor that was contained in his heart of gold was what Jesus was after. St. Peter was willing to fight and die for his Lord. In the garden of Gethsemane, who was it that pulled out the sword and struck a man’s ear off? Although Jesus warned Peter that “Whoever lives by the sword, will die by the sword” this was the vigor that Jesus loved inside of Peter. St. Peter was looking for a physical war to fight, but then when Jesus aimed all of Peter’s energies in the right direction, that fire deep inside of Peter came out and he was ready to go to war, spiritual warfare, for Our Lord. St. Peter gave up what was comfortable in his life because he saw something in Jesus that made him want to fight and be a real man. A man like St. Peter would not have given his life to something that was not worthy of manhood, this man was a fighter. So, with the fire and vigor of St. Peter we are called to do whatever it takes to protect Holy Mother Church, the good name of Jesus, and our families. Whether it is a physical battle or a spiritual one, if we don’t fight who will? In the book of Genesis before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah Abraham asked our Lord if he could find 10 righteous men would Sodom and Gomorrah be spared? And our Lord said yes. The ability of other people’s sanctified lives to save the lives of sinners is beyond doubt portrayed in this passage. God was willing to save, roughly 300,000 people, historians say there was around this number of people in the cities, for the sake of 10 good men. So, when we pray, study, and work out our salvation with ‘fear and trembling’ then we are not only saving our own souls but the souls of who knows how many people. This is indeed a warrior mentality. When we bring others to the love of Jesus Christ and His church we are not only a prophet for the Lord but a warrior as well. A prophet is a warrior and a warrior is a prophet.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Three Roles of a Man: Priest

All men are called to a sacrificial life. Without self-sacrifice a man’s life is utterly useless. Fathers are meant to sacrifice their lives for the Church, their wives, their children and their country. Through our labor and perseverance we are able to give our families and our society a happier, healthier life. Unfortunately, most men see their careers as what makes them who they are so they strive to be at the top of the totem pole no matter who they step on. The presentation of a “real man” in today’s society portrays men as the Machiavellian man who takes from everyone and gives nothing back. The idea of “only the strong survive” has turned into “only the strong are worthy of life”. This skewed way of looking at our masculinity is dragging whole societies and all of humanity down with it. Men are meant to give of themselves and never to ask for, or expect anything in return. The real man is the man that gives himself fully and completely to his mission, not for any vain-glory but for the completion of the mission. Priests are our ‘on earth’ sacrificial lambs. In “Persona Christae” they give themselves to the higher purpose of the salvation of their flock. In the same way lay men are called to a life of self-sacrifice and humility. An excellent example of a priest of his household for all men to look to is the story of James J. Braddock in the movie Cinderella Man. His family was going through a rough time as was his country and the only way he knew how to provide for his family was through the literal sacrifice of his body in the boxing ring. Boxing was his way of getting through the great depression. His body was old and beaten down from years of hard labor on the docks of New Jersey, yet he knew that allowing his body to go through a few more fights his children and wife could eat and have heat in the house for one more day. There is a great line in the movie when his wife asks him to give up being a boxer because there was a chance that he could get seriously hurt and his response was, “I don’t ask you to stop being a woman, please don’t ask me to stop being a man”, he realized his mission and he must follow through. When the press asked him what it was he was willing to put his neck on the line for, his simple answer was “milk”. Even though he was fighting for the providing of food and shelter, something all men must do, we also must be consumed with the mission to save our child’s soul. We are called to be fathers in the physical world, but our purpose in life is to bring our families to heaven. Fatherhood is God's gift to menin order to take these little gifts of children to mold and create into a good man or woman. We provide and sacrifice for the good of these gifts because we know, deep down inside of us, that this is what we are called to. Just as a priest provides his spiritual children the means to grace and a fulfilling spiritual life, so does a father provide the lessons in life and the example of authentic masculinity. It’s quite ironic how quickly children can make a man’s priorities go from panoramic to tunnel vision. Our souls will be judged according to our relationships with God and with other people. Jesus gave us an example to live by; He did not live for Himself, His whole purpose, His whole mission was the salvation of others. From the very beginning of His life He showed us men how to live for others and let ourselves be humbled in order to be great. He provided an example of obedience when He obeyed His earthly mother and father for thirty of the thirty-three years that he was on this earth. He provided an example of humility when He came down from heaven as God Himself to become a little helpless child and even more when He becomes bread in the sacrament of the Eucharist. He provided an example of self-sacrifice through the cross. Jesus was, and still is, the definitive man’s man. He provided blood for the sacrifice of our sins so that we could be free, free from sin. Just as our American ancestors bled for our right to freedom in this beautiful country of ours, Jesus provided the means, by blood, sweat and tears, for the freedom to enter paradise. He also provided the perfect example of intolerance of moral tyranny. The definition of a priest is “one authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion especially as a mediatory agent between humans and God”, we must give God our lives so that He can work through us. By giving our wills completely over to Jesus we not only provide the love of Jesus to our brethren but we also provide God Almighty with a tool to be used for the salvation of those brethren. Just as a priest is the mediator of the spiritual, we men are the mediators of the world for our families. Our children and our women learn about the world through us. We are the ones that allows the world to either make sense or complete nonsense. We mediate what the world is to our families, if we make the world a place of wonder, excitement and a view of Divine Beauty this is how our children will see it, if we on the other hand make the world a doom and gloom place our children will see it this way. Are we working to live or living to work? What type of example of a man in the world are we setting? Does our life represent a man willing to sacrifice in order that others may live? Do our daily actions portray a man willing to provide what is necessary for our family’s salvation? We are called to be the priests of our households and without a priest the flock will scatter. “No deep conviction is aroused in the incredulous until they see the scarred hands and the broken heart of the priest who is a victim with Christ. The mortified priest, the priest who is detached from the world- these inspire, edify and Christify souls.” – Bishop Fulton Sheen, The Priest is Not His Own

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mastering the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Marriage

Isaiah taught us about the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 11:1-3.  The faithful of the Catholic Church receive these gifts, especially in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.  St. Ambrose in De mysteriis taught about these gifts saying, "Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God's presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with His sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed His pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts".[1]
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about the gifts as well in paragraph 1830 stating, “The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. ” The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are readily available to those called to the vocation of Marriage.  Within marriage a couple has great opportunity to master the use of these wonderful gifts.  Each gift can easily be applied to the married life and can help couples live a marriage that is an icon to the love of God and His people, the Church.   
Isaiah lists the first gift as wisdom.  Madame de Stael, a French-Swiss writer, once said, “As we grow in wisdom, we pardon more freely.”[2] Within the marriage relationship we have the opportunity to grow in wisdom by learning from mistakes rather than harboring hurts.  Wisdom opens a door to growth in the relationship when mistakes are seen as opportunities for learning; learning more about the other, learning better ways to work with one another, learning God’s plan in the relationship.  When husband and wife allow the gift of wisdom to heal mistakes, their marriage can grow rather than stagnate or dissolve. 
Understanding is the second gift Isaiah spoke of.  Before a couple is ever married, they should be educated on the purpose of marriage according to God’s plan.  The Code of Canon law # 1055 specifies the Church’s teaching on the purpose of marriage.  “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.”[3]  This definition of the sacrament gives us the two purposes of marriage, “good of the spouses” and “procreation and education of offspring.”  The understanding of these two ends of marriage may be in the minds of the bride and groom from the beginning, but as a couple lives their lives together, this understanding is given more clarity.  The decisions that must be made for the good of the marriage and family become very important. The gift of understanding must be asked of the Holy Spirit and then be relied upon for each decision.    The spouses grow in their marriage with the gift of understanding as they realize the great calling of their vocation; the good of their spouse and the procreation and education of their children.
Counsel is the next gift of the Holy Spirit.  This can also be referred to as right judgment.  “The gift of counsel helps us to discover the will of God under difficult circumstances.”[4]  This gift is desperately needed in the marriage especially when the couple understands their calling.  The couple must trust in the prompting of the Holy Spirit in the day-to-day decisions that must be made for the growth in their sanctity and direction in their family.  When a couple works together to determine God’s will by using the gift of counsel for their marriage and family, they grow in their partnership, helping one another along the path to Heaven.
Fortitude is a gift of the Holy Spirit possibly most forgotten in marriages today.  Augustine gave us the three goods of marriage in his treatise, On the Goods of Marriage. One of those goods is the indissolubility of the sacrament.  “Caused by mutual consent, consummated and sealed by spousal union, the bond of Marriage is indissoluble.”[5] The Holy Spirit gives couples the gift of fortitude to help them stick with it no matter the challenge.  Fortitude is required to survive the refiner’s fire that marriage can be.  Using the fortitude offered by the Holy Spirit, husband and wife can grow into the people God created them to be and help them find the happiness in marriage that God intends rather than giving up on the marriage and missing out on the joy that could be found on the other side of the struggle. 
The gift of knowledge is a gift from the Holy Spirit that can possibly aid husband and wife in their marriage the most as long as the couple is open to it.  Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen stated in Three To Get Married, “As love comes from knowledge, so hatred comes from want of knowledge.”[6]  Couples should become students of each other and of the Sacrament of Marriage.  Man and wife are not done when they say “I do,” they are just beginning.  The Holy Spirit offers knowledge of the spouse when one is open to it.  He reveals the uniqueness of the other, the special gifts that only the spouse has, the way in which that individual person is made in God’s image.  It is this knowledge of the spouse that brings intimacy and aids the two in becoming one.  The Holy Spirit also reveals the knowledge of how to live marriage as an icon of God’s love for His Church when the couple attempts to learn more about this beautiful and ongoing sacrament. Husband and wife should strive to use the gift of knowledge so that the marriage can sanctify them both and by doing so reveal God’s love to the world. 
Piety, which is synonymous with reverence, sanctity or holiness, is the sixth of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.    The good of the spouses, as discussed earlier, can be described as piety or sanctity.  Marriage offers great opportunities for the growth in piety.  Dr. William May wrote in his paper, “The “Good of the Spouses” and Marriage as a Vocation to Holiness” of the primary purpose of the marriage being the sanctification of the individuals.  He wrote, “In short, a married person’s path to holiness God wants him to have has a name: his or her spouse.”[7]  He goes on to give the means necessary to accomplish this ongoing growth in piety; conjugal, or self-donative love, choosing to engage in the marital act as unitive and choosing to engage in the marital act as procreative.[8]  All three of these means require selflessness which in turn aids in the growth of holiness.  With Christ as our example of dying to self, we become more like Him when we choose to die to self as well.  Marriage offers the perfect avenue for growth in piety by continually placing the needs of the spouse and family above our own. 
The final gift of the Holy Spirit that Isaiah identified is the gift of the fear of the Lord or reverence for each member of the Holy Trinity.  Blessed John Paul II explained in his Theology of the Body just how married people can grow in this gift.  “Penetrating their hearts, kindling in them that holy “fear of Christ”…the mystery of Christ must lead them to “be subject to one another”…”[9]  He takes this phrase from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians when he tells them in the fifth chapter, verse 21, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Man and wife can grow in fear of the Lord, or “reverence for Christ” by loving one another as Christ loves; selflessly, as a gift of self.  Purposely making the effort to truly put the spouse’s needs ahead of one’s own needs draws a person to Christ.  It reveals Christ within us as the gift we have made to the other.  Again in the Pope’s Theology of the Body, this fear of the Lord is even further explained, “Thus, that “fear of Christ” and “reverence,” about which the author of Ephesians speaks, is nothing other than a spiritually mature form of that reciprocal fascination, that is to say, of the man for femininity and the woman for masculinity… The spiritual maturity of this fascination is nothing but the fruit born of the gift of fear, one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which St. Paul spoke about in 1 Thessalonians 4:4-7.”[10] As man truly attempts to understand woman in her femininity, and woman likewise toward man, giving of self to the needs of masculinity and femininity, each of the couple grows in the holy fear of God because he or she recognizes the awesome creative ability of the Father, the love of the Son and the direction of the Holy Spirit within the beloved spouse. 
St. Paul speaks in his fifth letter to the Ephesians in verse 32 of the mystery in which earthly marriage between man and woman is to be an icon to the Heavenly marriage of Christ and His Church.  The Holy Spirit offers these seven gifts discussed as a way to image Christ and His love for His people in and through marriage.  The use of these gifts can aid a couple in this endeavor.  By asking the Holy Spirit for each gift at the time most needed, husband and wife have the opportunity to become a window into the heavenly marriage of the “wedding supper of the Lamb” in which Revelation 19:9 speaks at which time Christ, the bridegroom is wedded to His beloved, the Church.

[1] Father William Saunders, “Gifts of the Holy Spirit”, Catholic Education Resource Center,  http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0451.html (accessed February 11, 2011).
[2] Jone Johnson Lewis, “Madame de Stael Quotes,” About.com Women’s History, http://womenshistory.about.com/od/quotes/a/madame_de_stael.htm (accessed February 11, 2011).
[3] Title VII Marriage (Cann. 1055 – 1165), Code of Canon Law, http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P3V.HTM, (accessed February 12, 2011).
[4] Most Reverend Louis LaRavoire Morrow, A Catechism in Pictures My Catholic Faith A Manual of Religion, (Kansas City: Sarto House, 1954), 84.
[5] Peter J. Elliott, What God Has Joined, (Staten Island: Alba House, 1990),  p. 162.
[6] Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Three To Get Married, (New Jersey: Scepter Publishers, 1951), p. 16.
[7] William E. May, “The “Good of the Spouses” and Marriage as a Vocation to Holiness”, http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/may/marriage-2.htm, (accessed February 12, 2011).
[8] Ibid.
[9] John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them A Theology of the Body. (Boston: Pauline Books & Media. 2006). p. 473.
[10] Ibid, pp. 614-615.