Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Do Manfully (3)

I always liked the "Lone Ranger" when I was a kid. I listened to the old radio shows, and watched the black and white serial on t.v. The thing that I never got as a kid was the fact that he was not really "alone", because he always had Tonto with him. True, he was the only Ranger who survived that attack that led to his taking up the mask and fighting crime; yet, that did not fit the common terminology. Everyone back then used the term "long ranger" (as in "he just wants to be a lone ranger") to refer to someone who does things without anyone else helping him. When I grew older and heard the term "no man is an island" I started to get it a bit more, but I still thought it was an odd (mis)usage of the term "lone ranger".

So then, let me say it again: no man can be a "Lone Ranger". Guys need guys to strengthen them. There is something about men being able to help each other and "sharpen" one another that cannot be explained by common words. Even the Scriptures acknowledge that as "iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" (Prov 27:17, Douay). Men can encourage each other in ways that women (even their wives) are unable to do for them. This is why children (and especially boys) need their father in the home when they are growing up (as well as a good masculine priest in their parish). This assumes, however, that the men are behaving like men, and not trying to encourage each other in ways that women do with each other (which is definitely not the same).

As I assume that you all know, I am one of the few married Catholic priests in America. I love my wife; we have been married for 27 happy years, and I can honestly say that we love each other more today than we did when we got married, and it is continually getting better between us. Yet, having said that (and she will understand this completely), I must also say that I need the companionship of other men in order for the "iron to sharpen iron". I have a very close friend right now that helps me to fulfill that in a special way; a fellow priest whom I have only known for about a year but it feels like its been 10 years. We can speak to each other "as men" and boldly help one another.

All men need this, and yet few men are brave enough to admit it. Yes, they will often say that avoiding it means that they are strong enough without it, but the opposite is true. It takes guts to admit that we need each other. I am not denying that men have other men as friends; yet few of them have male friends who will talk to them about more than their favorite sports team and brand of beer. This is not to say that it is wrong to talk about sports and beer; but if that is the deepest subject that men speak about--they are not really helping each other as Catholic men. G.K. Chesterton once said that one of the best things about Christendom is, "a tavern for men to talk with men." He meant that Christianity encourages men to help each other, as brothers, and as men. That means that they are helping each other with the acknowledgement that they have the same Lord, and in the manner that men need.

What is often referred to as "male bonding" is usually a small slice of what I am calling "iron sharpening iron". Yes, men bond by slugging each other in the shoulder, teasingly insulting one another, and (occasionally) belching (and I am exaggerating only a small bit). It is this strength, boldness, and directness that men need in order to help each other. Ignoring each other's problems, or beating around bush--but never getting to the subject--is not a help. When men "bond" but do not actually encourage each other in greater faithfulness, it is comparable to smelling dinner but not eating. It is an enjoyable experience, but without any real nutrition or satisfaction.

This is what I would like to see happen more at St. George Church (my Ordinariate community). We are too small to do much in the way of an organized men's group (yet). For the time, however, this is part of what it means to be under the patronage of St. George, who was a true "soldier for Christ" that slayed dragons, and stood up for his faith (even unto his own death). I have often said that the Catholic faith is "not for sissies"; that is especially true for men. It is possible for a man to hide and avoid his responsibilities before God, but when he does so, he is only showing just how completely emasculated he has been. So, men, let us admit we need each other, and then seek to help each other, as men, to be strong, faithful, leaders in our homes, glorifying Christ in all we do. Let us "do manfully".