Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Be a Man

Be a Man

          As a boy, I always saw the notion of “being a man” as an important goal for which to strive.  Although I didn't really know what it entailed, I did have a sense that it meant more than just turning 18 or even 21, although I figured that by the time I hit those magic numbers, I would accomplish the task naturally.
          Our society has made it painfully clear that “being a man” (and I would really just say being an adult) does not come from reaching a certain age.  Countless children grow up without fathers, and marriage, as well as other commitments, are broken as easily as one's plans for Friday night.  One of the greatest crises of our times is the crisis of men.
          Since being a child hoping to someday “be a man,” I have reflected on what that term really means.  What does it take to “be a man”?  And again, though men and women are different, the aspects I am reflecting on here really apply to all adults.
          Ultimately I think it comes down to a perspective, a focus that shifts off one's self and onto others.  As an infant, we are all born totally self-absorbed.  Our survival depends on it.  But as we grow, our focus should begin to shift.  We should begin to place our focus onto others, God first and then our neighbor.
          As we become men, we become willing to sacrifice, to suffer some loss for the sake of another's good.  We are willing to risk our own comfort to stand for some truth or goodness or beauty. 
          When we are able to truly and completely give ourselves to another, we are ready to marry.  Our spouse is our vocation and her good, particularly her spiritual good, becomes our primary concern.  Once the marriage is blessed with children, we pour ourselves out for them, to raise and educate them to be good, strong, holy adults themselves one day.
          But that is no longer the goal that many people strive for.  A recent Time Magazine article, revealing the secret to happiness as the lack of children, is a scary reminder of this.  The trick, says the article, for many people, is to acquire no responsibilities for others (read “liabilities”), so one is free to live as hedonistic an existence as possible.
          Of course, with all this hedonism, the one thing that is missing is joy.  Those who choose to truly become men (and women) find that in imaging Jesus by giving themselves away, they find true joy, a joy that is hidden from the rest of the world, which leaves them in poverty.
          Of course, marriage and children are not the only avenues to this joy.  Priests and men and women religious often overflow with it.  And many single people serve God as they are called to, with this adult perspective and corresponding joy.  Even much needed recreation and occasional properly ordered “indulgence” are colored with a holy outlook.
          As real men and real women become ever more scarce in our culture, it is critical that those who bear the name Christian bear also the image of Christ in their lives so that His message may still be preached and the conversion of the world will not become a forgotten dream.