Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Humble Macho Catholics

The title of this post is weird, maybe even a little confusing.  We tend to think of humble people as meek and macho people as full of bravado.  Work with me here.

When I created this blog, I was hoping to make it a place to express two current goals of mine.

My first goal was to be more submissive to God's will.  I made some small victories on that battlefield.  My prayer life has gotten better, then a little worse, and now I'm trying to make time for prayer rather than find time. It's difficult with toddlers in the house.  I'm noticing all sorts of little areas where I fail every day.  One of the readers of this blog, Sara (you know who you are), went to college with me my sophomore year at UNL.  I remember once passing across the quad and observing the extremely rude and ignorant fundamentalist preachers at our student union.  There they were, acting all Christ-like, shouting and screaming and pointing at all the "sinners" (I quote it because it was their favorite word, not because I deny there were sinners).  I decided to try to set some things straight with one of them.  When I walked up, I noticed him talking to Sara.  He was telling her that he was a believer in Christ, so he didn't commit any sins.  Ever.  Wow!  Then I remember Sara, clear as if it was yesterday, saying, "I sin every day.  I need God's mercy."  She was trying to convince him that being Christian was a struggle, an ongoing battle.  I remember thinking, "nope, not me.  I don't sin that much.  I'm as righteous as, I'm as righteous as Joseph."  Okay, so I wasn't quite that smug, but you get the point.  The thing is, at that time, I was kind of running on spiritual fumes.  I was making lots of new friends, in a completely different environment, and my prayer life suffered.  I especially forgot to remind myself of my sins on a regular basis.  I couldn't own up to them honestly.  Sara inspired me that day and I spent a long time thinking about it.

I tell my students about how Pope John Paul II went to Confession every week and they're amazed.  I recall a friend a professor at seminary describing St. Augustine's conversion this way: "you know when you're driving a car and the windshield looks clear, and then you turn toward the sun, and the more light comes in your windshield, the more bug guts and bird poop you see?  The more we turn toward God, the more we begin to see the stains on our souls."

So my first goal for this blog, and for myself, being submissive to God's will, is all about humility.  Humility is seeing myself as God sees me, that is, as I really am.  If I ask myself that question, it becomes clear: I am a stubborn Pharisee with mixed up priorities, worried about a whole host of problems (many unrealistic), too indulgent in all things culinary, excessively proud about mediocre achievements, nitpicking, whining, annoying, bragging, somewhat selfish in the fatherhood department, and very selfish in the husband department.  Anyone who knows me knows these things, why is it so hard for me to see it?  And yet, I also know that God sees good things about me.  Humility is not about being against ourselves, it is about being truthful with ourselves.  I know that He sees that I really do want to be a good Christian and a saint, despite my weaknesses.  I know that He sees that I want to be a good husband and father, an good catechist, and a good parishioner.  I know that He sees that I want to have a decent prayer life.  So why do I stink at doing all these things I long to do?

My second goal was to be more manly, more masculine, etc.  I've made some serious strides there, too.  I bought a circular saw and built a podium last week.  It was great fun and I highly recommend it to others.  Of course, my wife was staring at me through the back door the entire time, praying I wouldn't lose a finger.  I should have taken a hot dog piece and some ketchup out there just for fun.  Maybe next time...but I digress...

My wife wasn't sure about my using a big saw like that because, well, I'm a pansy.  That's right.  I said it.  I was raised watching HGTV.  It's something I'd rather not think about.  I actually know the difference between pink, lavender, and purple.  I don't watch sports.  I am a pansy.  Not anymore!

Jesting aside, I wanted to be more masculine.  I believe radical feminism has robbed my generation of a lot of masculinity.  I think we should have a movement for masculinism.  It should involve lobbying for the right to go into the forest during "man PMS" and blowing tree stumps with C-4.  Every man should be required to own and operate a gun.  Not just the stereotypical stuff, though.  Every man should know classical ballroom dances, proper etiquette, and how to cook.  Out of 10, I probably score a 2, a 6, and a 9 on those, respectively.

The real mark of manhood, though, is virtue.  Virtue comes from the Latin virtus, meaning "strength," or even more literally, "manhood" (vir - "man," -tus - suffix for "hood," which came to us directly through German from the Latin -tus).  Virtue is manhood, and one of the virtues, the one I want to talk about for a moment, is courage.

Courage is a mark of genuine manhood.  Without prudence, justice, and temperance, it is meaningless, but it is courage which gives us the strength to do what we know is right.  Going back to my first goal, I left the question hanging: why do I stink at doing all these things I long to do?  I stink at them because even though I know I ought to do them, I lack the courage to do them.  I lack the courage to make time for prayer.  I lack the courage to stand up for my beliefs.  I often lack the courage to face even the simple tasks of daily life.  Men who back away from their family responsibilities aren't lazy, they're cowardly.  Men who don't push the things they want out of the way to make time for the prayer they need, these men aren't intemperate, they're cowardly.  I am a cowardly pansy.

It's time to wake up, men!  It's time to be humble and macho.  You can't have any real male machismo if you shrink from your duties!  You can't do your duties if you don't have humility!

See, that's where the two come together.  Humility and courage might sometimes seem opposed.  The first submits, the second stands up.  They come together when we recognize that in the moments of our courage, it is not we who act, standing on our own two feet.  Rather, it is God Himself, with His grace, who stands in us for right against wrong, for justice against injustice, and we can only make room for Him in our lives if we are humble.  If we are humble, all things become possible.  If we set down our own wills and our own weapons, we renew the fight with God's own weapons, which He supplies to those who do His will.

The key to being real men, my dear Fiat Men, is humility.



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