There is a steady drum beat in the culture of our society: a steady drone of information, busyness, and distractions that lead to a numbness of the heart and mind. This drum beat should be more of a dog whistle to the sheep dogs in our society than a sedative, because they are the drums of the culture war and not the dull beat of complacency. This is the clarion call for soldiers of Christ to step up and expose how far our culture has fallen.
The stark reminder of this war, especially on men, is a document by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix Arizona called Into the Breach: An Apostolic Exhortation to Catholic Men, my Spiritual Sons in the Diocese of Phoenix. Not only does Bishop Olmsted chronicle the outright destruction of men and their fatherhood, but he also gives practical advice on how to battle against these issues. Truly it is a call to arms for all men and should not be taken lightly.
It’s easy to see the deconstruction of men in our culture. From fatherless children (and by that I mean those who have been willfully abandoned) to the depiction of the “idiot dad” on TV and movies, we are fed a steady diet of twisted pictures. We are told to look up to anti-heroes, who take what they want without consequence, through force or lies, as well as turn our backs on models of virtue, such as the saints and, most of all, Christ Himself.
Sacrifice has been erased from our vocabulary and has become something to be sneered at rather than lauded. The end has come to justify the means without thought, contemplation, or any regard for eternity. Those who reject this cynicism and truly want to pursue virtue have become isolated and are treated as outcasts. While this may seem to be little consolation, Jesus was isolated and outcast, but His Glory outshined all of the darkness that may have surrounded him. We can pursue that light, too; it’s just a matter of making a firm choice now and at this hour.
As men and fathers we are called to protect, provide, and be spiritual leaders. In these three areas we can begin to counteract the poisonous culture that whispers its lies to us. Protection doesn’t mean only to only protect from physical harm. That is certainly a component, but spiritual and mental harm are part of the equation, as well. Just as you would protect your family from an intruder in your home, you are called to protect your mind, heart, and soul from intruders. Guard your eyes and your family’s eyes from intrusions that can scandalize and begin to tempt and twist your souls.
Providing does not just mean in a monetary sense. Having the necessities of food, shelter, and clothing met is certainly in your charge, but so is providing an example of how to conduct yourself in daily life. Provide an environment where your children and those around you see that you are seeking what is true and beautiful. Seek virtue in all forms, and those around you will become curious, as well. We will all fall and fail at some point, but that brings about the greatest lesson in providing: humility.
Last, but not least, be a spiritual leader in the house. Pray fervently, read scripture, and seek the sacraments. Pray with your family; make sure they attend Mass and go to Confession with you. Once again, humility comes up as a theme, and, by seeking reconciliation, you’ll show that humility in a concrete way.
As men, we need to take our culture of one-night stands and turn it into a one-life stand. Stand for one life with your wife. Stand for one life with your family, and bear the scars of sacrifice for them. Just as distraction can kill in battle, so can distraction kill the soul. Do not allow distraction to make you lose your discretion as a husband and father.
When we’ve spent our lives and look back before we die, we will admire those who most modeled Christ and forget those who trampled everyone around them in the name of greed. Be a model of Christ to your family, and turn over the tables of money changers in your temple. Clean out your spiritual life of distractions, and realize that you’re a soldier of Christ.