Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Catholic Man, the Catholic Priest as Warrior

I will confess to being a bit of a history nerd.  So much of history is determined by battles.  Thermopylae, Marathon, Actium, Tours, Agincourt, Lepanto, Yorktown, Gettysburg, Midway, D-Day all leave permanent marks on history.  They change the course of history.  They give rise to heroes.  From Leonidas to Nimitz, the steel of men's hearts are tested.  Some die as did Leonidas at Thermopylae, some conquer as Nelson did at Trafalgar.  The conquering of territory and the rise and fall of empires hinge of such moments.  The difference of the trajectory of history lies in the balance.

History is a reflection of something far greater than this mere mortal world.  Nations have raged against each other for millennia.  The kingdoms they represent each fall into the annals of history.  We can get lost and even trapped in this world and forget that something so much greater is at stake.  The physical reflects the eternal.

I am not sure why, but the Church in the last several decades has let her guard down.  Some will cite Vatican II, but nowhere in Vatican II is such a thing called for.  Certainly the popes of this era have not called for the Church to lower her guard.  Yet if we look at the Church in the West in particular we are getting mowed down.  Our influence in our societies wanes to near non-existence.  Our churches and seminaries empty. What happened?  Some want to blame the popes, but no general, regardless of their personal greatness, can fight a war on his own.  If his officers and soldiers grow lax, there is little he can do.

Did we grow lax?  You bet we have!  The diseases that led to our laxity and indifference are centuries old, taking over like a slowly metastasizing cancer, cell by cell, man by man, dad by dad, husband by husband, priest by priest.  So ridiculous has the heights of this cancer grown that we seem ineffective against the most inane of claims of sexual perversion and social re-engineering.  We come across as emasculated, impotent, and  weak.  However, truth be told, within the heart of each of us men lies a Leonidas raging to be unleashed.

To all men, in the west we have accepted the lie that our lot is to be passive, quiet, and selfish.  We have been consigned to mom and dad's basement with our video games, pot, and porn to numb the pain of our own inadequacy.  We have bought the lie that nobility is found in the emasculation of being nice.  We who move more freely still move with constraints, afraid of the army of withering snowflakes and totalitarian politically correct brown shirts might somehow take offense at our words and actions and screech like a banshee on speed.  We see the Nurse Ratched ready to give us another numbing dose of alcohol, porn, narcotics, or any other agent that will shut us down.

This is beneath our dignity and it is high time for us to shake off these shackles and roar back.  But how?  How do we roar back?

1) Drop the numbing agents.  A discontent man will find a plethora of compensation habits to make up for the emasculation they feel.   Some indulge in a virtual world of video games and porn.  Some numb the aching through narcotics and alcohol.  Some throw themselves into the pursuit of promiscuity and masturbation.  Some find food as their numbing agent.  We must fight back.  We must fight our vices and rise above them.  In Roman Catholicism, we talk about mortifications, fasting, and abstinence.   Many do not even begin and many fall off right away because reining in our physiological pacifiers is hard...the longer we have engaged in them, the harder it is.

However, God does not bid His sons to engage is futile battles.  The answer is twofold.  First, we utilize these weapons of fasting, abstinence, and mortifications because it appeals to the men we are.  They help us conquer and not be conquered!  But these on their own will not be enough.  We will not conquer without the grace of God.

2) Remember whose son you are! When we catholic men were baptized, we became by the grace of God an adopted son of God.  Numbing agents rob us of our heritage.  They lead us to be prodigal with our heritage, wasting it through the cheap thrills of sin.  We need to stick close to our Father.  Make no mistake:  You will NOT be a strong son if you cut yourself from the sacramental life of the Church.  You need to immerse yourself in prayer and the sacraments just as a warrior would immerse into the regimen necessary to be a great warrior.  The foolish soldier blows off their commanders, they leave themselves isolated and fit for destruction.  Remember whose son you are and stick by His side.

3) Remember whose brother you are!  Nothing turns a battle like the soldiers breaking ranks.  I run a summer camp for high school men.  In it, we utilize navy seal training.  Why?  Because in Navy seal training, the interest isn't in personal glory but in the strength of the unit.  They stand tall with each other, they have each others backs. I will be blunt, Catholic men suck at  brotherhood that doesn't involve a beer.  It is as if we need to impress each other in a worldly approved fashion.  Talk about letting the enemy break through the lines!  Your brothers in Christ need you to bring out the best in each other, to challenge each other, to help in the training of each other.  We should be exalting each other to stay close to our Father.  We cannot be afraid of leadership and mentoring, we cannot abandon the spiritual leadership to our wives because we bought the lie that faith equals weakness.

Our enemy is far more fierce that the Ottoman fleet, the Nazis, or any other enemy we have ever seen.  Our enemy takes no quarter.  Our enemy is a scorched earth, kill them all, no mercy kind of enemy.  Our enemy is the devil and his minions who delight in our spiritual death and our eternal damnation.  They will spur us with one emasculating lie after another.  They are not content with our own they want the destruction of your wives, your children, your grandchildren, your parish, and your friends!   If we wander from the sacraments and prayer, if we allow ourselves to be numbed, then we allow the lines to crumble and  this insatiable enemy to have access to all we love.  The devil revels in our dismissing him a mythical boogieman.  He enjoys our refined and oh so modern beliefs that dismiss him...we won't fight what we don't believe is there.  Make no mistake, our lack of belief will offer no defense to Satan's forward march.

We have ceded so much territory and are watching the effects of this destruction in our society, our families,and our churches. Now is the time for this to be turned, when we men must wake up, man up, and get about the business of taking back conquered territory.  This isn't about waiting for some new politician to come along, or some new guru.  NO...this is about recognizing that we already have an unbeatable general in Christ.  We already have the the armaments we need in the truth and in the grace of God.  We do not have to lose!  Even for those of us who might get taken out of the battle like a Maximilian Kolbe of Miguel Pro, we still win.  The Lord honors those who lose their life for His sake with life eternal.

Finally, to my brother priests.  Our laymen look to us to model this reality.  Do they see it?  Do they see in us warriors or liturgical zombies?  Do we make ready access to the grace of God through the sacraments for our men?  Do we spur them to manliness or are we Nurse Ratched doling out insipid niceness instead of boldness and manliness?  We who share in the shepherding role, be it as pastors or married men, are the officer's corps.  We will be held responsible for the authority given us. 

We need to understand the enemy and arm our charges and train them to engage and win.  My brother priests, we also must embrace mortifications, fasting, and abstinence for the good of our flock.  The execution of sacraments should be more than job we do, but a life giving moment to charge our flock.  We must be men of prayer who stay close to our father, who do not spurn our relationship with each other, with our bishops, with our Blessed Mother, and with our flock.  When the men and boys of our flocks see us, they have a right to see what being a man of God looks like in all of its array of armor and weaponry.  We cannot inspire to numbness but to greatness.  We need to remember we stand as the vanguard against the politically correct hordes and the screeching of the hellish demonic forces.  God has given us a special grace at our ordinations which we are duty bound to uphold and live.

These battles play out every day and who wins these battles is determined on who stands up.  We know God wins the war, now let us act as if we are on the winning side!

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