Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"..a culture that produces weak and vacillating men will produce weak and vacillating priests.."

Some years ago, Brad Miner, in an interview with Zenit, said that: "The notion of the gentleman has been out of fashion for some time, especially because of its connection to boorish, Victorian-era stoicism..."

When asked, "What is a 'complete gentleman?", Miner responded, "First, he is an inheritor of the medieval tradition of knightly prowess, and the Victorian ideal of gentlemanly decorum. As a means for recovering a sense of the complete gentleman, I propose three archetypes: the warrior, the lover and the monk...I say that he is a warrior, because he knows there are things worth fighting for and is willing and able to fight; that he's a lover, because he treasures the woman in his life, gives her what she wants and allows her to free him from the tyranny of his own ego; and that he is a monk in that he values learning and silence.

I think the great, lost virtue in our time is restraint: the recognition that there is a difference between the public and the private. The complete gentleman practices what I call the art of "sprezzatura," which means that he is who he is and does what he does without drawing too much attention to himself in the process.

And when asked, "One commentator has described today's adolescent boys and young men as 'wimps and barbarians.' What has given rise to this phenomenon?"  Miner answered, "I suppose the 'barbarians' are the boys animated by the macho violence of hip-hop culture and the 'wimps' are the kids politicized by the various 'isms' of the New Age...There are many causes of this degradation, but it all comes down to a simple fact: Young people tend to lack a sense of calling or mission. This is partly what Michael Barone is getting at in his recent book 'Hard America, Soft America.' We have teen-agers who seem unable to cope with the rigors of competition and then 30-year-olds who are capable of running the world.

We live in a nation that has achieved an unprecedented level of luxury and in an age in which technology encourages passivity. Young people ought to be physically fit, if possible, morally responsible and intellectually active. If education does nothing but raise doubts, and culture mostly encourages predation, then the 'smart' kids will be weak and 'tough' kids will be cruel.

The antidote to this is balance and restraint. We need scholarship, devotion and self-control."

And then, referring to Cardinal Newman's famous passage describing the Victorian-era gentleman, he added, "Without question, he considered saintliness preferable to gentlemanliness, but his point of reference was an ideal of the gentleman that had long ago lost its connection to chivalry. I believe the complete gentleman recovers that connection, especially chivalry's martial quality.

Newman was reacting to the portraits of the gentleman as drawn by writers such as Lord Chesterfield, Samuel Smiles and Charles Kingsley. Having summarized their views, Newman says they are fine as far as they go. Trouble is, they don't go far enough. It's as though the man they describe is what he is by virtue of his clothes; that gentlemanliness is merely something you wear. The biblical phrase 'whited sepulchers' comes to mind.

A real man, we might say, was in Newman's view someone who 'discerns the end in every beginning,' which means he lives more fundamentally, less superficially.

He is patient and forbearing on philosophical principles not on the basis of social expediency; he 'submits to pain, because it is inevitable, to bereavement, because it is irreparable, and to death, because it is his destiny.' This is a flesh-and-blood man with, perhaps, emphasis on the blood..."

And when Zenit asked him, "How can men exhibit the manly virtues, but at the same time exhibit the appropriate sensitivities? In other words, what is authentic manhood"? Miner replied: "At the risk of seeming to duck the question, I have to say that each man must answer in his own way. Authenticity is inseparable from individuality. I have no 'Seven Steps to Manliness.'  But I will say this: We do well to reconsider the ancient qualities of the knight, which are loyalty, generosity, courtesy, honor, courage and restraint. It's fair to say that men in the Middle Ages mostly fell short of the ideal, as probably we will today. But for heaven's sake, let's at least aspire to a higher standard.

If I could give one rather reckless bit of advice to American men, it's this: Learn restraint, learn to fight, remember that you will die, and meditate devoutly on the fact that death is preferable to dishonor....a culture that produces weak and vacillating men will produce weak and vacillating priests."

Increasingly, the Church is being feminized and effeminized. This is a great tragedy because, as Dr. Leon Podles explains, "Since men continue to want to be masculine, they will continue (unless there are major changes in the Church) to put a greater or lesser distance between themselves and the Church....Feminism and homosexual propaganda dominate the liberal churches, and both drive men even further away. Apart from some groups of evangelical Protestants, whose commitment to Scripture has made them aware of the lack of men and led them to use tactics which have had at least initial effectiveness, all other varieties of Western Christianity are totally bent on expanding the role of women in the Church and choose to ignore the absence of the male laity....Catholic and mainline Protestant churches that cultivate a gay atmosphere...will keep heterosexual men away. Fear of effeminacy is one of the strongest motivations in men who will sometimes die rather than appear effeminate....Christianity has within it the resources that allow it to appeal to men, to show that not only will Christianity not undermine their masculinity, but it will also fulfill and perfect it."

But the Church continues capitulate to the Cult of Softness. And we wonder why vocations are drying up. I cannot even apply for the priesthood in Worcester. But the Diocese has ordained men who acted out homosexually or who committed acts of satanic pedophilia.

Rather than trying to cater to the homosexual elements within the Church, our Holy Father should be working to restore sound Catholic doctrine and pastoral practice.

Do we have to be a Church which caters to disorderly tendencies and a criminal subculture?

The crisis faced by the Catholic Church today is, as in every age, a crisis of saints.  As long as the Church continues to promote a distorted feminism and toleration of homosexuality as an ersatz "orthodoxy," the crisis will only deepen.  Events such as the "Catholic Men's Conference" might lead some men into the Church or to deepen their commitment to her in the short term, but if they do not encounter a spirituality which permits them to be both men and Christian at the same time, they will either remain marginalized Catholics or will leave the Church altogether


Michael F Poulin said...

At our parish, 6:30AM on alternating Saturday mornings, several of us men are meeting in order to form ourselves into stronger Catholic men. There seems to be a real interest. Currently we are reading and discussing Fr Larry Richard's book "Be A Man". It seems to me that all of the most desirable qualities one could want are to be found in the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, particularly Fortitude, which does double duty as a fruit of the Spirit! I ask for Wisdom all the time when I pray. To your male readers I would highly recommend studying those gifts, and asking the Spirit for them.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Michael, well said. Every day I pray Cardinal Mercier's prayer to the Holy Spirit. Each day, one prays for one of the seven gifts. My personal favorite: Wednesday's prayer for Fortitude.

I pray that more parishes will offer something similar for men.

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