manhood

Train

the rosary beads and gun

Last year I wrote about my discernment on whether or not to conceal carry. Here is the post if you are interested: Babies, Guns and Jesus. After the experience mentioned in that post I did a lot of thinking, praying and discussing with my wife. I spoke to lots of people about this subject. Some were experts in weapons training, police officers, military, priests, friends, neighbors, etc. My wife and I made our decision and I spent quite a bit of time training, learning and familiarizing myself with the safety and use of firearms. I still have a long way to go. On average I train every month or two with live fire and do dry fire drills at least 3 times a week. I know that many people do not feel the same way about guns and that’s fine.

This post is really not about guns.

Most of the guys I do weapons training with are very much convinced that they are doing this for the safety and welfare of their families. I wholeheartedly believe that. One guy got teary eyed as he shared how much he loved his family and how he wanted to be ready for anything that could potentially harm them. So do I.

I try really hard to listen, read, and follow the guidance of men and woman who are wiser and holier than I am. I especially try and study how to be a better man, husband and father. I find it so easy to want to be selfish and focus on my own desires and ignore my family—individualism is all about that. I have to constantly check myself and refocus. There is a certain discipline, training if you will, that I have to take on for this.

A few weeks ago I bumped into this video that really spoke to me about the importance of men training to defend their families. The video was not about weapons or hand-to-hand combat. The video was about prayer.

Prayer is the ultimate training that all men must take on. St. Padre Pio once said, “Prayer is the best weapon we posses.” Prayer isn’t something a weak man does. Prayer is something that a man who understands his place in the world does; a man who knows his limits, capacity, and potential; a man who recognizes that ultimately God is the one we need to turn to for our families protection and for them to become what they are meant to be.

Real men pray.

So here is the challenge I put to myself, and the men who read this blog. Pray. If you want to defend your family there is nothing more powerful than prayer. Here are some suggestions:

  • Get up earlier than your family does and pray for God to guide their path towards holiness for that specific day.
  • Pray with your spouse that God may lead both of you to be holy and help each other to grow towards that holiness.
  • Pray with your spouse for your children to be godly men and women.
  • Pray with your children and spouse before and after meals. Have each member of your family go around the table during meals and share how they saw God work in their lives that day.
  • Pray over your children. Literally put your hands above them and ask for Gods blessing to be poured out upon them. Not only is this good for the kids to see, hear and experience, it is also your duty as father to bless your children. (See Numbers 6:24-26 as one example)
  • Take time to pray alone. This is absolutely crucial. You can’t lead your family to pray if you don’t know how to do it. There are tons of devotionals, apps, scriptural guides, etc. that can be used to do this.
  • Go to confession and take your family with you. (Obviously for the Orthodox or Catholic folks)
  • (Again for Catholics and Orthodox folks) Take your family to adoration once a month. Have them sit before Jesus for 15-30 minutes (it will depend on how old your kids are, etc).
  • Read books that will inspire you to grow in holiness.
  • Surround yourself with other men who are training to grow in holiness.

I really enjoy shooting my guns at targets and training for scenarios, but lets be honest; there is a small chance that I will ever need to draw my weapon on anyone (thank God for that). However, if I am ever in that situation I’ve done all I can to be ready. I am more likely though to be tempted sexually, to be greedy, selfish, to be dishonest: insert your potential situation here. Praying for God to transform you and to guide you when those situations come (they will come) is important training. How will you respond to those situations if you have not prepared yourself?

Praying for and with our families is absolutely necessary. This world is filled with situations that if we are not actively “training” for we will get eaten alive. I pray every single day. Sometimes it’s short and rushed due to my daughter or other things outside of my control. More often than not I spend quality time in prayer. I need it. I cannot become whom God intends me to be if I am not communicating with Him. Communicate with Him. Encounter Him.

I want to protect my family and myself. I want to be ready for whatever this world is going to throw at us. I am whole heartedly convinced that there is no better training for a man than to seek the face of God in prayer and to ask the most important question we could ever inquire of Him: God, what do you ask of me?

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Categories: being a man, Catholic, christianity, conceal carry, fatherhood, fighting, guns, holiness, manhood, prayer, protecting family, training, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Man’s Strength

Complete-Shoulders

My wife and I recently started watching a very popular show because we heard so many great things about it. One of the things that I noticed right away about the show was the use of man’s strength. There are several male characters and for the most part all of them play the traditional role of strong males, mainly expressing strength via physical means. Big muscles, force, etc. are what you see played out. These guys push through to accomplish their goals even if they are tired, hungry or in pain, which is great and something men should do.

As a family man I have to be aware of when my “push through” attitude is too much. I personally may be able to push through a situation but my wife or daughter may not. There is a need for all men to understand when it is appropriate to take physical strength and express it through gentleness. Gentleness is too often associated with weakness. Yet, gentleness is far from being weak. Gentleness actually requires significant amounts of strength, but more importantly mastery over this strength. Maybe this image will help explain what I mean.

Think of a woodworker carving a piece of wood. His hand must be strong enough to use his tools to cut the bigger chunks off, but when he gets to the more fine detailed work his strength needs to be used in a different way. He can’t simply force the wood into fine detail: he must be gentle, intentional and precise. A gentle motion to perform fine woodwork requires the right amount of strength. Too much strength and the fine detail is forced and damaged. Too little strength and the wood can be misshaped and ruined because the pressure was off.

Misuse of strength leads to abuse or cowardice two things that are unacceptable in any man.

Physical abuse we see so often. Men choosing to force their strength as a means to accomplish their will and often damage those they are responsible for protecting. Cowardice we see when a man chooses to do the easy thing instead of the right thing because it isn’t as difficult, time consuming or will simply cost them less.

I am finding more and more that a strong man is one that can master the discipline of gentleness in all situations. Whether it’s telling a coworker that what they are doing is bad for the company, confronting someone that has wronged you or finding out that your daughter has been sneaking out to have sex with her boyfriend. In all these situations the way a man applies his strength in the precise measure that is required reveals his true strength.

As I raise my daughter I recognize that I must master gentleness. In order for my daughter to be a fine human being I must be precise and intentional with her. This is soooo difficult. Emotions get stirred so easily and our strength as men can too quickly become forceful, or too lenient. That sweet spot that is so precise requires mastery of self, which can only come from a man’s realization that he is called to apply his strength in the proper way, a powerful way, a gentle way.

Categories: being a man, fatherhood, gentleness, manhood, Parenting, strength | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Prince Charming is a lie, but real men aren’t!

 

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I am sharing this post from an article I recently read on the website: The Chastity Project. It is written by a young woman named Esther Rich. I think she touches on something very true that sometimes men (at least this man) we feel like we are not the “Prince Charming” that we are supposed to be. Esther’s word are worth sharing. Enjoy.

LEO
I LOVE the song ‘Lead Me’ by Sanctus Real, but I can’t listen to it without getting emotional. My friend and I cried to each other over the phone when we first heard it.

Why?

Because it hits a sore spot. It hits that wound in all of our hearts that bleeds the phrase “how come there are no real men anymore?!” Most of us have heard it asked. Nearly as many of us have asked it ourselves. But the reason we don’t see them isn’t that they don’t exist, it’s that we tell them they can’t.

God created us for union and communion with each other. His unmatchable creativity is such that he designed us to fit together. Our lives are the most fruitful and we feel the most fulfilled when we’re exercising that complementarity. We need men in our lives—not just husbands, but fathers, brothers, friends—and they need us. We unlock an extra level of potential in each other.

Sometimes as women we put far too much pressure on men to become the ideal we think we need. We’re often guilty of underestimating just how difficult a job they have! Supporting us and leading us takes an immense amount of strength. But that strength comes from God alone, and must be continually renewed through prayer and abandonment to Him.

Disney has taught us to expect perfection and settle for nothing less. But Prince Charming is a lie. No wonder the divorce rate is rising so rapidly: we’re in for a serious shock if we marry with the false belief that the men who swept us off our feet and carried us to the altar in their strong arms will retain that guise of perfection for long.

No man is flawless (neither are we!), and expecting them to solve all our problems will only end in more heartache. Christ called us to love one another as He loves us. That means that the most fruitful relationships will be built on grace and mercy rather than pressure and judgement. We’re called to love each other including our flaws, because without that merciful love no relationship can survive.

Disney’s version of “Mr Right” may be far-fetched and idealistic, but deep down we do have a natural longing to be supported and guided by a strong man—spiritually, physically and emotionally… and that’s no coincidence! What we long for is actually the root of what men were intended to be, we just don’t realise it. We want them to be strong and gentle and decisive and loving all at the same time… and they can be! But to benefit from that, we have to allow them to develop those strengths. To have a “real man,” we have to allow him to be a real man.

Culture insists on mourning the loss of ‘real men’, but perhaps it’s simply the definition used that needs challenging. A real man isn’t one who works out twice a day, earns a six figure salary and buys extravagant presents with money he won’t miss.

A “real man” is one who will lead you with strong hands even when that means humbly admitting his mistakes.

One who will discerningly make sacrifices for the greater good of your family.

One who seeks guidance from his heavenly Father instead of relying on his own strength.

One who’d rather walk you to Heaven than drive you around in his Porsche.

One who looks at your heart before your physique.

One who prays for you, not just pays for you.

One who strives to protect your purity not conquer it.

One who loves you as Christ loves His Church.

… and these REAL MEN EXIST!

______________________________

Esther Rich has a bachelor degree in Psychology from Oxford University, UK, and is currently completing the Sion Community Foundation Year, working on their youth ministry team. She loves Theology of the Body, Papa Francesco and a good worship band. She is passionate about empowering women to be who they were created to be, and blogs at “For Such A Time As This.”

Categories: being a man, dying to self, fathers, God, manhood, prince charming, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Old Days

advice-lazy-guy

There are moments like today where I miss the calm, ordered, predictable life I once had. I had an apartment that was clean. Everything was placed in a particular way that made logical sense. I got up at a certain time. Went to sleep at a certain time. All was calm, ordered and clean.

Life is not like this anymore and there are moments where I miss the old days.

I miss it because it was easy. When you are alone you can set your own pace. Do what you want and have no one disrupt that. It’s nice because it’s predictable, constant and oh, so comfortable.

Life is anything but predictable, constant and comfortable with a family. Everyday has something in it that you were not expecting that frustrates you, changes your plans, leaves a mess, etc. I currently stand in the mist of toy shrapnel in my living room. It looks like Fisher Price sent bombers and toys blew up everywhere. There are socks (none matching) all over the place. Food is smeared on the baby chair and dinning room table. My wife’s school books are sprawled out on the kitchen table, her own socks lie before the grown and there are at least 2 cups of water lying around in precarious places. Dishes peek over the sink and there is a particularly yellow stain on the kitchen counter that I think just winked at me.

Not predictable…not constant…not comfortable and certainly not clean…

Seven years ago I left the Catholic seminary. I was studying to be a Catholic priest; something I had felt a calling in my heart for a long time. After a few years in the seminary I was hooked and thought this was where I belonged. It was predictable, constant and comfortable. I felt like this was where I was supposed to be. Yet, God had other plans. During my second year I began to get a sense from God that this was a pit stop and not my final destination. I was not comfortable with that. I liked seminary and what it was. Needless to say I left the seminary. Not because I didn’t like it, or had a bad experience or any of the sorts. God had made it clear, that for me, this was too easy. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. Being a seminarian and eventually becoming a priest is not easy. Priests have very demanding and difficult lives. Ask to shadow your local priest and you’ll see how not easy it is. However for me, and the way I am wired it was going to be too easy.

This may seem confusing to people. Why not do what feels predictable, constant and comfortable? I thought the same thing until I got married. Pope Benedict 16 has a quote that I love, “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” In my life that which is comfortable and easy never helps me to grow. Sure, it’s predictable, constant and comfortable—all things I love. However, these things only help me to live a life that is comfortable and not great. Comfort in this sense is not the comfort one looks for in their couch after a long day of work. Comfort here refers to someone seeking to do that, which is less arduous, and doesn’t demand as much. Comfort in this sense is a lack of living to our full potential—half-assing if you will.

You and me are made for greatness, but a lot of the time we settle for comfort. It’s predictable and constant. But to be who we are meant to be requires effort, pain, sweat and tears—none of which are comfortable.

I stand before a room that is messy; a life that is no longer done “my way”; a life that demands that others be first and myself to be last. There are moments like this one where I miss the old days. Yet, I know that this new life is turning me into the man I am called to be. The lack of predictability, constancy and comfort makes me a better man, a better father, a better husband and a better person all around. It’s like going to the gym and working out. If I only lift weight that my body is comfortable with I will never breakdown the muscle fibbers that will in turn rebuild stronger and bigger muscles, which will make me a stronger and bigger person.

There are moments when I reminisce on the old days, but these new days are better. I have a loving wife and daughter that make life so much better. We can all look to the old days and say they were good. There was a lot of good stuff there that made life predictable, constant and comfortable, “but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

Categories: best self, complacency, dying to self, fatherhood, fathers, home and family, manhood, Parenting, surrendering, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Live, Fight, Die

skyrim-fighting-the-dragon

We have a serious problem with manhood in our society.

I recently gave a talk to 8th grade boys on this topic and when I asked them to raise their hand and tell me if they understood what it meant to be a man, most of them didn’t. When I asked them to raise their hand if they have 1-2 adult men in their lives that they think would be considered good examples of men, most of them again kept their hands down.

What’s the deal with this? Why is it that we know how to do manly things like chopping wood, fixing cars and homes, shooting guns, etc. but we don’t know what it means to be a man? Obviously, those things listed above are not enough to make someone a man. So, why is it that a wood chopping, car fixing, gun shooting male can look the part of manhood and yet not be one?

I know plenty of men who outwardly do manly things but are really boys playing the part. I also know men who do none of the traditional manly-type activities and yet are the shining example of what being a man is.

I think discovering what it means to be a man comes down to how men do 3 things:

How we live, how we fight and how we die.

Video games like Skyrim, Modern Warfare and Assassins Creed are really popular. Most guys that play these games do so because these stories speak to the very heart of a man. The desire for purpose, battle and sacrifice are essential to a man. We are wired for that stuff and the video game industry knows it and spends a pretty penny on researching it so that we get hooked on their games.

Take the game Skyrim for instance. The game is about a guy who is in the wrong place at the wrong time and is about to be killed. Nobody knows who he is or cares. You end up escaping and find yourself battling a dragon that, after you defeat it, reveals your incredible power.

You are the chosen one. No longer a nobody. You have gifts and talents, but more importantly, a mission and a reason to live. From there, your character goes on a journey, a battle where you are fighting to save the world of Skyrim. This battle requires incredible strength, mastery of skills and courage. It may even cost you your life. There is another dragon you must battle and it is no ordinary dragon. He is the “world eater”. He is the one that you have been chosen to fight against and it’s very possible you may die in the process.

Men are hardwired for this type of adventure and even though you and I may not find ourselves picking up an axe and shield to go fight a dragon, we are meant to do battle. It is something that we are made for and I would even say that the man who doesn’t do this is finding himself empty and questioning his place in the world.

What do you live for? What are you fighting for? What are you willing to die for?

These are three questions at the heart of what it means to be a man. These are three questions that every man must ask himself and answer. If we have nothing to live for, we have nothing to fight or die for. And if we have nothing to die for, we may find that our lives are not worth fighting for.

As husband and father I recognize that I live to serve God by serving my family. I recognize that the battle I am fighting is primarily against myself—my selfishness (the dragon within). Overcoming myself so that I can serve my family is key to this process. I cannot die (sacrifice, surrender, etc.) for my family if I am not willing to fight, and give all of myself for them. As in the game of Skyrim, I must master the skills needed for this battle. I must master patience, fortitude, temperance, sacrifice, selflessness, and willingness to serve and not expect to be served in return.

My wife is studying to get her masters degree and so it requires a huge amount of time and energy. My job is to make sure that she has the time and energy to work on her studies. I live for her, and my fight is to make sure the house is clean, laundry is done, dinner is ready and our daughter is being taken care of. I don’t necessarily want to do all these things, but I live for my family and I will do whatever it takes for them—even doing most of the chores around the house. It requires a sort of death to self to win this battle, because the dragon within wants to be selfish and inconsiderate and egotistical.

What do you live for? What are you fighting for? What are you willing to die for?

I think that the more men ponder and search the answer to these three questions the more they will find themselves in the path of manhood. The more our children, friends and family see us striving to answer these three questions, the more they will recognize what a man looks like. Our boys and girls need to see this more than ever because what movies, TV and the media reveal about manhood is pathetic, watered down—cheap at best.

So, pick up your battle-ax men. You are the chosen one. You have been given a mission to live out. You have a family to defend. There is a fight before you and it will cost you everything. But it will be the greatest battle of your life.

Live well, fight well and die well.

 

Categories: adventure, battle, best self, dying to self, fatherhood, fathers, fighting, living, manhood, Parenting, surrendering, Uncategorized, video games | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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