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How Do You Look at Things?

This will be my fourth article inspired by Sam Guzman’s book, The Catholic Gentleman: Living Authentic Manhood Today (San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2019). (For the previous articles see “Are You for Real?”, “More from “The Catholic Gentleman”, and “We Need to Stand for Something”). I hope these articles are helpful in your spiritual journey. I am enjoying writing them. Guzman offers us a lot to think about.

That being said, today I begin with Guzman’s discussion of manhood in the context of “Tradition.” Tradition here is not a simple custom like what your family does for Christmas. Here tradition is the long tradition about what our faith teaches that have been handed down for ages. It is God revealing to us how we should live. Guzman calls tradition “the living memory of the church” (71).

With this in mind, Guzman writes, “Masculine identity, like the Catholic faith itself, is a gift, a traditioned thing. We do not make manhood in our own image. We do not decide what it is. Manhood is something that preceded us, a reality that we must strive to achieve and receive” (70-71). The concepts of what it means to be a Catholic gentleman is not for each man to decide. We decide the details of our lives but this takes God’s plan as its foundation (See Jeremiah 29:11). How we could we ever think we could come up with a better plan than God?

It’s not that nothing should ever change. However, “Yes, progression and change can and do occur, but such change should be organic, like the growth of a body” (71). The change should not be radically new. Rather, it flows from what our faith has always taught.

From tradition, Guzman moves to a discussion of suffering. The world sees suffering as something to avoid at all costs. However, our faith teaches that good can come from suffering. There is no greater example of this than the suffering Jesus endures on the Cross. From his suffering comes our salvation.

Guzman speaks of the growth that we can experience through our suffering. He writes, “Growth is painful, but the struggle is the very thing that breeds new strength” (74). Regarding what it means to be a Catholic gentleman, Guzman writes, “Real men know how to suffer. They don’t seek it out, but they recognize that suffering is a fact of life…Suffering – whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual – provides an opportunity for personal growth. It can especially help us to develop wisdom, compassion, and fortitude” (75).

Yes, suffering can help us grow. It can also be dangerous. It involves how we look at the type of suffering we face. For example, Guzman writes, “The rushing waters of a river can be dangerous and even deadly. But when channeled into a turbine, they can be harnessed in order to generate enough electricity for a small town” (76). In choosing the latter view, we can become great witnesses to our faith.

From suffering, Guzman moves to how we are called to be “courteous” as Catholic gentlemen. He describes courtesy as “one of the quintessential attributes of a gentleman…in fact, the hallmark of a gentleman” (78). Courtesy is more than just being polite, like opening a door for someone. “It shows itself in small gestures of kindness, sacrifices bestowed on others out of sheer abundance of the heart. The courteous person recognizes the inherent dignity of everyone and thus treats others with reverence and honor, placing their needs before his own” (79).

Guzman says “courtesy does not come naturally, it is a skill that must be cultivated. We are all naturally selfish” (80). We focus on our own lives too much. The self-focus isn’t always intentional. Sometimes we simply don’t pay attention to what is going on around us. Have you ever been in the grocery store waiting to get one item off the shelf but you have to wait for someone ahead of you that seems to have no idea you are there? We need to pay attention to others around us.

We show our love for others in being courteous to others. In our love for others we are called to protect those we love. Guzman writes, “For there is one thing that should compel any man to fight, however reluctantly, and that is love – love of family, love of country, love of freedom. When we love something, it is nearly impossible not to fight for it, to lay down our lives for it” (82). I do not think Guzman means to call for war. We should always work for peaceful solutions but we need to firm in standing up for what it right and for the safety of those around us.

Guzman writes, “Protection of the beloved, and of the vulnerable and the defenseless, is part and parcel of manhood. It is a special calling for us men, as God has endowed us with natural physical strength. With this strength comes responsibility to defend the weak” (83). For females reading this, I don’t think he means women aren’t capable of protected themselves or their children. (Try and stand between a large female animal and her offspring and see what happens.) Males tend to be stronger than females (Guzman, 85).. This does not make men any better than women. We need to think how a married couple can work together as husband and wife, each doing what God calls them to.

This leads to a discussion of marriage. Guzman writes, “People often enter into marriage with no understanding of what it is, and they frequently choose their mates for all the wrong reasons” (87).

Marriage involves unity. The male and female bodies signify unity in the way their bodies compliment one another in a way that two males or two females do not. Marriage is also about procreation of children, something lost in a world where contraception is considered normal (see Guzman, 89).

Here Guzman cites paragraph 1601 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church when he includes, “the matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring” (90).

I will conclude here for today with our next topic from Guzman’s The Catholic Gentleman being the topic of work. I hope you will continue to read these articles. However, do not use my articles to say you do not need to read the book for yourself. It is only 175 pages and is not hard-reading. While I am writing several articles inspired by Guzman’s book, I am not telling you all that he writes. I’m just trying to help you look at these things in a new way.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

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