“Authentic. Genuine. Handcrafted. Vintage. Real.” These are the first words in chapter 1 (page 17) of Sam Guzman’s book, The Catholic Gentleman: Living Authentic Manhood Today (San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2019).
Are we who we claim to be? Do we really live like who we claim to be? For those of us who are Catholic, do we actually live what God teaches us in our Catholic Faith? Or do we show up in church once in a while and, when people ask, say we are Catholic but don’t practice what our faith teaches? Maybe we come to church every week. Still, do we live our lives in a way that keeps God’s commandments? It is not enough to say we believe. Jesus himself says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven?” (Matthew 7:21. For the full context see Matthew 7:21-23, see also Luke 6:46-49).
After beginning with “Authentic. Genuine. Handcrafted. Vintage. Real,” Guzman continues, “Something about those words stirs something in a man’s soul. We don’t like fake. We like things that are solid, strong, and can stand the test of time” (17). We want to be able to count on what others say. We want others to do what they say they will, to be who they claim to be. If we expect this of them, we should do the same ourselves. It is as Jesus says, “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37).
Is anything real today? Or is everyone just putting on an act to make themselves look good? Guzman writes, “The whole world is just a grand illusion, it seems, with nearly everything made to look, feel, and taste like something that it isn’t” (19).
We must change the world. To do so we must begin by changing ourselves. We need to be authentic. As Jesus says, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? (Luke 6:41, for full context see Luke 6:37-42).
So begins Guzman’s book on being a Catholic gentleman. Throughout this book he discusses several attributes that are essential to being a Catholic man. This is not easy in a society that wants to set aside traditional gender models. They claim there is no difference between male and female in terms of how we are called to live. I am going to move into the rest of his book in the remainder of this article and will continue with some additional articles in the days to come. Before continuing I invite to reflect on two questions. First, are you the same person outside the home and church as you are at home? Yes, we focus on different characteristics in different settings but, as a core level, are you the same person or are you putting on an act? The second question is do you want to act nice or do you want to be nice?
In chapter two Guzman talks about “The Gift of Catholic Manhood” as he titles the chapter. He briefly writes about rites of passage in traditional cultures that mark when a boy becomes a man” (22-24). Then, in chapter three he writes about the relationships between father and son and the lack thereof in homes without a father. There he writes, “Add to that the current confusion over whether maleness even exists as a sexuality reality, rather than a socially constructed gender one can choose as he will” (27).
Some may say Guzman wants to undo the gains in women’s rights and the modern understanding of gender. I do not think that is his goal. He wants to get at what it means to be a man. That’s where I will pick up in my next article. For now, I would like to conclude this article with the following quote that I used in the first presentation in my pro-life series, Treating Life with Dignity and Love (slide 17), “Deneen and Hanby are rightly repulsed by the radical individual autonomy that has infected American life, exemplified in Justice Anthony Kennedy’s notorious statement in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) that “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” (Reilly, America on Trial, 6. interior quote “Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. et al,. v. Casey, Governor of Pennsylvania, et a, 505 U.S. 833, 851 (1992) https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/91-744.ZS.html.“)”
Justice Kennedy thinks we determine our own existence, our own meaning, and that of the universe and life. How can one determine the meaning of the universe when we all live in the same universe? I believe that we don’t even determine the meaning of our own life. We determine how we live our life but our meaning comes from beyond ourselves. It comes from something, someone far greater than ourselves. It comes from our creator. It comes from God.