Three weeks ago I began a series of articles reflecting on my reading of Sam Guzman’s book, The Catholic Gentleman: Living Authentic Manhood Today (San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2019). Today, I would like to offer my sixth and final article on The Catholic Gentleman. (For the previous articles see “Are You for Real?”, “More from “The Catholic Gentleman”, “We Need to Stand for Something”, “How Do You Look at Things?”, and “Work, Sainthood, and Holiness”)
In chapter 23 Guzman turns specifically to the question, “What is a Catholic Gentleman?”, given the chapter this question as its title. He begins, “We live in a time where there are precious few clear-cut images men can aspire to. Machismo and aggression seem to be the only acceptable attributes for men of late” (125). I was surprised by this statement as others say that men are not allowed to be “strong” but rather are left to be timid and silent, afraid of speaking up for traditional male characteristics.
Speaking of the “Catholic gentleman”, Guzman continues, “Still, many men pine for refinement, for civility, for a code of conduct by which to live. And so the moniker “Catholic gentleman” is especially striking, representing a man who knows his duty and carries it out with a dash of style and panache” (125). He then goes on to present ideals for what a Catholic gentleman should be like, beginning, “First and foremost, a Catholic gentleman is Catholic” (125). This might seem obvious but being Catholic is not just being baptized and calling ourselves Catholic. To be Catholic is to be “permeated to the core by the faith” (125). To truly and wholly be Catholic, it must be a fundamental part of who we are. Our faith should be evident in everything we do. Guzman describes this as, “The faith is the air he breathes, and his whole life is dedicated to knowing and following Jesus Christ with his whole heart” (125-126).
A Catholic gentleman openly displays his faith, serving as a witness to the truth and beauty that God offers us (Guzman, 126).
The second ideal Guzman presents regards being “gentle.” “Gentleness is not highly valued for men in our culture….But gentleness is not weakness – it is strength under control” (126). A Catholic gentleman is not weak. In fact, he “has strength in reserve” (127). Guzman continues, “His power is channeled and harnessed, fully under the control of a disciplined will” (127).
Guzman continues, “Finally, a Catholic gentleman is a servant leader” (127). A true leader does not lead for his own good. Jesus serves as a prime example for the Son of Man came not be served but to serve (see Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45). Guzman continues, “Authority is found not in claiming our rights but in laying them down in order to seek the well-being of others” (128). To be a Catholic gentleman is to love our neighbor, doing what we can to help others.
Do we always succeed? No, in fact, as Guzman writes, “It often seems as if we fall much more than we scale the heights…Habitual sins plague us and enslave us” (130). What are we to do? We turn to Jesus. In Mark 2:17 we hear Jesus say, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” We must turn our weaknesses over to Jesus. In doing so, we are made strong (see 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
To succeed we need God. Thus, we need to pray. We may not be sure how to pray. Guzman writes, “It starts very small and quiet.” We need to surrender ourselves to God. We need to let God take over our prayer. We need to listen to what God has to say (Guzman, 141). Sometimes we have to wait for an answer. Waiting is not easy. (For more on prayer, see my three-part series of presentations, Giving Our Hearts to God: What It Means to Pray.)
Knowing that purity can be one of our struggles, Guzman includes a chapter on purity. Specifically he speaks of pornography. He writes, “It hurts real women. One of the chief seductions of porn is that it feels so harmless in the moment” (145). It is not harmless. “It rewires your brain” (146). It changes the way we look at others. Guzman writes, “Purity is about loving in the right way” (147). We should ask ourselves why we look at pornography. “What need are we trying to fill? Are we hungry for affirmation? For intimacy? Are we longing for human connection?” (Guzman, 147). Why do we look for human connection in pornography that objectifies sex and removes the intimacy? (see my article, “Chastity and Sexuality”) Guzman writes, “It is controlling our sexual energy instead of allowing it to control us” (148).
To conclude, to be a Catholic gentleman (or lady), we must embrace our faith. We need to stop letting the world dictate what we believe and let God be in charge of our lives. In our faith, we have something worth fighting for. Many martyrs have died for our faith. We ask their intercession that we may have the same strength of faith as they have.
This concludes my series on Guzman’s book, The Catholic Gentleman. I hope you have enjoyed it and understand more what it means to be Catholic. If you would like to know more, I encourage you to read the book for yourself.