Authentic Masculinity 101: Teaching Boys to be Men of God
In a spiritual testament to his son, St. Louis King of France wrote the following:
My dearest son, my first instruction is that you should love the Lord your God with all of your heart and all of your strength. Without this there is no salvation. Keep yourself, my son, from everything that you know displeases God, that is to say, from every mortal sin. You should permit yourself to be tormented by every kind of martyrdom before you allow yourself to commit a mortal sin.
It appears that this form of father to son communication has become somewhat of a lost art but not one that has completely disappeared. In an age where the sanctity of Marriage is constantly attacked by those who would rather forcefully have you believe that a union between males or females is perfectly natural and normal under the guise of matrimony there is an underlying current to this malaise in the deconstruction of male and female anthropology.
At the onset of God’s desire to create creatures that would most perfectly reflect His love man and woman were created. Each was given his and her own unique gifts that perfectly complemented one another in all facets of being male and female (Gen 2:4-25) hence the nature and sanctify of marriage from the very beginning. Suffice it to say this point is irrefutable though the current trend is to refute this natural course of action by any means necessary.
One of the unique gifts God bestowed upon man and woman is each possessed their own physical identity while at the same time possessed the same dignity given to them by God. They possessed a rational soul that drove their actions towards good prior to the fall. After the fall the soul was left to deal with the constant battle of dealing with a fallen human nature that would be resuscitated by God’s grace through His Son Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:3-11).
The First Principle of Authentic Masculinity
Owing to the nature God has given us, the male subject in the order of creation has certain natural duties and responsibilities required of him by God. If we take the example of Samuel, he listened and obeyed to the calling of the Lord (1 Sam 3:1-18). Abraham listened to the word of God to the point of willing to sacrificing his son Isaac (Gen 22); Joshua upon seeing the messenger of the Lord immediately paid homage and worshipped (Joshua 5:13-15). These examples of obedience also reflect the gift/act of fidelity towards God. And here lies the first principle of authentic masculinity; a willingness to accept the will of the Father over our own. Men by nature have exhibited great difficulty throughout our Lord’s history to accept His will.
As a father myself the responsibility I hold to my wife and children and in this case to my son must be centered on an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. This intimacy reflects a desire to know the Father’s will and to become visibly and actively sacramental in my way of life with Christ and His Church.
A Father’s Responsibility and the Obedience of Faith
There are several ways many of us can think of toward developing an authentic masculinity for our sons. One that I have found most effective throughout my years of catechizing male students including my own son is the gift of obedience. Obedience by nature affirms a willingness to freely hear or submit to something or someone. The natural tenet of obedience is to draw on a greater good as a result of obedience. This was Adam and Eve’s simple task which as we have seen in the history of the world was not so simple.
The Catechism references obedience with respect to the Word of God as man’s ability to submit freely to the Word that has been heard (CCC 144). This definition echoes the example mentioned earlier with Abraham, Joshua and Samuel. Obedience begets faith in that there is a certainty that what you adhere to will foster greater fruits, in particular the gift of truth.
Witness to Authentic Masculinity
A Father’s greatest gift to his son is how he handles the gift of obedience in everyday life and lives this obedience with others. As the head of the household, Fathers are called in faith and obedience to care for their spouses and their children; they swear an oath through the Holy Covenant of Marriage to love their wives as Christ loves the Church and to be open to the gift and sanctity of life.
Children are keenly aware of their parents’ mannerisms. They analyze everything a parent does and in the process imitate these behaviors habitually. In the case of Father’s, our first pillar of authentic masculinity is the visible role of obedience in our daily life with Christ. Our son’s must see this act of faith on a daily basis so their view of the world does not become secular and instead becomes Catholic. Simple examples of obedience such as:
- Carefully listening to your son when he is speaking to you
- Opening the door for your wife and treating her with utmost respect even when you may be tempted not to
- Not being quick to judge or condemn (very difficult to do)
- Admitting when you’re wrong (even more difficult)
though not exhaustive these examples are nevertheless quite challenging and can lead towards a sound masculine foundation. They reflect a sense of chivalry that has been lost amongst boys in today’s society. I can’t tell you how many times my son has received surprised facial expressions from females he has opened the door for on any given day. Fortunately, the majority of these facial expressions have been positive and affirming rather than negative. Give a boy an opportunity to be a healthy man of God I believe he’ll take it. Authentic masculinity rests in the desire to be an obedient witness of the Gospel with all of the gifts attributed to man by God. We must provide these opportunities as much as possible in order to avoid an identity crisis of sorts in our own son’s masculine development.
“Awake O’ Sleeper, and arise from the dead and Christ shall give you light. Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”