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Header-Exhortation to Catholic Men

By Luiz Sérgio Solimeo

 

We are immersed in a cultural war which is destroying the most sacred foundations of our civilization and increasingly plunging the world into chaos and violence.

In this context, it is important that Catholics, following the path of their ancestors, abandon self-indulgence and engage in the fight, mindful of the promises made at Baptism and of having become soldiers of Christ by Confirmation. They need to launch forth “into the breach."

 

A Vibrant Call to Battle

This is the call that the Bishop of Phoenix, Rt. Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, makes to the men of his diocese – and by extension of the whole country – in his vibrant document of September 29, 2015: An Apostolic Exhortation to Catholic Men, My Spiritual Sons in the Diocese of Phoenix.

As the illustrious bishop said with words reminiscent of the great calls for the Crusades of old, it is a call to battle:

I begin this letter with a clarion call and clear charge to you, my sons and brothers in Christ: Men, do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you, the battle that is wounding our children and families, the battle that is distorting the dignity of both women and men. This battle is often hidden, but the battle is real. It is primarily spiritual, but it is progressively killing the remaining Christian ethos in our society and culture, and even in our own homes.

 

The Fight as a Defense against the Attacks of the Devil

This cultural war against the Church, Bishop Olmsted ponders, is inspired by the father of lies. He asserts, “One of the key reasons that the Church is faltering under the attacks of Satan is that many Catholic men have not been willing to ‘step into the breach’ – to fill this gap that lies open and vulnerable to further attack.”

For Catholic men, ceasing to fight is devastating because they ultimately “fall away from the Church, they fall deeper and deeper into sin, breaking their bonds with God and leaving them vulnerable to the fires of Hell.”

 

The Fight as the Duty of Every Baptized Person

With that, “Catholic men are failing to keep the promises they made at their children’s baptisms – promises to bring them to Christ and to raise them in the faith of the Church.”

Praying the Rosary“Many fruits of our Christian heritage still exist, but the roots below the soil are under siege,” underlines the Bishop of Phoenix, and this is why the fight has a reason for being and also becomes urgent. The remnants of our Catholic heritage must be not only preserved but restored to their fullness.

But the struggle for truth and morals, for the honor of being Catholic, is not only a sacrifice we make; with the assistance of divine grace, this struggle gives us the joy of a warrior fighting for a just cause.

According to Olmsted, “In Christ’s mercy and truth, we become strong in His strength, courageous with His courage, and can actually experience the joie de guerre [joy of the battle] of being soldiers for Christ.”

This “joy of the battle” that visits the soldiers of Christ is one of the purest and most intense joys that can be experienced on earth.

 

The Church, a School of Spiritual Battle

“The Church is, and has always been,” Bishop Olmsted notes, “a school that prepares us for spiritual battle, where Christians are called to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:2), to “put on the armor of God,” and “to be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).”

This “joy of the battle” is a powerful incentive for Catholics to engage in the struggle and recover the true concept of manliness so distorted in our society, which also influences Catholics. Today there is a crisis of manhood.

 

Our Lord Jesus ChristOur Lord Jesus Christ, a Model of Manliness

The true model of manliness is not the one the world offers, but Our Lord Jesus Christ.

As the Bishop states in his document:

Jesus of Nazareth – who at once is fully God and fully man, and the perfection of masculinity. Every moment of his life on earth is a revelation of the mystery of what it means to be man – that is, to be fully human and also, the model of masculinity. Nowhere else can we find the fullness of masculinity as we do in the Son of God. Only in Jesus Christ can we find the highest display of masculine virtue and strength that we need in our personal lives and in society itself.

 

“Gender Theories” and the Destruction of Society

The gradual disappearance of virility greatly contributed to the so-called "gender theories" that destroy the complementary differences between men and women. The emasculation of man is accompanied by a masculinization of women. Unisex clothes, androgynous haircuts, replacement of family life by a career outside the home, these all favor this loss of true femininity.

The Bishop of Phoenix explains:

[T]he rapid advance of a “gender ideology” has infected societies around the world. This ideology seeks to set aside the sexual difference created by God, to remove male and female as the normative way of understanding the human person, and in its place, to add various other “categories” of sexuality. This ideology is destructive for individuals and society, and it is a lie. It is harmful to the human person, and therefore, a false concept that we must oppose as Christians.

It is quite clear that no one can change sex according to his fancy. The DNA present in every cell of the human body bears the mark of the person’s sex, male or female. This does not depend on anyone’s will but on the designs of God, and to try and force nature contrary to these ends is a sin, a rebellion against the Creator. People can change their appearance by hormones and surgeries, but not their nature: they will always be a man or woman as conceived in the womb.

 

The Crisis of Paternity

Confusion and loss of masculine or feminine identity profoundly hurt the family and therefore society with the loss of the notions of fatherhood and motherhood, once so lively in Christian civilization.

The bishop comments:

A Father teaching his childrenToday’s attack on fatherhood, and by extension, motherhood, is multi-pronged and breathtakingly damaging. 41% of children are born into unmarried homes in our day, an increase of 700% from 1950, when the out-of-wedlock birthrate was a mere 6%. These children are not fatherless because of some sweeping physical conflict, like World War II, which caused many wounds of fatherlessness, but rather because, far worse, fathers’ own willed absence is happening on a massive scale. … Catholic men also contribute far too regularly to this same scandal that devastates the heart of a child and makes too many women in our culture live as if they were widows!

Touching on the father’s irreplaceable role in the family, Bishop Olmsted exhorts Catholic men: Men, your presence and mission in the family is irreplaceable! … We need faith like that of our fathers who defended the children of previous generations and who gave up their own lives rather than abandon their faith in Christ. My sons and brothers, men of the Diocese of Phoenix, we need you to step into the breach!

 

The Role of Healthy Friendship

Not only must Catholic men recover the sense of physical and spiritual parenthood, but also a sense of manly friendship among men, a fellowship which helps men to face the difficulties of life and is above all an aid to progress in the spiritual life. This friendship has nothing romantic or self-serving but is part and parcel of our social nature, leading men and women to the practice of friendship. Saint Thomas Aquinas says that a friend is another self; and Our Lord commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Unfortunately, in the individualistic and hedonistic society we live in, the natural sense of friendship is being lost and that which sociologists call “loneliness in the crowd” is continually expanding.

 

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Sexual Revolution, Unhappiness and Solitude

The proximate cause for the loss of manliness, the masculinization of women, the loss of the sense of fatherhood and motherhood and that of friendship is the Sexual Revolution, which took on a violent and devastating impulse in the mid-60s.

The bishop comments:

How did it come about that a culture so steadfast in supporting marriage and spousal commitment two generations ago became a culture that has reduced sexuality to mere pleasure and self-serving ends? The answer is the Sexual Revolution. For many, the Sexual Revolution promised “free love” and liberty from the shackles of old ideas about masculinity and femininity. What resulted was the separation of sexuality from the commitments of marriage and a widespread option for sterility (chemical and surgical sterilizations), amounting to a denial of what is most essentially masculine and feminine in the person. Worse, the Sexual Revolution ushered in the scourge of abortion, pornography, and sexual abuse so rampant in recent decades. Instead of real and authentic love, this false “liberty” offers cheap pleasures that mask a deeper loneliness and pain.

 

Defending Chastity: the Great Manly Weapon

Man praying in ChurchInto the Breach prescribes the classical remedies presented by Catholic tradition and by authors of spiritual theology: constant custody of the eyes, control of one’s imagination, prayer, vigilance, frequenting the sacraments, especially confession and Communion, daily examination of conscience, devotion to the saints and so on.

But above all—and this is the major contribution of this admirable Apostolic Exhortation by Bishop Thomas Olmsted— Catholic men must conceive the spiritual life as a struggle and practice virtue as a means to prepare themselves for the struggle in defense of Christian principles and values, especially the great virtue so heavily attacked today: chastity.

A manly, strong, combative chastity that is neither bashful nor apologizes for existing, but is seen as a powerful and necessary weapon in the fight against the destruction of the family, the Church, and civilization itself.

 

Gratitude to a Valiant Bishop

We therefore close these quick considerations on his extremely timely Apostolic Exhortation Into the Breach with heartfelt thanks to the valiant Bishop of Phoenix.

 

 


 

For more information please click here to visit: Into the Breach

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for November 24, 2020

The devotions we practice in honor of the glorious Virgin Ma...

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November 24

 

The devotions we practice in honor of the glorious Virgin Mary,
however trifling they may be,
are very pleasing to Her Divine Son, and
He rewards them with eternal glory.

St. Teresa of Avila


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Andrew Dung-Lac and the Martyrs of Vietnam

Vietnamese Christians were ordered to trample on a crucifix...

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St. Andrew Dung-Lac and the Martyrs of Vietnam

Born in 1795 in the Tonkinese town of Bac-Nihh in North Vietnam, Tran An Dung was the son of pagan parents. In search of work for themselves in 1807, his parents moved to the ancient citadel of Hanoi. Here their twelve-year-old son was taken care of by a catechist and for three years was instructed in the Catholic faith. Baptized in Vinh-Tri, he received the Christian name Andrew (Anrê) in baptism and went on to learn both Chinese and Latin and himself became a catechist. He was selected for further studies in theology and was ordained to the priesthood on March 15, 1823.

An exemplary pastor, Andrew was ardent and indefatigable in his preaching, often fasted, and drew many to the Faith by his simple and moral life. As a testament of the love which his congregation had for him, in 1835, when he was imprisoned during the persecution of the Annamite emperor Minh-Mang, his freedom was purchased exclusively by donations from his parishioners.

The Vietnamese Christians suffered unspeakably during this time. Beginning in 1832 Minh-Mang expelled all foreign missionaries and commanded all Vietnamese Christians to demonstrate their renunciation of the Catholic Faith by trampling on a crucifix. Churches were destroyed; religious instruction was forbidden. Christians were branded on the face with the words ta dao (false religion) and Christian families and villages were obliterated. Many endured extreme privations and hardship; many more were put to death for their fidelity to the Faith.

To avoid further persecution by the authorities, Andrew Dung changed his name to Lac and relocated to a different region. While visiting a fellow priest, in order to confess himself, Dung-Lac was arrested with Father Peter Thi on November 10, 1839. In exchange for a monetary ransom paid to their captors, the two priests were liberated, but their freedom was short-lived. Re-arrested not long afterwards, they were taken to Hanoi and severely tortured. They were beheaded shortly before Christmas Day on December 21, 1839.

The priests, Andrew Dung-Lac and Peter Thi, were beatified on May 27, 1900 by Pope Leo XIII and formed part of a group of Vietnamese martyrs beatified together on that day. Another group, Dominicans all, was beatified on May 20, 1906 and a third on May 2, 1909 both by Pope St. Pius X. A fourth group, which included two Spanish bishops, was beatified on April 29, 1951 by Pope Pius XII. All 117 martyrs were canonized in Rome on June 19, 1988 by Pope John Paul II.

These 117 martyrs met their deaths during several persecutions of Christians that swept through the Vietnamese peninsula between the years 1625 and 1886. Approximately 130,000 gave their lives for the Catholic Faith and further beatifications may be expected from amongst their glorious ranks. Among the 117 that have been canonized were 96 Vietnamese and 21 foreign missionaries. Of the Vietnamese group 37 were priests and 59 were lay people, among whom were catechists and tertiaries. One of them was a woman, mother of six children. Of the missionaries 11 were Spaniards: 6 bishops and 5 priests, all Dominicans; and 10 were French: 2 bishops and 8 priests from the Société des Missions Etrangères in Paris.

The tortures these martyrs endured were among the worst in the history of Christian martyrdom. The means included cutting off limbs joint by joint, ripping living bodies with red hot tongs, and the use of drugs to enslave the minds of the victims. Among the 117 Martyrs of Vietnam, 76 were beheaded, 21 were suffocated, 6 burnt alive, 5 mutilated and 9 died in prison as a result of torture.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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