Archive for the ‘Manliness’ Category

Happy God the Father Day

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

Father’s Day has now passed, and many people were kind enough to wish me a “Happy Father’s Day”.   I was very lucky, and had a good father — he was a good man, a solid Catholic, and he loved my mother very much.  He taught me by example, and who was, in many ways, a model of God the Father for me.

Yet sometimes I think that most of what I’ve learned about God the Father, I learned from my children.  Or maybe it would be better to say that I learned about our perfect Father in Heaven by being a very imperfect father to my own children.

Peggy and I have three children — two are now adults, and one is on the cusp of adulthood.  I’ve been a father for almost half my life now.  My children have taught me a lot.

There are the lessons I learned from colic.  We were three for three with colicky babies.  If you have ever experienced colic, you know what it’s like.  Each one of my children, for several weeks when they were only a few months old, would cry incessantly every single evening, for no discernible reason, into the early hours of the morning.  You couldn’t get them to stop, you couldn’t ease their pain, nothing seemed to work, all you can do is walk up and down the hallway and hope that it ended soon.  When it became too frustrating to bear, I would hand them off to Peggy and take a break, knowing that in a little while, it would be my turn again.

Your heart just breaks for them, they are so small and so distressed, and they can’t help themselves.  You want their lives to be perfect, but it doesn’t work out that way.

As the children have gotten older, they have grown into their free will, and I’ve learned similar lessons from the decisions they’ve made — particularly the ones I disagree with.  I have done my best as a loving father to teach and model what’s right and wrong, healthy and unhealthy.  But they choose to do what they wish.  I can’t stop them, I can’t ease the pain they sometimes feel, all I can do is watch with sorrow as they make mistakes, and learn for themselves.  I want their lives to be perfect, but it doesn’t work out that way.

I have also tried to stay in a close relationship with our kids, and I think it helps them to have a father in their daily lives, even as adults.  Yet at times there’s been physical or emotional distance between us — they move away to school, or we just don’t get along for a while.  This distance is painful to me, I wish it would end, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

Of course, there have also been many, many times when I have been able to rejoice with my children.  They each have their own gifts, and I’ve learned to appreciate those differences, and the unique ways in which they are expressed.  I have to hold them each up to certain standards — particularly moral standards — but I also have to let them flourish in their own way.   And so often, it fills me with joy at being their father.

Through all of these highs and lows, my children have taught me the meaning of unconditional love — because that is my perpetual challenge, to love them and stand with them no matter what.  Because of this, I think I have gained a small shadow of insight into God the Father, and how He feels about me.

Like every broken person in the world, I have been hurt and wounded, and I have damaged my relationship with my heavenly Father.  I’ve gone my own way, without much regard for His. I have been too proud, or too blind, to ask Him for forgiveness.  There has been distance between us, not because He has ever rejected me, but because I have kept away.

But I also have felt my Father’s unconditional love for me.  I know that he rejoices when I do his will, and grieves when I do not.  I know that he celebrates when I am happy, and mourns when I am sad.  He is my Father, no matter what, and He will always stand with me.  I know that he wants my life to be perfect, and that He will help me when it’s not.

My children have taught me all of this.  So, when my kids wish me a “Happy Father’s Day”, I can be grateful to them for looking past my imperfections, and I can wish the same to my heavenly Father in His perfection.

Here’s How a Miracle Happens

Monday, December 13th, 2010

In my previous post, I described how some of the men at the Witness for Life were used as an instrument by God to stand with a man who was trying to bring his niece out of the abortion clinic.

Here are some of the details of how that actually happened, from an email that was sent to me by one of my brother Knights of Columbus, who was one of the sidewalk counselors:

I asked him to try to get his niece to come out and talk to us and the Sisters.  I told him that I would kneel in prayer on the street until she came out.  She did come out but went back inside quickly.  He mentioned this to the Sisters later in the morning that this had impacted him – he actually took the kneeling as a sacrifice for him personally and a sign of commitment, that we were doing something for him personally.  He said this strengthened him.

I told him that every man praying on that street was ready to lay down their lives (a la St. John’s Gospel) for his niece (I guess I should check in with you guys about that next time!).

We talked about how true love always involves sacrifice and I told him (what I try to say to every mom walking in a clinic) that his niece and her baby would change the world — maybe in a big way and maybe in a small way but that their lives would impact someone just like his life has impacted so many.

Sr. Joan talked about the Visitation Mission and how they actually would walk hand in hand with his niece.  I also mentioned that we would be delivering formula to a mom in need later that morning — I wanted him to know that we were here for the duration and that we would do what is necessary.  He stepped back and got misty eyed.

The real work in getting this young lady to choose life was done by her uncle.  It was he who put the Holy Rosary around his neck for strength.  It was he who spoke to his mother, who had taken the young lady into the clinic, and turned her around by asking her if she would have chosen to abort him.  It was he who kept calling his niece until her heart softened and she came back out.  It was he who was confident that he and his wife — who had been hoping to have more children in their marriage — would be able to help raise this new baby.  It took hours for all this to happen, and his perseverance was heroic.

But this miracle was a team effort.  Guardian angels and patron saints were all doing their part on the spiritual plane.  The Holy Spirit was working in overdrive.  The sidewalk counselors, the prayer warriors, and the Sisters were all there to help one solitary man prove to a scared young woman that life was the right choice, that hope and love were stronger than fear.

When Men Stand by the Lord at Calvary

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

We all remember how the original story went.  All the men, save one, abandoned our Lord at Calvary.  Only St. John, and the few loyal women, stood by Him in that place of death.

Sadly, the same story is re-enacted on a regular basis at the modern-day Calvary, the places of death we know as abortion clinics.

Every month, there is a Witness for Life at the Temple of Moloch in lower Manhattan, er, I mean the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic.  It is very sad to watch the young women enter that place of death.  And it is heartbreaking to see men drop them off and walk away, leaving them alone at Calvary.

We typically hear from the pro-choice crowd that abortion is a women’s issue and that men should butt out.  This is the script that’s being fed to them by the Evil One.  In reality, abortion is a man’s issue, because in many ways it is the consequence of the abdication of male responsibility.  If only men would be who they are called to be, and reject sexual irresponsibility, parental irresponsibility, and fraternal irresponsibility, abortion would be unthinkable — a pregnant woman could be certain that the men in her life would stand behind her, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

This is why a strong male presence at the Witness for Life is so important.  When men stand by the Lord at that little Calvary, they give an example of authentic masculinity to the frightened women who come there.

They also can be the catalyst for miracles.  Today, we saw one.

The Witness was difficult this Saturday.  It was very cold, and we were heckled in a very nasty way by several passers-by.  But the prayers continued to rise to heaven.

Our sidewalk counselors were all male today — the men of the Pro-Bikers for Life, and one of my brother Knights of Columbus.  As time went by, they noticed one man who was in a parked car, and who was visibly upset.  They approached him, and it turned out that his 16-year-old niece was in the clinic and was about to have an abortion.  He didn’t want it to happen, and he kept on calling her to convince her to come out.

The prayer warriors kicked into high gear, and the men stood with the girl’s uncle, supporting him and giving him strength.  A powerful spiritual struggle was taking place.

At the conclusion of the Witness, we processed back to Old St. Patrick’s for Benediction, but the sidewalk counselors and a few of the Sisters of Life remained behind at Calvary, standing watch and praying for that young woman to come out of the place of death.

Eventually she emerged, having decided not to have the abortion.  God is truly great — all glory to His Holy Name.

Her struggle is not over, of course, and she will need a great deal of support.  The Sisters will be there to help her, and I’m sure that her uncle will be there too.

We were privileged to see a great miracle today, and we stand in awe of God’s goodness.  Truly, wonderful things can happen when men stand by the Lord at Calvary.

The Battle Plan

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

There is a silent war going on, in the hearts of millions of men and women.  The visible battlefield can be found in lots of places — on our computer screens, on TV, in magazines, in music, and on the streets.

But the real battle is taking place right inside of us, in our hearts and souls.

The battle I’m talking about is the struggle for freedom from the slavery of pornography.

Most people have a sense that the problem of pornography has gotten worse in recent years.  The proliferation of porn sites on the Internet and the “normalization” of porn as a form of entertainment are undeniable, and unavoidable.  But I expect that most people have no idea of how bad it really is:

  • The porn industry is estimated to earn almost $100 billion worldwide — that’s billion, with a b — each year.  And that’s a conservative estimate — the actual number is probably much higher.  The child porn industry itself generates about $3 billion in revenue.
  • In the United States alone, porn generates over $13 billion in revenue — more than the major broadcast networks combined.
  • There are over 244 million porn web pages hosted in the United States, and over 400 million worldwide.
  • 80% of teens report having been exposed to porn online.
  • 20% of men report viewing porn from work.
  • 40 million American adults say that they regularly visit porn sites — including an increasing number of women.
  • 10% of adults admit to having an internet porn addiction.
  • These numbers are horrifying, but they really don’t capture the human reality of this problem.  Think of the marriages that are damaged by the secret lives of men and women who are using porn (single, married, and clergy), the dehumanizing and desensitizing effect that it has on normal human relationships, the theft of innocence of the young, and the exploitation of the people depicted in porn.  The human cost is catastrophic.

    There are millions of people, primarily men like myself, who have struggled with this problem for years, and who have seen the negative effects on their lives, and who are discouraged about whether they can ever get free of it.  It weighs on our hearts and souls.

    But there is hope of liberation from this slavery.

    Last week, and again this week, the Safe Environment Office hosted a day for all the clergy in the Archdiocese, to present this problem to our priests and deacons.  The staff of the Family Life/Respect Life Office prepared outstanding materials, and a very experienced counselor, Peter Kleponis, Ph.D., gave an excellent talk about how to recover from a compulsion or addiction to porn.

    If you’re interested in the resources that were made available to the clergy that day, check out the website of the Family Life Office’s anti-porn initiative, True Freedom.  At the heart of that effort is the Battle Plan to win the struggle against porn:

  • Throw out  or delete  ALL pornographic materials.   Install computer software program that blocks all pornographic websites.
  • No late night computer use.  Don’t surf the Internet when you’re lonely, tired, bored, or upset.
  • Don’t let boredom take over.  Integrate wholesome, positive fun into your life.
  • Be accountable!  Find someone you can trust and speak with him openly and honestly about the problem you have.
  • Seek professional help.  Pray daily.
  • Receive the Sacraments as frequently as you can or need, especially the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.
  • Make the sign of the cross when impure thoughts come to mind.  Repeat a short prayer like “Jesus, I trust in You.”  “Jesus, I love You.”  “Jesus, help me.”
  • Remember that every woman is some man’s daughter.
  • Do not lose heart.  You are not alone.
  • Listen to the voice of experience.  The key thing to remember here is that I cannot do this by myself, or by my efforts alone.  I need to be a warrior, but I can only get back in the battle and win if God is with me.

    Maybe the best way to get this message is to see it.  Check out this image, which is on one of the cards we gave to the clergy, and listen to St. Paul, who struggled with his own thorn in the flesh: