It is probably safe to say that all of us desire to be great fathers, great husbands, great men. Isn’t that why we are here? To discover what it really means to be a husband, a father, an authentic man. In fact, our children and families depend upon the realization of this desire. There are many people who discuss what it means to be a man. Modern thinkers have told us that every man has an adventure to embark upon, a battle to fight and a beauty to win. While it is true that each of us are called to an adventure, called to a battle and to win the beauty, these ideas, if acted upon without a proper proper context can lead us down a path that potentially places our souls in jeopardy. What do I mean? If being real man is determined by being on adventures, entering battles and winning the beauty, who determines the adventure, the battle and the beauty? There is a real danger that we will define these ideals ourselves. At the bottom of the idea of embarking upon adventures, engaging in battles and winning beauties is the fact that pursuing these things and defeating them allows me to overcome my fears, my insecurities, thus giving me the confidence that I am a real man. Consequently, I keep jumping off of higher cliffs, I keep getting in the ring with stronger fighters, and keep desiring more beautiful women – or desire that my wife become that beauty. But in the end, by following this reasoning, I am simply chasing down a phantom I call manliness, or chasing after the ghost of my fears – never truly overtaking them. There will always be higher cliffs, stronger men and more beautiful women – and in fact, our women will only age and the glory of their physical attributes will diminish over time. And, even if I do achieve these things, I am given a false impression of self-confidence – as being derived from myself. This is pride, and as the Sacred Scriptures state, “Before the fall comes pride.”
What, then, is the proper context for a man’s adventure, his battles and his beauty that will help him discover the true man inside. The key is that the “true man” is not “out there” hiding in the wilderness on some mountain top, but rather, “in here,” deep inside each of us. Indeed, we don’t have to look for the battle – the battle will find us. Each of us were created with the innate desire to conquer. At the bottom of the desire for adventure, battles and for beauty, is the desire to conquer. But – and this is important – we do not determine the conquest – it has already been established by God and written on our hearts. God has given us our vocation as that context, that personal path to greatness, to glorify God and thus being glorified. If we are husbands, or fathers, then this is the path marked out for us – there is no other path to holiness – to personal greatness – to discover the true man inside. Often we chase after the adventure, the battle, the beauty, in order to escape the real adventure, our real battles, that is, our vocation as husband, as a father – the real beauty – our wives. It is not essential to man to be on an adventure, in a battle or to win a beauty, but rather, a man’s essence is to set the pace of self-giving love.
Two FOSJ sessions ago, we discussed the three attributes of the Trinity: distinction, unity, and fruitfulness. Remember that the Trinity is three distinct Persons, yet essentially One. To achieve the unity of the Trinity, we must, as men, maintain our distinct character. To achieve true unity with our wives, and thus bring about unity within our family, we must remain distinct from woman by maintaining our essence: to set the pace of self-giving love. If we do not make progress in overcoming our instincts, our disordered passions , we become like the animals who are not capable of saying no to passion and instinct, and who do not have the capacity for authentic self-giving love. Giving into our instincts, we lose our distinction from the animals, that is, we don’t express our true capacity to say yes to self–giving love. Consequently, by acting like animals, we become dominated by our lust for woman, and being dominated by our lusts for woman we lose our distinction as true men, capable of setting the pace of self-giving love.
Often, men’s desire for adventures, battles and conquest is naturally, although erroneously, transferred to women and marriage. The husband, however, who conquers his wife by means of lust and domination, has already been conquered and dominated by his lusts. Lust must be conquered or lust will conquer our marriages. Indeed, our wives are to be loved, not conquered. (In case there needs to be any clarification, in battle, one attempts to conquer an enemy – your wife is not your enemy) If we are honest, we admit that even if we obtain physical satisfaction by means of lust, we are spiritually dissatisfied that our wives are not satisfied in their hearts because they have not experienced authentic love. We know in the depth of our being that no real conquest has been accomplished.
The conquest that leads to true unity in our marriages and families is this: to conquer our disordered passions in order to ensure that our wives experience authentic love. This is one of the most fundamental expressions of authentic manhood. Many men mock the concept of self-conquest, because at the depth of their being they fear entering the battle against selfishness. Indeed, this, for the man, is among the greatest of all battles, and is one of the greatest measures of manhood.
Our glory as men is the Trinity’s glory. The Trinity loves each divine Person with disinterested love, that is each Person has no selfishness. Because of this self-giving love, the Trinity is eternally one – eternal unity. The Trinity’s ability to give Itself away is Its glory. This glory is expressed fully in Jesus’ sacrifice. He sacrificed his glory in heaven as the Word, and became one of us. He sacrificed His life in service of man. He sacrificed His body giving it to the cross. He sacrificed His Mother, giving her to us. He sacrificed His Spirit – giving It to the Father. He emptied Himself completely – and this is precisely why we glorify Him. Jesus sets the pace of self giving love – and calls all husbands to love their wives as He loved the Church.
Our glory then, as men, is simply this: to set the pace of self-giving love – to love unselfishly. This is God’s glory and He freely shares it with those who desire to partake in His glory. This is the real adventure, the true battle that leads to winning the beauty. The real conquest that leads to glory is the road of condescension – of going down into the battle. We must “go down,” that is, humble ourselves to set the pace of self-giving love. St. Joseph went down to Nazareth with Mary, and rather than fleeing from the battle to love disinterestedly, he entered the battle, taking it head on, mastering his passions, and by God’s grace, he loved the Virgin in a disinterested manner. This is Joseph’s glory, this can be our glory.