The Secret Weapon

ian / August 4th, 2014

An Epic Battle—Every Man’s Battle

It is probably safe to say that we are living amidst a great battle, a tremendous spiritual war between good and evil, angels and demons, God and the malicious one. The mass exodus, torture, persecution and marginalization of Christians in the Middle East, the Chinese government’s incessant destruction of hundreds of churches across her nation, the increasing infection of the epidemic of pornography, our nation’s dramatically increasing numbers of teen suicides, the meltdown and so called redefinition of the human family, the ever spreading secularism which attempts to squeeze the Catholic faith from every corner of society, all indicate that we are in the midst of an epic battle. But often, that war appears to be too large for one man. When considering the darkness which weighs heavy, overshadowing our world, it is easy to believe that, as a man, I cannot remedy the situation. We FOSJ, however, believe that in order to convert the world, the Church must be renewed; and if the macro-family of the Church is to be renewed, the micro-church of the family must be restored and revitalized; and if the micro-church of the family is to be restored and revitalized, that man who is both husband and father must become like St. Joseph—a father on earth like the Father in heaven. In other words, the battle is always fundamentally within each and every man. Recently, Yale academic, lesbian radical feminist, Camille Paglia was quoted, “The culture needs men and it will die without it.” And again, “gender neutrality is the precursor for a huge fall—a civilization that commits suicide.”

The Enemy’s Weapon

The battle is not so much ‘out there’ as much as it is ‘in here’—inside each of us. God has created each of us to be a manifestation of His glory and this is accomplished by becoming who God has created us to be. We can only discover ourselves by giving ourselves away. (See GS 24) God gave us our vocation as a way to give ourselves away, to discover ourselves and become manifestations of His glory. Our vocation is our path to greatness. The evil one, the enemy, is bent on keeping us from discovering our identity, and he attempts to accomplish this by distracting us from fulfilling our vocation. How does the evil one lure so many men from fulfilling their vocation? Pride is the weapon that the enemy uses to undermine our call to greatness. Pride is the weed in the garden of the soul, that if left unchecked, will crowd out our identity and choke out our destiny. Pride, according to St. Thomas Aquinas is “the excessive attachment to one’s own excellence.” This does not mean that we are not called to excellence, or to strive for excellence—it simply means that we should not be attached to our own excellence.

The Problem of Pride

How do we know if we are attached inordinately to excellence? When we make an error, give the incorrect response, or fumble on the job—how do we respond? Do we defend ourselves or admit the wrong? When someone is lauded or extolled as being talented, successful or gifted, how do we respond? Do we become jealous, resentful or marginalize that person; or are we happy for their success? When someone snubs us, rejects us, defames us, how do we respond? Do we thank God that we are united to Christ in His passion, or do we judge, condemn and hate the one who treats us in this manner? When we view a beautiful woman, do we believe in our own hearts that she is ours to objectify, or do we acknowledge her beauty and release her to God? When people don’t listen to us or pay attention to us—how do we respond? Do we attempt to overcompensate and make ourselves noticed, or do we accept our littleness, believing that God can do great things with those who are humble and hidden? All of us fail these tests. All of us have succumbed to pride, and this failure in our personal battle fuels the a larger defeat in the bigger war.

Overcoming Pride

So how do we overcome the weed of pride? If a weed is to be removed it has to be excised at the root. As in the natural order, so it is in the spiritual life—if we desire to remove pride, we must dig deep, get to the source of the root, and actually enter the earth of our soul and uproot it. Humility, derived from the word humus, meaning from the earth, is the secret weapon, the ‘round-up’ of the spiritual life, which defeats pride. What is humility? St. Thomas Aquinas defines humility as “total self-awareness.” If we are truly aware of who we are, the good and bad aspects, our talents and idiosyncrasies, the gifts and disorders, we will become ever more aware of our position in relationship to God, which affords us true humility. How do we know if we are humble? A humble person can admit when they are wrong, verbally admit when they have failed, ask forgiveness when they have wronged another. Do we acknowledge and thank God for the unique gifts that he has given us and perhaps not given to others? St. Francis de Sales advises that one is to thank God for the unique gifts that he possesses while others may not possess those same gifts. He says that this is not pride, but rather is an act of humility; for in doing so, the person acknowledges first, that he has been given the gift, and second that the gift is from God.

Mary and Humility

Humility is the acceptance of who we are, both good and bad aspects. The humble man believes that God’s plan consists of using imperfect men to transmit the riches of His love. Indeed, God is “able to do all things more abundantly than we desire or understand according to the power that works in us.” (Eph 3:20) Humility is the reality of who we are and Who God is within us. “For when we are weak, then we are powerful.” (?) Humility again is total self-awareness. For example, Mary proclaims that she is the “Handmaid of the Lord,” but also states that “her soul magnifies the Lord,” and that “all generations will call [her] blessed.” Mary understood her relationship to God—she was His handmaid—and she also understood her relationship to man—she is “blessed among men for all generations—she is the magnification of the Lord. In no other creature do we find such perfect humility. In fact, we can safely say that Mary is synonymous with humility.

The Woman Who Crushes Pride

While languishing upon the cross, before expiring, our Lord Jesus gave you and me His most treasured gift—His Mother—when He commanded, “Behold your Mother.” Our Lord commands each of us to take His Mother as our own—Why? Mary is God’s very instrument and His means to defeat pride. Recall that after Adam fell to pride, rejected God and submitted to evil, God revealed that as a consequence, Adam and all men would suffer in his labors and woman would suffer in her labor. But God, while rebuking the serpent also gave a prophetic hope—a promise of His redemption and victory over the effects of pride—the proto evangelium—“I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman, and thy seed, and her seed. She shall crush thy head, and thou shall lie in wait for her heel.” (Gen 3:15) Notice that the Scripture states that the Woman will have her own seed. The Greek word for seed is “sperma.” But how can a woman have “sperma” when only a man can donate the seed? Only by means of the Holy Spirit can a woman have her own seed, and that Woman was Mary. She is the Woman, whom Christ—from the cross—gave us. She is the Woman who crushes pride. If we desire to become great, we must paradoxically become little, and to become little we must become dependent upon the Woman—Mary. To become a great man, I need the greatest woman. To become a great father, I need the greatest Mother. Satan despises Mary, and is actually afraid of her, because she is God’s chosen instrument which defeats pride, setting man free to become who he actually is. All who entrust themselves to her care become humble, defeat pride and truly become men of greatness.

Man’s Theological Position

After Adam fell to pride, but before God promised the victory of the Woman and her seed, He asked Adam the question, “Where are you?” God asked this question not to obtain an answer for Himself, but to help Adam obtain an answer for himself. God was not concerned with Adam’s geographical position, but rather his theological position. This question God proposes to each of us—“where are you?” This question haunts us. Yet, the answer to this question lies at the heart of our identity. Adam was called to be an icon of God the Father, an initiator of self-giving love—he was called to set the pace of self-giving love. By loving Eve, the first woman, in this way, Adam and Eve would have conceived a child without sin and their family would have become a created version of the uncreated Trinity. But Adam failed. St. Joseph and Mary entered the first stage of Jewish marriage—the betrothal—and before the second stage—the consummation—Mary conceived Jesus. Joseph, upon discovering her pregnancy, was tempted to flee from her, yet after deciding to divorce her quietly, he heroically retraced his footsteps to become the Custos—the defender, shield and faithful husband of Mary and eventually the father of Jesus.

God’s Secret Weapon

Because Joseph assumed his theological position as Custos, the uncreated order of love in the Trinity becomes evident in the created order of the human Family. This indicates that by virtue of the Holy Family, all families can become icons of God’s self-giving, trinitarian love. In order for God to accomplish this in our own families, it is imperative that we assume our theological position as Joseph did. Joseph’s first step to inaugurating his call to greatness was entrusting himself to Mary. If we desire to become men of greatness and have our family become icons of the Trinity we must entrust ourselves to Mary, for she is synonymous with humility. Mary is the nexus, the converging point for salvation. The Father creates her, the Son is created within her, the Holy Spirit creates through her, and Joseph entrusted himself to her. Each of the Persons of the Trinity and St. Joseph entrusted themselves to Mary. She is the point of condescension. God the Father entrusted His greatest gift—His Son—to her. Jesus, the Son, entrusted Himself to be raised by her. St. Joseph entrusted his life to her. All of these humbled themselves before Mary. Lucifer, however, would not humble himself in this way. Mary is the secret weapon that defeats the weed of pride and enables us to become who are destined to be—men of greatness. If you and I want to become great men, great fathers, it is imperative that we do as Jesus and St. Joseph did—entrust ourselves to the greatest Mother. She is the secret weapon in defeating pride. She is the means to humility. She is the secret weapon which enables us to win the battle.