"At that time, when Jesus entered into the boat, His disciples followed Him: and behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves, but He was asleep. And His disciples came to Him and awaked Him, saying: Lord, save us, we perish. And Jesus saith to them: Why are you fearful, O ye a little faith? Then rising up, He commanded the winds and the sea, and there came a great calm. But the men wondered, saying: What manner of man is this, for the winds and the sea obey Him?" Mt 8:23-27
This reading from the 4th Sunday after Epiphany gives us men a great deal to think about. After all, we can each ask ourself, "What manner of man am I?"
For us men that are blessed to be fathers, we can acknowledge those times where we are literally asleep during some familial "crisis". It might be a sickness, an unfortunate bad dream, an impudent intruder of the rodent type, or at best - when your "woman-with-child" says, "Honey, it's time!" Most of us are willing to spring into action when needed, and I would hope that most of us would have the will power and reserve to remain calm in whatever situation we find ourselves in. This is that magnanimity of heart that Dr. Dilsaver speaks of in his book, "The Three Marks of Manhood". "Magnanimity depends on the greatness of a man's concerns, which he can choose and develop, and upon his natural baseline aptitude." Thus, Christ could say to the winds and sea to be calm, because His concerns were with the eternal, and in the "big picture" the storm at sea was a small matter. Remember the parable of the mustard seed?
The the magnanimous man leading his family, the ebb and flow of life, the ups and downs, are met with a calm reserve and trust in the Divine Hand of God. This man knows that God the Father is the ultimate Father from whom all other fathers get their name and calling. He places his firm trust in God for all things and does not make a "mountain out of a mole-hill." Dilsaver quotes Josef Pieper's explanation of magnanimity:
"Magnanimity is the expansion of the spirit toward great things; one who expects great things of himself and makes himself worthy of it is magnanimous. The magnanimous man is to a certain extent "particular": he does not allow himself to become concerned with everything that comes along, but rather only with those great things that are suitable for him....The magnanimous man does not complain, for his heart does not permit him to be overcome by any external evil. Magnanimity encompasses an unshakable firmness of hope, a plainly defiant certainty, and the thorough calm of a fearless heart." (cited from TMM)
Taking this manly spirit into consideration, one wonders how the fearful disciples could have been concerned with the tempest. While us men may strive to be magnanimous and of a "stout heart" we may find ourselves, at times, confused, bewildered, fearful, and struggling under our weakness. In these times we must, just as these fearful disciples did, "submit [ourselves] not to the confusion of feelings or to any human being or to fate -- but only to God." (Pieper) By the very virtue of our calling to Patriarchal leadership, we must take our concerns to God the Father, and then, with our enlarged hearts, accept the burden of our cross. At times this may be answering the call of duty at 3am with a sick child, at other times it may mean deciding to forgo some comfort for the sake of the Gospel and our family.
So what manner of men are we?
Continuing the line of thought from Part 3, we discuss the need to develop moral leadership in and outside the home. We are called to this through our Baptism and through the Sacrament of Matrimony, for those in the state of marriage. Although we are not worthy, we must still not abdicate our responsibilities, just as Peter accepted his role as the first Pope, despite his many weaknesses and faults.
In the third part of the series "Men: Develop Vision", Chris shares how important it is that men, and especially fathers become the moral leaders in their home. Too often our words do not match our actions. Too often we set standards for our children that are different from those we apply to ourselves. In developing visionary leadership, men must accept the Cross of their vocation to be holy and to give an authentic witness and model to their wife and children and to society as a whole.
Not only are we called to develop a deep personal prayer life, but we must also fulfill our calling to be the "priest" in our home by leading spiritually. In Part 2 of this series we discuss this and it's practical application.
Here is a recent essay by Dr. G. C. Dilsaver on the use of the new full-body scanners located in many of the nation's airports and his experience in Tulsa a few months ago.
Do you make a plan when you take a family trip? Do you look at a map? This new year, develop your vision...that is your spiritual vision for yourself and your family. Make your plans and decide how you will live this year for Christ and for your family!
ps. Sorry for the gigantic mug shot...somehow the first slide changed when I uploaded it!
I was recently listening to a radio program in which they were reporting that many modern "couples" were opting out of marriage. They noted that many couples still lived together, had children together, shared finances and essentially all that marriage requires, without the "outmoded" and "unnecessary" contract and vows of marriage. One couple even went as far as to state that they hoped to avoid the unnecessary financial burden and legal wrangling that would come with their inevitable divorce...so they just skipped the contractual marriage altogether. On the flip-side, due to the economy, many divorced couples are remaining together under one roof, simply for financial convenience. Another couple, when interviewed felt that they could give their children a more stable home by avoiding the trap of marriage and all its difficulties.
With this in mind, I thought Chesterton, though writing for another generation, would be a voice of contradiction and of course, common sense (in this time when common sense is anything but common!).
"Some of the same sort of social thinkers, who enlighten us in the daily Press, have more than once observed that the Marriage Service contradicts everything in the Moder Spirit. It contradicts everything in the world now around us and the way the world is going. So it does; and it contradicts them in two words, "I will."
For it is precisely on that point of the power to say "I will," about Marriage or about anything else, that the real war of the world is being waged today. For the typical modern man, or rather the typical man who calls himself modern, always prefers to say, "I must," whether he says it as an anarchist or as a man of the Servile State. He says "I must," whether he means that he must obey a passion or that he must obey a policeman. He always represents himself as driven by some sort of irresistible compulsion, whether it is that of lawless love or an emphatically loveless law. Whether he is obeying the State, or the Boss, or the brute force of Nature, he equally excuses himself on the plea that the power is stronger than his own will. Sometimes he says that his anarchical behavior is due to heredity. In other words, he will not have his love-affairs arranged by his father and mother, but he will have them arranged by his great-great-grandfather, and his great-great-grandmother. Sometimes he says that everything is due to environment and education; which is a sort of lawless parody of the Indian infant marriage. But in all cases he talks as if he himself had really nothing to do with it; and he very naturally finds something annoying in an antiquated and superstitious formula that requires him to pronounce the words "I will."'