The battle for purity is life-long and involves numerous skirmishes...some won, some lost. One must first face up to the fact that purity requires manly strength and commitment to the battle. One can never shy away from the battle, or indeed the battle is lost.
This battle for purity may be likened to defending a castle stronghold. How so? Well first, if we are true men of Christ we should, by our faith and life of grace built a strong wall of defense in our life. This involves disposing of the enemy so that he no longer is able to abide within our castle (or cloister?). This wall is also our insulation from the onslaught of the world, meaning that we have pushed the world from our souls in a way that keeps our kingdom free from its influence. This wall of defense is built stone by stone through a lifetime of gracefilled commitment to Christ and faithful living out of the call of our King.
Secondly, the wall is only as defensible as its points of entry. Do we leave our castle vulnerable by leaving the gate wide open and unguarded? Are the sentries on guard and walking the top of the wall and turrets to keep an eye out for advances of the enemy? Is our castle supplied with the necessary provisions to endure a siege of the Enemy? Have we added defenses to our wall to ensure the impenetrability of our fortification?
These questions related to the battle for purity should make us think that a castle's defense is only as strong as its weakest point of entry. The famous Trojan Horse allowed the enemy to penetrate within the city's fortified walls. If our gate is unbolted and unguarded, our castle shall soon fall. In other words, are entire spiritual life can come crashing down in one instant by failing to bolt the gate...by failing to keep watch! Who among us has not experienced the frustration of a committed life of grace thrown away on a fleeting moment of weakness?! That is a lost battle.
Most often, it is not a great struggle, but rather a shock, as if we didn't see it coming...why, usually because the little acts of faith, hope, and charity had given way to little acts of selfishness, laziness, pride, and self-love. We fail to bar the gate when we refuse to do the right, and most often hard thing by choosing instead to hang on to selfish comforts like entertainment (think TV, movies, music etc.) Watching a 2 hour movie causes a man to embrace pacifism for a brief moment and allow his virility to be squandered on fantasy. Four hours of watching football also wastes a man's energy and virility and something fleeting and meaningless. These seemingly "little" things slide the bolt back on the castle gate, leaving it wide open for the entrance of the Enemy.
While the gate may be bolted, if the wall is not watched and a sentry posted, the wall runs the risk of being overrun. While a strong wall is a great benefit in the battle, the Enemy can easily scale it with his machines of war. We may keep our wall strong by avoiding fruitless entertainment, and by building a strong wall through faith and penance, but without the sentry all may be lost. The "sentry" is a life of prayer and study. Prayer, as Christ hinted to in the Garden of Gethsemane, is watchfulness. By dedicated time and effort to our relationship with Christ we grow more watchful for the little attacks of the Enemy. If we were to fall asleep and not keep watch with Christ, as did Peter and the other apostles, we run the risk of losing site of the vision Christ has for us. We may run away, just as Peter and John did, when attacked.
Men, the bottom line is this: The battle is won through little means. The skirmishes and attacks will continue until the day we breathe our last. These battles require our fortifications to be strong, but also our preparations to be wise. If we tend to the "small" things, our victory is assured. FIGHT ON!
Below is the link to an excellent and straight-forward list of suggested Lenten Penances broken down by our specific roles in life. I think these are excellent starting points for our Lenten meditation. Please give it a thorough read and some time in prayer. You can also learn more at Catholicism.org
"The Creation of Catholic Culture is a lay and fatherly competency. It is the responsibility and duty of family men to lead not only their families but the Catholic lay community as well. However, fathers today too often take a back seat to their priests and wives in this fatherly duty. Though the priest is called to exhort the faithful to conversion of lifestyle and holiness, it nonetheless remains the familial father's responsibility to detail and enforce particular standards for his family. While the priest's competency is sacraments and doctrine; he should not have to be the substitute head of the family nor the lay community. Nor are wives to take responsibility for creating Catholic culture. The wife's competency is the internal care of her family; she too should not have to be the substitute head of the family or the lay community, for she is its heart. It is the familial father who is commissioned by God to head the family, to set familial standards, and, in conjunction with other fathers, lead and set the standard for the Catholic community.
There is no excuse for a father's abdication of this duty. For it is he alone that has the charism to lead the family. It is the father who is charged with applying the faith to the world and its contingencies. It is the father who must be on the cutting edge of Catholic militancy, especially today when the world rages against the family as never before. Indeed, when danger threatened the Holy Family itself and leadership and action were required, the angel of God bypassed the High Priest Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Mother and spoke to the head of that family: St. Joseph, the Light of Patriarchs.
Conversely, Christian men have a specific area of concern which is not the ecclesial politics that so permeates the Church today, especially in traditional circles. Our primary concern and competency is the creation of Catholic familial culture. Under the leadership of the father the family's degree of Catholicity is only limited by the willingness of its members. Families can be as Catholic as they choose within their home: in their spirit, thoughts, words, actions, and lifestyle. Above and beyond ecclesial politics and the various issues entailed there in, it is in the familial and cultural arena that we as men manifest the militancy of their Catholicity and prove their adherence to tradition." Dilsaver
Those were two of the last words my spiritual director said to me today. As one online dictionary says, it means to, "act in accordance with one's beliefs, especially inspite of criticism." Wow, that is packed. So my spiritual director is telling me I need to "act...inspite of criticism". That is a hard one.
Let's face it guys, most of us like the approval of our cohorts, friends, neighbors, and family members. We like to feel respected, honored, and appreciated. I would think most of us are good guys, good Christian men, trying to follow Our Lord's wishes and plans for our lives. And yet, I would venture to say that many of us are also caught between our desire to follow God and our desire to be appreciated.
Well, it may be easy to please the boss by completing a project on time and under budget. It may be wonderful to treat our precious spouse to a night out, complete with wine and chocolates. It can also be rewarding to have a "daddy date" with our kids and treat them to a fun day out with the man of the house. So where is the courage needed for that stuff? There is no criticism there. Heck, we will get a lot of pat's on the back for that kind of stuff.
No, the criticism comes in when you rattle cages, rock the boat, and stir the pot. If you have read Dr. Dilsaver's book, this blog, and any deep Catholic literature on patriarchal leadership you know what I am talking about. It is so counter-cultural, so against the status quo, that it never fails to induce criticism. Let me give you some recent real-life examples:
1. "Are all of those kids yours?" Cashier at Wal-mart.
2. "Haven't you had enough? I have two and they are driving me crazy!" Stranger in a retail store.
3. "What are you Mormon or something?" Another stranger in a retail store.
4. "You home school? Aren't you worried your kids will be lonely, after all, they need to learn about the real world." Former Co-worker.
5. "That's nice and all, but it can't work for us (speaking about manly leadership in the home)" Relative.
6. Try finding a home for a family of nine that isn't in the city.
7. "What are you, some kind of Leave It To Beaver family, that is just weird." Acquaintance learning that my wife asks permission for things.
I am sorry, but I have to stop there. It is stirring the pot a bit much already. I could go on and on, but the challenge is this: Do we exchange man's approval for God's? Whom are we seeking to please? If we are honest with ourselves we will face up to the fact that we are falling short of His designs and plans for us and our families. He is asking for it all! How much are we willing to give?
The word courage has the root word from the french for "heart". St. Luke quotes our Lord as saying, "And he said to them: You are they who justify yourselves before men, but God knoweth your hearts; for that which is high to men, is an abomination before God." (Luke 16:15) God knows our hearts, He knows the truth, He knows what we are trying to hide from Him and trying to hide from ourselves. It takes courage to face this, to face our shortcomings, our fears, and our faults. It also takes courage, it takes heart, to give God our all, and live completely and radically for Him. It will take courage to stop justifying ourselves and stop seeking that which is important to modern culture, which is an "abomination before God" and start following Christ, no matter the cost. So, do we have the courage to exchange man's approval for God's?
If any of this rings true, please post a comment or contact us.