Authentic Masculinity 101: Teaching Boys to be Men of God

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How to Make Sure You Don’t Lose Your Moral Nerve

“You must make up your mind to the prospect of sustaining a certain measure of pain and trouble in your passage through life.”
~ Blessed Cardinal Newman

authentic masculinity 101

Blessed Newman’s remarks should resonate in our souls when it comes to trying to keep our moral nerve. All too often the attempt to freely exercise our moral nerve is met with disdain by those who would characterize this behavior as too oppressive or judgmental. Imagine a person who is trying to publicly exercise their moral nerve being chastised for doing so. Unfortunately this type of scenario is happening more often than not today.

Such a situation occurred to a former student of mine who was ridiculed by a group of immodestly dressed girls for praying in front of an abortion facility. One of the girls commented, “You hate women,” and without missing a beat he responded, “On the contrary, I love and honor women because God made them and I hope to marry one someday because they are a gift from God just like yourselves.” At that the girls were left speechless.

In order to make a concerted effort to keep your moral nerve you have to make up your mind to do so. Blessed Newman alludes to this. In other words, either you will or you won’t. Sounds simple and it can be if you exercise right reason, judgment, and prudence. Once this is accomplished you will then realize that maintaining your moral nerve will require sacrifice and God forbid some suffering and ridicule on the way.

I dare to say that no Father wants to raise a son who will not defend the basic moral principles of life established by God in the Ten Commandments (Rule of Faith). It goes without question that our hope in raising morally upright sons is that they develop into morally upright men. However, we know and understand that the development of a moral life in Christ is filled with immoral crevices. They tend to be positioned by the Devil himself to somehow convince all of God’s children that there is a better alternative than living a moral life centered on Jesus Christ.

Origins of Our Moral Nerve

Where does our moral nerve come from? If we take the time to understand who we are as God’s children we can clearly see that the moment we received our soul, our moral nerve came into being. And with that came our sense of responsibility, order, and willingness to perform good acts in the name God the Father.

However, the advent of the first sin by Adam and Eve’s own free will curtailed our perfect ability to perform good acts and instead our good acts would require sacrifice and a sense of suffering.

God created man a rational being conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions, God willed that man should be left in the hand of his own counsel so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him (CCC 1730).  In other words, the origin of our moral nerve rests in the very freedom God bestowed on us in order to act on things moral and avoid things immoral (Sir 15:14-20).

How to Keep Our Moral Nerve

A father’s primary responsibility to his children is to teach them how to have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Once our children recognize this important relationship in their lives then their view of themselves as human beings created in the image and likeness of God will grow.

The second responsibility is to help our children actively engage their relationship with Christ through a visible means of living out the Gospel message. Here’s where the Ten Commandments come in. The Decalogue (Ex 20:1-20) serves as the Rule of Faith all of us are called to follow fully realized in Christ and fulfilled in the Beatitudes (Mt 5: 2-12). The end-goal of fulfilling and keeping the Commandments and Beatitudes is eternal rest with our Lord in Heaven.

If the end goal is Heaven then we need to find a way of keeping our moral nerve through an active engagement of the Ten Commandments and Beatitudes in our daily lives. With respect to our children, reflecting on the Ten Commandments and what they propose is vital in keeping our moral nerve intact. One way of using the Ten Commandments as a daily spiritual guide is placing each commandmens in a Lectio Divina format.

The format would be as follows:

Lectio – asking the grace to Hear God’s Words: or in this case reflecting on what the Commandment asks.

Meditatio – upon further reflection of the Commandment, reflect on a certain aspect of the Commandment and how it can be lived in a better way.

Oratio – speak directly to our Lord and ask for His assistance to exercise your beatitudinal call.

Contemplatio – listen to any response from God attentively through prayer.

Prayerful reflection of each commandment would follow the same pattern of the Lectio Divina. This method also serves as an examination of conscience further fortifying your moral nerve in your daily walk with Christ.

Making Sure You Don’t Lose Your Moral Nerve

So, how do we make sure that we as fathers do not lose our moral nerve (and that our sons don’t either)?

Steep yourself in prayer (Jn 7:37-39).

This may not sound very masculine but, on the contrary, exhibits masculinity to the highest degree. Our sons must see that we love Christ and His Church especially through active participation in the Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. Being part of the Bride of Christ requires an adherence to the will of the Father revealed through the Son.

Don’t put on a false face (Col 2:8-15).

Hypocrisy is Satan’s tool when we choose to mimic a willingness to live a moral life but in reality care not to. This is what being a hypocrite means – putting on a false face. The importance of this point is the willingness to be ridiculed, mocked and disrespected for publicly professing and authentically living a moral life in Christ. In the case of our sons, it’s teaching them how to handle peer pressure especially in matters of sexual morality. If our sons know and understand the gift God has given them in their identity (1 Jn 3:19-20) then there is no need to put on a false face.

Perform good deeds and avoid evil ones (Rom 1:32).

St. Paul reminds us of the need to avoid those acts that cause grave harm to our soul and in turn our relationship with Jesus Christ. Concupiscence takes the stage in this last point where we are faced with daily opportunities to perform good deeds or fall prey to evil ones of our own free will. The message to take from this last point is that the Commandments and Beatitudes must work hand in hand in our daily lives. Merely performing a good deed does not exempt us from immoral thoughts or actions. We are called to actively engage society with a moral compass and effectively show how to live it.

The Church holds the key to keeping our moral nerve intact; this is why it is either loved or hated. Loved, by those who understand the nature of Christ and who we are as Children of God; hated by those who see the Church as an impediment in exercising their own self-prescribed moral autonomy. We may sway in our moral nerve due to the wages of sin, but it can never be destroyed because of the Father’s Infinite love for His children.

Copyright 2013 Marlon De La Torre

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About Author

Marlon currently serves as the Director of Catechist Formation and Children’s Catechesis for the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth. He is an adjunct professor of Catechetics for Holy Trinity Seminary serving the Diocese of
Dallas and Fort Worth and an adjunct professor of Catechetics for The Catholic Distance University. His published works include Screwtape Teaches the Faith. Learn more about Marlon’s work at his blog Knowing Is Doing.

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