Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap, urged a gathering of more than 1,300 men Feb. 3 to become “new men” in the battle to reclaim their God-directed roles as leaders of their families and communities.
In his keynote address at the Catholic Men’s Fellowship of Phoenix’s 2018 Men’s Conference at Xavier College Preparatory, Archbishop Chaput lamented a confused current in Western culture that embraces sex outside of marriage, gender fluidity and “ambiguous” male and female roles, exhorting his audience to be the models of manhood God intended.
“As men, we’re hard-wired by nature and confirmed by the Word of God to do three main things: to provide, protect and to lead; not for our own sake, not for our own empty vanities and appetites, but in service to others,” Archbishop Chaput said during his address, titled “The Role of The Catholic Man in a Changing Culture.”
“We men, all of us — both clergy and lay — bear a special responsibility because the Gospel tasks us as leaders. That doesn’t make us better than anyone else. It takes nothing away from the genius of women or the equality of women and men,” the archbishop continued. “But human beings are not identical units. We’re not interchangeable pieces of social machinery.”
Archbishop Chaput, who also currently serves as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, compared the challenge facing today’s Christian men to that of the knights of medieval Europe, who, guided by the ideals of the Templars, were remade under the Church’s royal leadership from thugs into men of sacrifice and servanthood.
Pete Dohms, 72, was among a group of 10 who made the 91-mile, hour-and-a-half drive from the Diocese of Tucson’s St. Philip the Apostle in Payson. He found the archbishop’s message spot-on.
“Maleness is a biology. Manhood must be taught. That’s absolutely true. God did not create 57 gender alternatives,” he said. “It’s all too common in our culture that children don’t grow up with strong fathers. Too many grow up with no fathers at all; so they have no example of what it means to be a full man, a loving father.”
Archbishop Chaput was the first of several speakers, who also included Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted; Fr. Sean Kilcawley, director of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska; Catholic evangelist and speaker Hector Molina; diocesan Vicar of Evangelization Fr. John Parks and diocesan Vocations Director Fr. Paul Sullivan. Catholic singer/songwriter Chris Muglia provided music.
Fr. Kilcawley’s message, “A Breach in the Wire: Fearless Fatherhood and the Hypersexualized Culture,” followed and expanded on some of the themes sounded by Archbishop Chaput.
At one point, he zeroed in on pornography, citing a study two years ago that found “77 percent of Christian men 18-34 view it at least monthly, and 36 percent on a daily basis.” Older men fared no better, Fr. Kilcawley said: 77 percent of Christian men 31-49 viewed while at work within the past three months. Children, with ever-increasing access to the Internet, are hardly immune.
“In many ways, the enemy has cut the wire within our families, within our communities, even among the pastoral families,” he said.
But the love of Jesus, learned through the Bible, prayer and godly examples of men, can and has transformed lives.
“Being a man is more important today than maybe at any time in our civilization (with) all the outside influences. From fatherless children [to] the accessibility of porn — kids now have computers in their hands 24 hours a day,” said Mark Fortenberry, 47, a father of five and parishioner of St. Henry in Buckeye. “It takes guys like us to stand up and say, ‘No.’”
Mark Missildine, 35, a parishioner of St. Mary Magdalene in Gilbert, was attending his third men’s conference.
“It kind of refuels me for the rest of the year. It’s very uplifting, leaves me very hopeful. Your past is never erased, but Jesus helps take what was wrong and makes it more clear, and (you) draw from that.”
‘Manual for Men’
Author: Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted
Publisher: Saint Benedict Press, LLC
Length: 287 pages
Release Date: Feb. 3, 2018
The conference also provided the launching point for a brand-new book by Bishop Olmsted that is a practical guide to living out the principles the bishop first enunciated in his 2015 apostolic exhortation, “Into the Breach.”
“Manual for Men” is a practical, daily living guide available through Tan Books that includes the bishop’s exhortation as well as prayers, Scripture quotes and messages in dozens of areas, said Mike Phelan, Marriage and Respect Life director for the Diocese of Phoenix.
“It’s basically a ‘how-to’ manual for men to live their faith, grow close to God, basically practice as Christian brothers all the things you heard talked about at the conference,” Phelan said of the book. “It’s in simple, plain language with messages geared toward men that’s easy to fit into the beginning or any part of the day. It includes an introduction that describes how to use the book, so it’s something that any man can pick up and reference in small or large blocks of time.”
“Manual for Men” is $29 but can be purchased in bulk for a discount price.
For men unable to attend, “The Catholic Man Show,” a podcast based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, provided ongoing updates and interviews as well as commentary by co-hosts Adam Minihan and David Niles.
“Men today are constantly being fed a lie about who they are, what it means to be a man, especially a father and a husband. We are supposed to be the authority figure for the family. Children absolutely need that. If they don’t have it, they look for it in other places,” said Niles, noting the Phoenix area is among the largest segments of the podcast’s regular audience.
“So, men want the truth, and I think that’s what the men here at this conference are looking for; the men who follow us on the show, that’s what they want, that’s what they’re looking for.”
Related article from The Catholic World Report