Michael Chen

To be a Catholic man of the Church

  • February 20, 2015

I recently attended a men’s retreat and got three surprises. First surprise, a men’s and women’s retreat were happening at the same venue. Second, no one would be allowed to talk because it was a silent retreat. (Okay, participants were allowed to talk but only during the talks and during Mass.) The third surprise, and most important, is what I learned about masculinity and the role that men play in the Church. We also learned about what it means to be a “husband to the Church.”

We began the weekend by deconstructing Internet cartoons that “portrayed” media and societal views on masculinity. I heard only a few laughs in the group of 50+ male university students. In these examples, being a man was limited to eating raw steaks and having women serve men, or being belittled by women.
Within these cartoons, there was little to define our intrinsic God-given qualities.

After looking at Genesis chapters 1 to 3, we discussed how Adam encompassed three qualities as a man: Lord, co-creator and a gift. As Lord, God gave Adam dominion over the Garden of Eden and after the fall, the Earth. In terms of co-creator, Adam was instrumental in naming and tilling the land. We see that Adam desires to lead, he wants to bring forth creation and he wants to receive a gift and be received.

Whereas Adam is a Lord, co-creator and gift, these equally complement Eve’s qualities as being beautiful, a crown jewel and a gift. As a person made from a part of Adam, Eve’s beauty is found in her mystery. By being beautiful, she wants to be noticed. As the crown jewel, she wants to be treasured and given security. And she wants to be desired as a gift. As well, Adam and Eve are gifts to each other, gifts that should be protected, treasured and loved by one another.

Whenever a person feels degraded or lacking in these areas, there is an attack on one of these qualities.

As men, we are called to be wedded to the bride of Christ. Just as Christ loved His people and His Church, each groom is called to love his wife. In this sense, the greater body of Christ meaning His people in the Church. For laypeople and priests, this is the body of Christ, the greater Church community, filled with His love.

This is best explained in Ephesians 5:22-23: “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church.” Men and women complement each other. In our daily interactions with our sisters, mothers, grandmothers, when we treat them with respect as God-given gifts with intimate value, our perspective changes. Likewise for women, they will see their brothers, fathers and grandfathers in a different light of love.

By now you might have started seeing the connection between Theology of the Body and this column. If you want to learn more, John Paul II delivered 129 lectures on this topic. You and I better start reading.

(Chen, 22, is a fourth-year journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto and the web editor at The Catholic Register.)

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