Trends come and go. This we know is true. Whether it be “man hair-buns” (shudder), burly beards and smoking pipes, the metro-sexual, or guys wearing tights hundreds of years ago.
The point? Though things change, what it means to be a man doesn’t.
When we get caught up with caricatures of manhood without focusing on its essence, many people like me are left in the dust.
With same-sex attractions (and even being a bit “girly”) being part of my story, I struggled to relate to those cultural “icons” of manhood. I’m not alone in this. Though I have moved beyond it, many others like me have not, and they are left feeling this: “I don’t fit in with men, and therefore I could never fully be the man (or the Catholic man) that I’m supposed to be.”
This keeps many people like me away from the Church, and it breaks my heart.
I share this because the Catholic Church has transformed my life, and I wish others like me could experience that same sense of love and belonging, and the shared journey towards holiness. However, for as long as those bogus caricatures of manhood are “the standard,” an invisible barrier remains.
I was able to overcome this barrier by shifting my focus from the “look” of man, or the “activity” of man, to the heart of man. I was inspired to do this because of the example of Catholic men in my life who modeled the hearts of real men like Jesus, and his foster father, Saint Joseph.
Their humble example drew me in. The joy they experienced in their pursuit of chastity drew me in. The state of their “interior castles” gave me the desire to pursue Christ and a chaste life above all else. It was not their look, the style of pipe they smoked, their quotes of philosophy, or their projection of a lumber-jack-strengthened “manly-man,” because I couldn’t relate to any of that.
But I could relate to Saint Joseph.
Why? Because Joseph was focused on the state of his heart. He was focused on service. He was focused on sacrifice; the sacrifice of fatherhood and complete abandonment to God’s Will. Joseph poured himself out in order to raise Jesus Christ and love Our Lady.
Joseph was about the heart. He taught me how to trust God’s plan for me. He inspired me to reclaim my identity as a Catholic man.
Every caricature of our world comes up short. For many like me, they stand in the way of our journey back into Catholicism. I share this so that you will know of the potential damage caused by portraying a narrative of manhood that is based on anything less than the example of Saint Joseph.
There are people like me who are waiting to give their lives God in service, but they will not “get there” in their hearts for as long as they perceive themselves to be outside of what it means to be a Catholic man.
With that, I invite you to die to yourself, and take on Saint Joseph as a model, and show this world what being a real man is all about.
You will reach hearts like mine.
Andrew is a Courage member and Catholic Speaker who presents the message of joyful chastity to churches, schools, and colleges in both Canada and the United States. He is also a contributor to the Pursuit Of Truth Ministries website. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.