Bill Dodds
New Covenant Family File columnist Bill Dodds and his wife, Monica, are the authors of The Joy of Marriage (Meadowbrook Press).

Being a Catholic man is like eating a pizza. It's possible to list the ingredients — the crust, the sauce, the toppings and so on — but the taste is a blend. One item may dominate a bite (more pepperoni than green pepper, more mushroom than garlic), but it's seldom a single flavor.

In the same way, while it's possible to list the areas of a Catholic man's life, at most times there is a blending there, too. One relationship spills over into another, flavors another. A lesson learned in one, a grace received in one, is applied — or ignored — in another.

But in each relationship there is the potential for holiness. There are opportunities for the Catholic man to discover and do God's will.

As son

What does it mean for a Catholic man to be an adult son? It's reaching an age of maturity — of wisdom that comes from living — to give thanks for his parents and to attempt to repay them for their many gifts and sacrifices. And, in some cases, to accept and, if necessary, to rise above their mistakes or shortcomings.

This is a fluid relationship. At times, an adult son wants the same feeling of comfort and safety that he sought as a child. At others, he prefers to stand proudly alone so his parents can clearly see what he has accomplished. Their opinion, their admiration, still mean a great deal to him.

He realizes how important it has been to hear "I love you" as he comes to understand how it is equally important for him to say it — to say it now, because time is passing more and more quickly.

Often, just as his parents taught him about life as he was growing up, they begin to teach him about death as they grow frail. They help him see beyond the grave to what lies ahead: eternity with an all-loving God.

That new — or clearer — vision encourages him to "parent" his parents in their final years and to strengthen the bonds between himself and his siblings. It helps him sort out what is important and what is chaff in his own life.

As husband

It wouldn't be surprising to learn that the typical husband has no recollection of what colors the flowers were at his wedding. But that's all right, because a Catholic husband is a co-celebrant — along with his wife — not in the sacrament of "wedding," but in the sacrament of marriage.

A wedding and reception last a few hours. A marriage is for life.

Modern society warns couples to "Watch out! Don't fall into the trap of giving more than you get." The Church teaches that marriage is for giving, that it is for openness to love and to life.

That means a Catholic husband doesn't point a finger and say, "This is mine. This is yours." He opens his arms wide and says, "This is ours. What I have is ours. What I am is ours. What will come is ours."

What comes is the fulfillment of the promises made during the wedding ceremony. What comes are good times and bad, sickness and health. What comes is a love that remains despite those bad times, despite that sickness. What comes is a love that — like "gold tested in a fire" — can grow stronger and more precious because of those obstacles.

As the years go by, a Catholic man realizes his wife knows him better than anyone else ever has, has seen him at his absolute worst, and still loves him, believes in him and wants only the best for him.

Being a partner in marriage like that makes it easier for him to imagine, to believe in, God's great love for him.

As father

It's difficult to think of God, to pray to God, the same way after becoming a father. Even the word — the title — itself is heavy with meaning

A Catholic man turns his heart and mind to his Creator and calls Him Father. And now there are other human beings who use the same term to refer to him, to call to him, to ask for his help.

Fatherhood teaches a Catholic man about sacrifice in a way that marriage alone can't. Giving up and going without are inseparable from being a dad. Sometimes they're what make it so difficult to be a father. Other times they're what makes it such a rich blessing.

It seems safe to say that there is no task, no obligation, no calling that a Catholic man has that can make him feel so ill-prepared, so inadequate, so dependent on God's help to have any hope of . . . if not meeting with booming success, at least surviving without causing too much damage to those he loves.

And all the while, a Catholic dad knows his kids are watching. They may not always be listening to what he says, but they never fail to see what he does. And so if he wants his sons and daughters to be people of prayer, he must be a man of prayer. If he wants them to make the Mass a central part of their lives, he must make it a central part of his life.

It's a seemingly endless list: To show love; to admit mistakes; to ask forgiveness; to value honesty; to work hard; to laugh easily. . . .

There are times when he does these things only because he wants his children to do them. But even so, he can't help but become better at doing them, and those acts, those beliefs, can't help but become more ingrained in who he is.

As worker

Part of being a Catholic man is not just answering the call to married, single or religious life; it's answering what Mother Teresa has referred to as "the call within the call."

As a married man . . . as a single man . . . as a priest . . . a Catholic man needs to listen, to pray, to test the waters, to take "leaps of faith" to discover that unique role God has prepared for him, and the unique role for which God has prepared him.

In whatever profession, craft or trade he finds himself, a Catholic man has a set of criteria to measure success that often differs from those around him.

The definition of success Christ taught (Mt 25:14-46), the one the Church teaches, doesn't have to do with income, with fame or with power. The one who dies with the most toys doesn't win.

The truly successful man is the one who has taken the talent, that gift, however large or small it may be that God has given him, and has used it to the best of his ability.

The truly successful man is the one who has fed Jesus — the "least" among us — when He was hungry, who helped Him find shelter when He was homeless, took care of Him when He was sick, visited Him when He was in prison.

The truly successful man serves Christ by serving others, at home, at work and in the community.

There are other categories, of course, a great jumble of categories: the Catholic man as friend, as citizen, as grandparent, as parishioner. And so on.

Through the sacraments, through prayer, through Scripture, through the example of the holy men and women we call saints, through tradition, the Church is present in that great jumble.

God is present there. Always. Permeating — saturating — a Catholic man's life like the smell of incense fills a church when . . . No.

Like the smell of freshly baked pizza fills a family kitchen. A room — the heart of any home — crowded with people. Crowded with love. Crowded with God's blessings.

Taken from:
The June 1996 issue of New Covenant magazine.

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