|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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.