Real Men

News: Commentary
by Joe Sixpack — The Every Catholic Guy  •  •  February 16, 2022   

Worthy priests

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As a former Protestant and the son of a real "man's man," I grew up with a view of manhood that is, thankfully, very manly.

I grew up hunting, fishing and spending time in the forest. The old man taught me to stand up for myself at an early age and to refrain from being a bully. Indeed, he taught me to have pity for and to defend the "underdog" — as he would call boys he considered weaklings. Consequently, nobody messed with me more than once.

Since my father was very anti-Catholic, he believed priests simply weren't "real men." He believed that any man who didn't marry was, well — you know the kind. As it turned out, too many of our priests over the last several decades were exactly what Dad thought all of them were. I won't bother to get into the reasons why we ended up with priests who possess the disorder of homosexuality, but there's no denying the fact that we've got some who do.

A priest reverences the Eucharist

But devoted priests truly are "real men." You see, real men don't fit the modern concept of machismo. A real man isn't one who can merely make babies or force someone to act according to his will through threat of violence. Neither is a guy a real man just because he hunts, fishes or can fight.

A real man is the sort of man who is compassionate without being maudlin. A real man loves other people for the sake of love, without being mushy. A real man isn't self-serving but, rather, is at the service of other people just because it's the right thing to do. A real man is comfortable in his own skin. He knows who and what he is in the sight of God and man. A real man never lies, never cheats and never takes advantage of other people.

Looking over what I wrote in the previous paragraph, it occurs to me that I just described the priesthood. The priest in my parish (as well as a number of priests I've known) fits this description perfectly. I'd like to spend the next couple of articles explaining Holy Orders and the priesthood to you — as the Church teaches it and as I personally view it.

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As you may have noticed, I have a lot of stories that relate well to the subject matter that I am writing about. Sometimes, though, I can't recall the necessary details. Such is the case with what I'm going to relate now.

I simply cannot recall the name of the saint in this story, but there was once a saint-priest who could see his guardian angel. While attending seminary, the man would walk everywhere with his angel and, while so doing, converse with him. When they came to a door or gate, the saint would always open it for the angel to enter through first.

By and by, the saint received Holy Orders. The new priest and his angel then came upon a gated fence. This time, however, it was the angel who opened the gate for his companion. Puzzled, the saint asked why he should allow the angel to open the gate for him. The guardian angel replied, "Today, you are a priest of the living God. You possess something greater than all my gifts. You deserve this honor."

A real man never lies, never cheats and never takes advantage of other people.

That's how we should all view our priests — even those we think don't deserve it. A priest is a man who possesses powers and a certain dignity that you and I will never possess. It's through his intentions and actions that God removes the stain of sin from our souls in the confessional. It is he alone who calls God down from Heaven into his hands at Holy Mass — and God always answers his call.

It's through the actions and intentions of the priest that we maintain life in our souls, just as food and water maintain the physical life in our bodies. For this reason, it is proper to bow when a priest walks by or kiss his hand when he offers it in friendship. This sometimes embarrasses a priest, but not one who understands his own priesthood.

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Some priests actually become angry when you show these signs of respect, signs that were common among laymen a few generations ago. These priests simply need to be reminded of what they are.

I recall one cleric jerking his hand back when I tried to kiss it and loudly chastising me for doing so. As others looked on, I took his hand and drew him close so I could speak into his ear. I reminded him of the dignity and privilege of his priesthood — much as I described it above. I ended my soliloquy with, "You are a priest of the living God." Then he allowed me to kiss his hand without protest.

Sometimes priests, just like the rest of us, need to be reminded of who and what they are. They are, on one level, mere men, but they are mere men God has called to be His representatives among us all.

Devoted priests are truly "real men."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraph 1536, explains what the sacrament is, saying, "Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to His Apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time. Thus, it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate [bishop], presbyterate [priest] and diaconate [deacon]."

Paragraph 1577 of the Catechism lays out why only men can receive the sacrament of Holy Orders, saying:

The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the 12 Apostles, and the Apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. … The Church recognizes Herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord Himself. For this reason, the ordination of women is not possible.

A male candidate for the priesthood must be a good Catholic, prepare himself by the necessary studies, have the intention of giving his life to God's service and be accepted by his bishop or religious superior for ordination.

Next week, we'll look at the sacrament of Holy Orders more completely (including the diaconate, a level of Holy Orders that has become trivialized by too many Catholics in modern times).

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