Calling on all Christian men to take a stand in the Church’s spiritual battle, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix asked men in his diocese to courageously pursue their vocations as friends, fathers, and spouses.
“Men, do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you,” the Phoenix bishop said in a Sept. 29 exhortation, saying that “this battle is occurring in the Church herself, and the devastation is all too evident.”
“Catholic men have not been willing to ‘step into the breach’ – to fill this gap that lies open and vulnerable to further attack,” he continued.
Bishop Olmsted spoke of the ways in which this spiritual battle is developing and how the Church is being attacked. Over the past 15 years, millions have left the faith, baptisms have decreased in both infants and adults, parochial religious education is declining, and fewer sacramental marriages have occurred.
In addition, he continued, the parents who promised to raise their children in the faith at baptism have devastatingly fallen short on their pledges, while the Catholics who do remain faithful to the Church’s teachings are often timid, practicing their religion in the shadows.
“I offer this Exhortation as an encouragement, a challenge, and a calling forth to mission for every willing man,” Bishop Olmsted asserted, saying that this call applies to all men – whether young or old, priests, married or single.
“I urge you to heed Jesus’ call and to let him form your mind and heart with the light of the Gospel for the purpose of being sent…I am hereby exhorting you to step into the breach – to do the work of Christ’s soldiers in the world today,” he said.
Modern complexities have threatened the authentic role of men in today’s world, the bishop said. He pointed to gender ideology as one of the breaches between the natural complementarity of men and women, creating unnecessary division and confusion while blurring the identity of genuine masculinity.
“Looking to what the secular world holds up as ‘manly’ is in fact to look at shadows – or even at outright counterfeits – of masculinity.”
In contrast, the bishop pointed to Jesus as the “fullness of masculinity,” saying that Christ displays genuine masculine virtue and strength.
Instead of looking at possessions, success, and worldly goods as the definition of manhood, Bishop Olmsted said, men should secure their identities in their Christian beliefs.
“Simply put, our identity is caught up in the identity of the eternal Son of God.”
The bishop also proposed that every Catholic man invoke the intercession of a patron saint, who can guide their journey through life. He offered examples including St. Joseph, Pope St. John Paul II, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, and St. Michael the Archangel.
To practically live out this Christian manhood, he suggested daily prayer and examination of conscience, Mass as often as possible, scriptural reading, honoring Sundays for rest, frequent confession, and nurturing Catholic brotherhood in friendship.
Bishop Olmsted went on to explain how Catholic men should love, saying that “the true love of Christ is centered on willing the good of the other, on pouring oneself out in charity for others.”
“Each man is called to commit and give of himself completely,” Bishop Olmsted said, whether through marriage, priesthood, or service towards God.
If a man’s call is to marriage, then it must emulate Christ’s spousal love for the Church – a love so united that it “achieves the infinite and eternal character to which every love aspires.”
However, the bishop also noted that marriage holds the epicenter of the modern-day masculine battle, because it requires the virtue of chastity.
“Chastity allows us to master and properly live out this calling to be men of authentic communion,” he said, and a man must nurture chastity within the call to marriage by loving his wife as Christ loves the Church.
In addition to this definition of masculine love, he described three other outlets for men to love: as a friend, a husband, and a father.
The bishop advised every man to evaluate how he loves in each of these relationships. Are his friendships healthy and holy? Does he love his wife with dignity and fullness? Is his fatherhood responsible and faithful?
Furthermore, Bishop Olmsted stressed the importance of fatherhood, while cautioning against the modern-day notion of freedom from the commitment of a family.
“To fully live, all men must be fathers and live out their fatherhood” in some way, he said.
“If you do not embrace the spousal and fatherly vocation God has planned for you, you will be stuck in the impotence of the ‘seed’ that refuses to die and refuses to give life. Don’t settle for this half-life!”
Bishop Olmsted concluded his exhortation in hope all that all men “will take what is helpful in my message, bring it to the Lord in prayer, and go forward confidently in your vocation as men.”
“Our life in Christ is not one of ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ but an adventure of authentic freedom,” he continued, urging Catholic men to “embrace that freedom in order to place your life at the service of Christ, beginning in your home and radiating into the world.”
The full text of Bishop Olmsted’s letter can be read here