"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Monday, March 10, 2008

News, notes, and questions

Well, I'm back from my interview in DC. As much because as in spite of my limitations, the Holy Spirit let them know I belonged there with them. I just hope they surrender. I have one more phone interview to go; I should know within a week. Tonight I begin my novena to St. Joseph for this and related intentions. Thanks to those of you who have joined me in prayer.

Before I blog on any given day, I spend 20-30 minutes reviewing Catholic news. Two items I found today spur me to comment.

The first is an article about men's spirituality: How real men can be real Catholics. The occasion was the 2nd annual "Men of Christ" conference held near Milwaukee. What one priest there was quoted as saying sounded manly enough: "To be holy is to be real," Fr. Larry Richards of Relevant Radio told the gathering. "We don't need any more pansies following Jesus; we need men!" And: "If you don't eat, you die; if you don't pray, you die," he said, reminding them to spend time reading the Bible every day." Perhaps Fr. Richards also reminded the men of how fond St. Paul was of athletic metaphors. Then again, perhaps not. What impact could it have had?

I wasn't there, so I concede I missed a lot. But the "real men" the reporter chose to quote were, respectively, "a buyer for an automotive tool and equipment warehouse"; the "vice president of finance for Aurora Health Care,"; a teenage confirmation candidate; and a man who is "head of his own construction company." In other words, "good guys," the kinds of guys who elicit the moral approval of wives and parents, not least because they make or will make pretty decent money. All that they said was edifying enough; but I found myself asking: "What are these guys saying that sincerely Christian women could not just as well say for themselves?" What struck me is how generic the lay spirituality was, at least as presented. And of course there seemed to be nothing explicitly Christian about how they actually spend most of their time. Their orientation to discipleship makes itself felt in using their occupations as occasions to practice Christian virtue: e.g., treating people on the job fairly and lovingly. All that is quite necessary, to be sure. But in the article I saw no hint, other than the possibility of priesthood for the still-unmarried minority, of how Catholic men might be explicit witnesses to Christ above and beyond becoming better, i.e. holier, men while continuing to spend their time just as they already do. Isn't there more to it than that? (Don't tell me about paid "lay ministry", which I once did myself. Most of those jobs are, for good reason, held by women who are not their families' primary breadwinners, and there really aren't that many such jobs to go around.)

The other news item helps to answer that question. I'm proud to report it.

Belmont Abbey College, where I attend Mass and do other things, has just requested that its health-insurance carrier drop coverage for "abortion, contraception, and voluntary sterilization." According to President Bill Thierfelder, who has at least six kids, "eight faculty members filed formal complaints with various state and federal agencies, demanding the reinstatement of these coverages." There will doubtless be other repercussions. This is the sort of thing that lay male professionals need to be doing on the job. Witness takes real courage.
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