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    ‘You, O Man of God’

    St. Paul lays out the virtues that men need to fight the good fight of faith

    By Brian Caulfield 1/1/2022
    The Accolade, painting by Edmund Blair Leighton, 1901

     

    IN OUR AGE of brokenness and confusion, when the value of masculinity is often looked upon with suspicion and we are asked in some social and professional settings to declare “our pronouns,” how are men to find their true identity and mission in life?

    A good place to start is with the bedrock of our Catholic faith found in sacred Scripture. Each one of us is made in the image and likeness of God, willed into existence by the Creator, and free, with his grace, to choose him in our lives on earth and for eternity in heaven. As the psalmist says, we were formed by God in the womb, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps 139:14).

    So how are men to live out this high calling and privilege of being children of God? In his first letter to his disciple Timothy, St. Paul offers fatherly advice on the behavior and virtues proper to Christian manhood. After warning Timothy against pride, envy, quarrelsomeness and greed, St. Paul writes: “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tm 6:11).

    There is enough here to contemplate and guide us throughout life. It is important to note that it entails a twofold command: to flee vice and temptations and to pursue goodness and virtue. Simply to flee is not enough, nor is it sufficient only to seek the good. Given our weak and fallen nature, we must strive to keep evils away as surely as we seek God’s grace. So let’s look, as men of God, at the virtues St. Paul admonishes us to consciously pursue.

    Righteousness: This does not mean self-righteousness, declaring ourselves always to be in the right. Righteousness means to measure all our thoughts, words and deeds according to the objective standards of God, to follow his commandments and give all men their due in justice.

    Godliness: Who can be like God? Yet Jesus himself commands, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). On our own, this is impossible; but nothing is impossible with God. Godliness requires having regular recourse to prayer and the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and confession.

    Faith: One of the theological virtues, faith is not simply feeling that you are saved or saying you believe. Faith demands action, for “faith without works is dead” (Jas 2:17). Faith has a content — the articles of our faith that must be believed, embraced and acted upon — and faith must be complemented by the highest theological virtue: charity, or love.

    Love: Our culture tells us love is merely a feeling or an attraction. But love is tougher and more demanding, and ultimately more satisfying. Love involves an act of the will: to will the total good of another, even if it demands sacrifice on one’s own part. This is the kind of charity and faith in action to which Knights of Columbus are called.

    Steadfastness: This does not mean stubbornness, to hold your view out of pride or willfulness. Steadfastness, rather, requires discerning what is right in a certain situation, guided by the Commandments and the teachings of the Church, and then holding to the truth against all temptations, pressure, loss of reputation or social status.

    Gentleness: This can be a true test for many men. We may excel naturally in toughness in the face of challenges, but do we have the charity of heart and humility of character to be gentle at the proper time? Gentle does not mean soft or retreating. It does mean giving another person the benefit of the doubt, stopping to listen before acting or judging, bending others toward the good without breaking them.

    If we pursue these virtues, and work against our vices and weakness until our last breath on earth, we will fight the good fight for our salvation.

    BRIAN CAULFIELD is vice postulator for the cause for canonization of Blessed Michael McGivney and editor of Fathers for Good.

    *****

    BRIAN CAULFIELD is vice postulator for the cause for canonization of Blessed Michael McGivney and editor of Fathers for Good.

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