The Phoenix archdiocese put together an interesting film. Watch it here. Some of my observations:
0.25: More tv than father-son time. That might mean a shift in the time spent by boys from, say, playing with peers. Still, this is a father’s responsibility: to play with their kids and otherwise build relationships. Then cultivate them through the years. That said, I recall a study a few years ago that suggested that on average, men today spend more time with their children than they ever did. Still, let’s not get cocky over that. Some guys score a big zero.
1.05ff: Some men don’t know how to be fathers, and it spreads to the next generation. Maybe the war on drugs and the war on immigration has played a part in that, especially for black and Hispanic guys prominently featured in this short film. On the other hand, maybe men of various stripes feel they have no responsibilities toward their children. Is it worse today than fifty years ago? It would seem so for minorities.
1.42ff: If there is a call to battle, I wonder if the call is better directed at the human interior. Before battling where blame is easily placed, the truth is that addictions seduce men away from responsibility. Wearing armor and taking up a weapon against an external foe is part of the action of a video game in a pretend world. What happens when the enemy is within?
2.20-2.29: A woman’s voice here–someone latching onto the meaning of a daily sacrifice. Not some heroic martyrdom with guns blazing.
4.20ff: The video addresses pornography, and suggests self-mastery. Sexual and other addictions certainly eat away at many men. Maybe most American men today. Self-mastery, though, is not always possible for an addict. For a confirmed addict, self-control is an illusion. Turning one’s life over to God (or a higher power, if you will) is the only way to recovery. I’m concerned that this video presents some choices as a moral matter. This isn’t always true. And it’s not always helpful.
6.02ff: I like the development of the need for a sense of community among men, and the recognition that individualism and isolation is part of our culture. They don’t present this need for community as filled by “small groups” by name, but small groups are presented in video nonetheless. Twenty percent of this video encourages strength in numbers–a very good impulse.
8.15ff: I certainly like the notion of men gong to Mass and taking their families to Mass.
From the YouTube summary:
Michael Phelan, director of the Marriage and Respect Life Office said, “Historical circumstances have periodically devastated families, but we have never seen the disparagement of masculinity and fatherhood, or abandonment of men’s responsibilities that we are seeing now. It calls for an unprecedented response from the Church.”
While I’m skeptical on just how much “disparagement” is really out there, I think one aspect we men can certainly examine is how much this crisis is self-inflicted. The usual scapegoats–female altar servers, same-sex persons, feminism, the educational system–are cited way too often. If we’re real men, maybe we don’t need to blame others or cast ourselves as victims. When we indulge work, alcohol, drugs, sex, food, porn, tv, sports, and computers that is our own fault. Nobody else’s. That seems like a hill big enough that needs conquest in the millions, long before we look to put the culpability on people outside of ourselves.
The real movement on this initiative will have to take place on the parish level, in small groups, and with personal commitment of men. From my personal experiences and what I’ve seen in parishes, I can suggest some concrete steps to take. I’m assuming most of my married readers here are already going to Mass with their families and taking time to engage with their children. Beyond that:
- Daily prayer, no matter what one’s state in life may be. Fifteen minutes early in the day.
- If one is already praying regularly, then an annual retreat. Cursillo, diocesan, whatever is offered. Then get involved as a team leader and bring other men to retreats.
- Some weekly small group, even if that’s an early morning coffee with just one other man. Small group material is all over the Church these days. It’s a big thing for many publishers. Find good leaders–this is key.
- Parish groups like the Knights might like to consider making men’s gatherings a priority. If one is a leader in such a group, then other men might be waiting for a good example.
- Self-mastery may be a challenge. If after confession a man finds himself sliding back into old behaviors, and that is a consistent frustration, I would advise adding a 12-Step group. I wouldn’t overlook that a movement detached from organized religion might have some significant personal insights for a man of faith. In other words, you need all the weaponry you can find.
- If you are serious about steeping into the breach, stay away from politics. These days, it’s a rabbit hole. If a man has serious problems, don’t expect the government, its political parties, the clergy, or some outside entity to solve them. Our problems are our own.
What did you think of the film? Will men be moved by it? Does it convince you?