On Saturday, April 25, I was one of three speakers at the Napa Valley Catholic Men’s Conference. My two talks were entitled “Religious Liberty vs. Religious Right” and “Montfortian Masculinity” (those links will take you to our store site, where the talks are now available). The second of these was an amplification of an Ad Rem that I wrote on the subject.
What follows is an edited version of the end of “Montfortian Masculinity.” Having just spoken of self knowledge in general, I presented the men with some considerations that might spur them on to a more genuine self-knowledge leading to a serious conversion of heart, while tearing down the false god of “self esteem.”
Two things are to be noted here. First, these words were written for oral presentation to a group of men, therefore they are more “rhetorical” and less “grammatical” in nature (I use the words as they are included in the seven liberal arts). Second, this is a jeremiad, for which I offer no other apology except to say that jeremiads have their place, as Jeremias himself would certainly tell us.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Gentlemen: Let’s talk about your self esteem. Get rid of it. Self esteem is garbage. Both low self-esteem and high self-esteem are based on pride and disordered self-love. These are not Biblical or Christian concepts, but worldly ones. We need to die to ourselves, not to feed the beast of pride. Self esteem is pride. The modern cult of self esteem stems from a pop psychology that hates God. How’s this for self esteem: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”?
We are defeated — we are absolutely defeated. Look around you at the grim landscape of society. Where are the Christian men? Men are emasculated. People don’t know what it is to be a man or a woman or a family. Men do not lead their families. We cannot stop abortion; we cannot stop divorce; we cannot stop feminism; we cannot stop pornography; we cannot stop our children leaving the faith or our families falling apart; we cannot stop the militant sodomites — imagine that! We cannot stop effeminates — spiritually mutilated half-men… those perverts who want to force you and your children and grandchildren to embrace and celebrate their filthy depravity that fills God’s nostrils with its stench and their own bodies with disease. We cannot stop it. We are defeated. But we are not really defeated — not if we unite ourselves to the Cross, because that Cross is the hook that has the bait that caught the Devil. We must die to ourselves on the Cross of Christ. Then we accept the truth about ourselves and allow God to put us through a crucifying and purgative humiliation. If you’re not afraid of this purgative humiliation, this harrowing, you will be victorious.
In the meantime, don’t lie and tell yourself and others how good you are.
You are inadequate. You should feel inadequate. You should “feel bad” about yourself. “But the foolish things of the world hath God chosen, that he may confound the wise; and the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that he may confound the strong. And the base things of the world, and the things that are contemptible, hath God chosen, and things that are not, that he might bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his sight.” (I Cor. 1:27-29) If God is going to use you, then you must be foolish, weak, base, and contemptible. You have to know that. You have to embrace it. You are inadequate. Do not be afraid of your inadequacy. Only if you acknowledge it will grace begin to operate in you. This is one reason that self knowledge is so important.
Do not be afraid of humiliation, either. We achieve humility by humiliations and God exalts the humble. Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension at the Right Hand of God after His bitter Passion is the greatest example of exalted humility. After that, is Our Lady, whose Magnificat is a “humble boast,” if I might put it that way — which is summarized in the phrase “He hath put down the mighty from their thrones and hath exalted the humble.”
The spiritual writers remind us of the necessity of compunction of heart, contrition for sin, and humility. We must seriously cultivate those by acknowledging first our radical dependence on God for all our gifts of nature and of grace, and second, by acknowledging our sinfulness: our deserving of eternal damnation in hell by only one mortal sin (yet how many have we committed?), the countless venial sins that we’ve excused with lame excuses about relief from life’s difficulties, the bad example we’ve given others (including wives and children), our moral cowardice before a world that mocks Christ, and the fact that we don’t seem so swift as to “get it” when these things are pointed out to us. We go to confession, but then, like dogs returned to our vomit, we commit the same sins, we wallow in the same filth: Pornography. Infidelity by unchaste glances at other women. Ruining our own children’s innocence by letting the serpent of sexual impurity into our lives and therefore into our homes. Treating our wives like objects of lust on the one hand and fearing their displeasure on the other should we dare to assert our male patriarchal authority as head of the family. The failures pile up, and I’ve only touched a couple of commandments.
We need to crush our pride and disordered self-love, those things that keep us from getting down deep into what really makes us sick inside.
When you see the task that’s put before you in talks such as you’ve heard today, you might be tempted to say, “I can’t do it.” GOOD! You can’t. Say yes to the humiliation and yes to the inadequacy, and then God will begin to work in you. Saint Paul said “with Christ I am nailed to the cross. And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2: 19-20).
Gentlemen, ultimately, we must realize that we are not God. We must acknowledge our creatureliness. God is God and we are not. When Satan heard that bad news, he cried out “non serviam” — “I will not serve.” When Saint Michael heard it, he cried out “Who is like God?” Satan angrily screamed, like a troubled adolescent, “God is God and I am not!” Saint Michael joyfully sang “God is God and I am not … blessed be God! Who is like God? I will serve him.”
To do what we need to do will take courage, but there are two kinds of courage: One is based on pride and self-love, as in sports, military formation, in the tough-guy movies, and any other place where machismo reigns. This is narcissistic, bent in on itself. The other is true Christian courage, which is a virtue. It is rooted in truth, including the knowledge of our weakness, fatigue, uncertainty, and inadequacy. It is motivated by Christian Charity — love of God and love of neighbor. True courage is the stuff of martyrs, not of bullies.
But we can only achieve that if we render ourselves totally vulnerable — taking all the hits they give us — then we are invulnerable because we participate on the Victory of the Cross. The weight of sin will then crush itself. We must endure every humiliation, every loss, every trial for the love of God, and remember that Charity covers a multitude of sins.
When you feel bad about yourself, it is a moment of temptation. This bad feeling should be embraced for the love of God, like the publican, like the Syrophoenician woman, like the Good Thief, who said “we deserve this.” Don’t seek to bolster your self-esteem by some crutch — this is when people drink, indulge sexual appetite, or go for any drug. This is the time to go deep within ourselves and find God there, who never leaves us, and beg His grace and mercy.
Don’t be afraid to feel bad about yourself, because then you can die to yourself. Then we say with Saint John the Baptist: “I must decrease and He must increase.” Then we can really fight the battle for Faith and Family, for Church and Patriarchy. Then we can have “Montfortian Masculinity.”