This is the text of a talk that I gave at the May 18 conference, “Raising Chivalrous Young Men in an Increasingly Decadent Society,” in Woodbridge, New Jersey. I parted a little from the text, making several asides and also truncating the statistical information at the beginning.
THIS talk is directed to three different audiences at once. Picture them if you will in concentric circles. In the innermost circle are young men who are not yet decided on the vocation or state in life that they will pursue. It is my goal to inform and motivate these to discern this most important question very seriously in the light of God’s grace. Inside the larger circle around that first one are parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors and other formators of young men. If we who are in such positions of authority or influence have a collective Catholic wisdom we can impart to young men, they stand a better chance to get this matter of their vocation or state in life right. Lastly, because much of what I will say today regards issues of universal interest in which we are all stakeholders — namely, matters pertaining to the common good of society and the salvation of souls — then our outermost circle is everyone of either sex, any age or station, who can hear and understand what I have to say.
I’m dividing my talk into five parts, each of which has a short name. They are: (1) “the Problem,” (2) “the Vision,” (3) “the Vocation,” (4) “the Choice,” and (5) “the Matrix.”
As we are considering “raising chivalrous young men in an increasingly decadent society,” let us take a quick glance at the elephant in the living room, or, what I call “the problem.”
The problem is the “man crisis.” Numerous books have been authored in recent years on the crisis in fatherhood and on the more fundamental crisis in manhood, books like Fatherless America; The End of Men; Absent Fathers, Lost Sons; Life Without Father; and Fatherless Generation, to name but a few. So clueless have we become as a society that there is even a book that explains in 336 pages that men and women are actually different; it’s called Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences, by Leonard Sax M.D. Ph.D. What our forebears knew from common sense, we have to learn from an “emerging science.”
Here are some gloomy and depressing data on the crisis that I got from Tucker Carlson, who is one of the few in the mainstream media willing to discuss such things:
- The average American man will die five years before the average American woman. One of the reasons for this is addiction. Men are more than twice as likely as women to become alcoholics. They’re also twice as likely to die of a drug OD. In New Hampshire, one of the states hit hardest by the opioid crisis, 73 percent of overdose deaths were men.
- Seventy-seven percent of all suicides are committed by men. The overall rate is increasing at a dramatic pace. Between 1997 and 2014, there was a 43 percent rise in suicide deaths among middle aged American men. The rates are highest among American Indian and white men, who kill themselves at about ten times the rate of Hispanic and black women.
- You often hear of America’s incarceration crisis. That’s almost exclusively a male problem too. Over 90 percent of inmates are male.
- Relative to girls, boys are failing in school. More girls than boys graduate high school. Considerably more go to and graduate from college. Boys account for the overwhelming majority of school discipline cases. One study found that fully one in five high school boys had been diagnosed with hyperactivity disorder, compared with just one in 11 girls. Many were medicated for it. The long term health effects of those medications aren’t fully understood, but they appear to include depression in later life.
- Women decisively outnumber men in graduate school. They earn the majority of doctoral degrees. They are now the majority of new enrollees in both law and medical schools.
- Between 1979-2010, working age men with only high school degrees saw their real hourly wages drop about 20 percent. Over the same period, high school educated women saw their wages rise. The decline of the industrial economy disproportionately hurt men.
- There are now seven million working age American men who are no longer in the labor force. They’ve dropped out. Nearly half of them take pain medication on any given day. That’s the highest rate in the world.
- Far fewer young men get married than did just a few decades ago, and fewer stay married. About one in five American children live with only their mothers. That’s double the rate in 1970. Millions more boys are growing up without fathers. Young adult men are now more likely to live with a parent than with a spouse or partner. That is not the case for young women. Single women buy their own homes at more than twice the rate of single men. More women than men now have drivers licenses.
Then we have these alarming statistics about Catholic men in the U.S., courtesy of the website, “The New Emangelization”:
- 8 out of 10 men agree that “how one lives is more important than being a Catholic.”
- 4 in 10 men believe that Catholicism does not have a “greater share of truths than other religions.”
- Only 38% of Catholic men strongly agree that they are “proud to be Catholic.”
- Only 26% of Catholic men consider themselves to be “practicing Catholics.”
- Only 34% of Catholic men strongly agree that Catholicism is “among the most important parts of life.”
Another article produces the alarming claim that “Only 1 in 50 Catholic men have a monthly practice of Confession.”
We also know from a Swiss government study published in 2000 that the father’s practice of religion matters considerably more than a mother’s practice of it in determining whether the children are going to practice the faith in adulthood. This isn’t a sociology report, so I’ll spare you all the data, which are startling in certain details, but here is a quick summary, in the words of The Christian Post’s S. Michael Craven: “In short, if a father does not go to church — no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions — only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become [either regular and irregular] churchgoers. One of the reasons suggested for this distinction is that children tend to take their cues about domestic life from Mom while their conceptions of the world outside come from Dad. If Dad takes faith in God seriously then the message to their children is that God should be taken seriously.”
If men in general are in crisis, and if Catholic men are particularly in a crisis of Faith, and — further — if children by and large take their queues in religious matters from Dad then, Houston, we have a problem.
So now, let’s consider the solutions, all of which come from the truth, beauty, and goodness of the Catholic Faith. For this conference, we have selected the image of the Christian Knight as the Virtuous Man par excellence. In French, the chevalier, is literally, the horseman, or knight. We get the English words cavalier and cavalry from that word, as well as chivalry. In Christendom, a knight was a man who bound himself by certain oaths or vows to fight, and to do so according to the Code of Chivalry, that is, with Christian virtue. We have allegorized this medieval ideal of the chevalier, and have found in him the kind of man we need today to set things aright in the family, in the Church, and in the State.
That brings us to the second of our five parts: the vision. It may strike you as coming from left field, but bear with me for a while. I’m going to describe to you how Catholics in the age of Chivalry approached the reading of the Bible. Not only is this good information to know at the speculative level, but it is also among the most practical of considerations in your everyday life — if, that is, you want to live as a Christian.
In the ages of faith, there was a fourfold way of interpreting Holy Scripture. It was called the quadriga, which also happens to be the Latin name of a chariot or car pulled by four horses. The four senses of Holy Scripture are the literal, the allegorical, the tropological, and the analogical. This approach to the Bible was a major part of the High Medieval worldview, and should learn it to help us cultivate a similar supernatural vision of life.
We begin with (1) the literal, also called the historical sense. This is what is actually narrated by the text. It is the foundation of the other senses, and, no matter how much more elevated the other senses may be in comparison, they must not be thought of as derogating from or negating the literal sense. That point is imperative, for we cannot be modernists and deny the inerrancy of Scripture.
The remaining three senses are all collectively called “the spiritual sense,” but they are divided into three. The second is the allegorical sense, which is a reading of some utterance or event as pertaining to a future and higher reality, most often, of Christ Himself. So, we see Adam, Joshua, King David, and various qualities of theirs or episodes in their lives as foreshadowing the greater reality of Christ. So, too, the twelve sons of Jacob, as historically real as they were, were also allegorical of the Twelve Apostles. Those familiar with the study of “typology” will see that much of the allegorical sense of scripture as the study of Old Testament types being fulfilled in New Testament realities.
Next, we have the tropological sense, which is often referred to under one aspect as the moral sense. This is the application of the passage to our own lives. It is where the “rubber” of the Bible meets the “road” of our daily life. The Parables of Christ are more than merely great stories; they are that, but they also present us with practical illustrations of Christian virtue that we must imitate. Our Lord Himself, of course, is the greatest exemplar. From His most divine life narrated in the Gospels, we can draw a pattern for our own lives. The word “tropological” comes from the Greek noun tropos, which means, “turn” and is related to the verb trepein, meaning “to turn.” By the tropological sense, we turn the passage upon ourselves and live it.
Lastly, there is the anagogical sense, which pertains to the future life of Heaven. It comes from the Greek word that means an ascent or literally, a “leading up.” My mentor, Brother Francis, liked to explain this sense in terms of the Holy City, Jerusalem. Literally, this is a terrestrial city, a stretch of land in a specific geographical place. Allegorically, this city can be seen as the Church on earth — and Holy Mother Church explicitly applies the word to herself in the liturgy. Tropologically, Jerusalem is the individual Christian soul who is called upon to receive the enlightenment of grace: “Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee” (Is. 60:1). But if we rise still further, to the anagogical sense, Jerusalem is the dwelling of the blessed in Heaven, as seen in Saint John’s vision in the Apocalypse: “And he took me up in spirit to a great and high mountain: and he shewed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God” (Apoc. 21:10). Saint Paul also employs Jerusalem in this sense in his Epistle to the Hebrews (Cf. 12:22-23).
Now let us go deeper, taking one verse and apply all four senses to it (Luke 22:15): “And he said to them: With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you, before I suffer.”
In the literal or historical sense, Jesus Christ truly uttered these words to His disciples at the Last Supper. This is an undeniable fact of history; it unquestionably happened. Allegorically, we can see the Paschal meal of the Mosaic Law, wherein was consumed the sacrificial lamb, as pointing ahead to Christ and the Christian Pasch, wherein Our Lord Himself, the Lamb of God, is offered as a victim and consumed as food in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Tropologically, each Christian soul can read this passage and stir himself up to a holy desire, which, in some measure, reciprocates this desire of Our Lord, as if to say this to Him in prayer: “Yes, Lord, you desired with the desire of your Sacred Heart to institute the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass the night before you suffered. Here and now, as I come to you in the Sacred Banquet, I desire to receive You, and to render, through You, to the Father all glory and honor.” Anagogically, this desire of the Sacred Heart and this communion with Our Lord in the Eucharist is fulfilled in the Heavenly Nuptial Banquet of the glorified Jesus Christ with His spotless Bride, the Church Triumphant.
Now, the quadriga — this wonderful fourfold way of reading Scripture — is not merely a set of static, side-by-side interpretations we can choose from while interpreting the Bible. It is no mere “hermeneutic tool,” as the moderns might say. The medievals read Scripture in a very dynamic way, in an ascending way, and in a living way. Each individual believer is called by Baptism to rise from the historical through the allegorical to the tropological senses in this life, and even to anticipate the life of Heaven by achieving some measure of “anagogy” or contemplation. “Pure anagogy” can only be achieved in the Beatific Vision, but its anticipation by way of contemplation in this life is a worthy pursuit for the devout.
As much as we must insist on the reality of the historical sense, we should also regard it as a defect if someone remains in that sense and fails rise above it to see Christ in the Old Testament. Such a man is “stuck in history” without seeing history’s point: and that point is Our Lord Jesus Christ. The person who has ascended to the allegorical sense sees Jesus Christ as prefigured and pointed to throughout sacred history, but he needs to go further, and rise to the tropological sense by assimilating, in his daily life, the Faith, morals, and sacraments established by Jesus Christ for our salvation. In other words, he knows that Jesus is the point of History, now he needs to live a life of intimate union with Our Lord in His Mystical Body, which is the Church. To do this is to “make the tropological turn,” as one scholar calls it, or to live out one’s “tropology.” In the Middle Ages, it was common to distinguish between those who pray like a monk or cleric, those who fight like a knight, and those who work like a farmer or artisan; but each had to live out their own “tropology” — that is, their own way of pursuing the holiness to which we are each called in Baptism. It is the special task of the preacher, a man who has mastered the four senses in his mind and in his life, to help others to make the tropological turn, directing them yet higher to the ultimate anagogy of Heaven.
For our medieval ancestors in the Church, far from being merely a way of studying the Bible, the quadriga was a way of seeing reality; moreover, it was a way of living life!
For the great reformers of the Middle Ages, this sublime worldview connects in one seamless garment the living of the interior life, the carrying out of our daily duties, the pursuit of evangelism, and even ecclesiastical and social reform. This supernatural vision of life is a powerful corrective to modern notions of “activism” that often spoil our best efforts.
I propose that the supernatural vision is also a wonderful way for a young man to discern his vocation or state in life.
Which brings us to part three, the vocation. Here, I am not yet speaking of “vocations,” but, rather, of the one vocation that we all have in common. And that is the vocation to grace in this life and glory in the next — or holiness here, and heaven hereafter. That call, or vocation, was given to each of us in the Sacrament of Baptism. Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium mentions the “Universal call to holiness in the Church.” All of the Baptized have received this call. It is our common vocation, for the word call here is “vocatio.” And that is what a vocation is — a call to holiness in this life and beatitude in the next.
The Latin word for Church, Ecclesia, comes from the Greek word Ekklesia, which literally means those who are “called out”? Out of what? Out of the world. In other words, as baptized Christians, we each receive a vocation, and the same vocation; we are each called from the region of darkness we call this world into the region of light that we call the Church.
In a minute, we will speak more particularly of the specific vocation to the priesthood, as well as the religious, married, and single states. But for now, let us consider, as men, how this common vocation that we all have, ought to be lived “chivalrously,” that is, with the manly generosity, selflessness, and fortitude that are worthy of the modern Catholic knight.
Let’s begin these considerations with the old Catholic Encyclopedia’s description of some of the ancient rituals surrounding Baptism:
The catechumen, standing with his face to the West, which symbolized the abode of darkness, and stretching out his hand, or sometimes spitting out in defiance and abhorrence of the devil, was wont to make this abjuration [of the devil]. It was also customary after this for the candidate for baptism to make an explicit promise of obedience to Christ. This was called by the Greeks… “the giving of oneself over to the control of Christ.” St. Justin Martyr testifies that baptism was only administered to those who, together with their profession of faith, made a promise or vow that they would live in conformity with the Christian code. Hence the generally employed formula: … “I surrender myself to thee, O Christ, to be ruled by thy precepts.” This took place directly over the apotaxis or renunciation of the devil, and was variously described by the Latins as [a] … [promise], … [pact], … [or vow]. During this declaration of attachment to Jesus Christ the person to be baptized turned towards the East as towards the region of light. [Ad Orientem.]
Still in today’s baptismal ceremonies, there are acts carried out by the baptizand (that is, the one being baptized) in addition to what the ordained minister of the Sacrament does in the Person of Christ. These acts of the baptiziand are chiefly the profession of the true Faith and the so-called “vows of Baptism,” which, in the case of infants, are made through the agency of Godparents. In the ages of the Faith and of Chivalry, this baptismal beginning of vow-taking and vow-living would be followed in the lives of most Christians by the profession of some other kinds of vows: monastic vows and marriage vows being chief among them.
Lest we get ahead of ourselves, let us now define vow according to the Code of Canon Law: “A vow is a deliberate and free promise made to God, concerning some good which is possible and better. The virtue of religion requires that it be fulfilled.” (Can. 1191 §1)
I mentioned the monastic vows of monks and nuns, and the vows of holy Matrimony. These would be known to you all. But, in the High Middle Ages, other kinds of vows were quite common, and these include the Crusading vow by which a man pledged himself to fight for the reconquest of the Holy Land. The popular piety of the day also encouraged various vows of pilgrimage. By these vows, devout believers would promise a journey to places like Rome, Jerusalem, Canterbury, or Spain’s shrine of Santiago de Compostela, and this in days when travel was more expensive, inconvenient, and potentially dangerous than it is today. Westminster Abbey owes its existence to the munificence of Saint Edward the Confessor, who had made a vow to go on pilgrimage to Rome, to the tomb of Saint Peter. When affairs of state made it impossible for him to fulfill the vow, Pope Leo IX commuted it to the building or restoring, in England, of an abbey in honor of Saint Peter. Hence, Westminster Abbey, which is still officially called by its Anglican usurpers, “the Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster.” During the return trip of Columbus’ first voyage, the great Admiral and others made a vow to perform various acts of devotion, including pilgrimage to, and an all-night vigil at Santa Clara Monastery at Moguer.
Distinct but similar to vows are oaths. Summarizing tradition, the Code of Canon Law (Can. 1199 §1) tells us, “An oath is the invocation of the divine Name as witness to the truth. It cannot be taken except in truth, judgement and justice.” Further (Can. 1200 §1): “A person who freely swears on oath to do something is specially obliged by the virtue of religion to fulfil that which he or she asserted by the oath.” Swearing an oath can be done for various reasons, e.g., swearing to the truth of one’s testimony in a legal proceeding. What we call a “promissory oath” is the kind of oath that calls God to witness that its maker is bound to perform the deed promised.
Among the kinds of promissory oaths common in the Ages of Faith were various oaths of chivalry, whereby the knight swore, with God as his witness, to follow the Code of Chivalry — a sort of rule of life for virtuous fighting men. Such historical oaths were dramatized in the film “The Two Towers,” where the character Éomer calls out to the men of Rohan riding off to the Battle at Helms Deep, “Riders of Rohan, oaths you have taken. Now, fulfill them all, to Lord and Land!”A contrary example from J.R.R. Tolkien’s lore would be that of the “Oathbreakers,” of whom we are told, “The Army of the Dead, also known as the Dead Men of Dunharrow or Oathbreakers, were the ghosts of deceased Men of the White Mountains, cursed to remain in Middle-earth by Isildur after they abandoned their oath to aid him in the War of the Last Alliance.” Those who know only the films will recall these mysterious green ghosts as the men who were finally released by Aragorn, Isildur’s heir, after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, when they finally fulfilled their oath. In real life, not only did knights swear oaths, but so did members of medieval guilds. If these were trade guilds, the oath was to obey the regulations of the guild, which regulated such matters as the quality of goods, just prices, non-competition among guild brethren, and the care to be taken for ill and deceased guildsmen and their families — a sort of medieval life insurance policy. Making religious oaths pertaining to the trades by which they earned their bread was one way that our European ancestors in the Faith sanctified the ordinary — a very important part of working out their “tropology.”
It may be said that Christian vows and oaths are what made Christendom what it was, namely, a sacral society where people’s daily lives and social bonds were sanctified and elevated to the liturgical and the sacramental realm.
In The Way of Perfection, Saint Teresa of Avila said that the Devil “is very much afraid of resolute souls, knowing by experience that they inflict great injury upon him.” Perhaps, because we so-called Christians have forgotten the vow and the oath, the Devil roams about much unafraid in our day, when resolute souls are few and far between!
Now we come to part four, the Choice. This is the decision that each young man hast to make between four options in life, some of which do overlap. We can call it the four-fold path: (1) the priesthood, (2) the religious state, (3) the single chaste state, and (4) the married state.
Both the religious state and the married state are states specifically constituted by vows that are proper to them. Thus, to sanctify oneself in them, one must keep the vows. Neither the single chaste state nor the priesthood themselves per se necessitate vows, though a priest does promise to follow the ecclesiastical law that binds clerics. Of course, a priest may also be a religious, and — in certain clearly demarcated cases relatively rare in the West (e.g., in the Eastern Rites and the Anglican Ordinariates), be may also be a married man.
Here is not the place to go in depth into the theology of the priestly or religious vocation. Nor is it the place to get into certain controversial questions, such as whether holy matrimony is rightly considered a vocation or not. What I would like to do, rather, is to present this fourfold path as a choice to our young men, and to recommend to them the proper means by which they may make their choice freely and under the influence of divine grace.
(1) The priesthood is an office in the Church which has as its function the glory of God by participation in the triple office of teaching, governing, and sanctifying the faithful. It is strictly and properly a vocation whereby God calls a man out of the rest of men — even out of the rest of the baptized — to conform him sacramentally to Christ the priest by the administration of Holy Orders. His primary duties are to offer sacrifice and forgive sins. By virtue of his sacrament, he is set apart, with the Lord as his portion, and is reserved for sacred functions. He is not only conformed to Christ by his Baptism, but is conformed to Christ the Priest by virtue of the indelible character of the sacrament of Holy Orders.
(2) The religious state is a state whose members tend to perfection by the profession of the vows of evangelical perfection — principally poverty, chastity, and obedience, though the more ancient monastic and canonical vows of obedience, conversion of life, and stability of place still remain among the monastic and orders and those of canons regular. Their life is given to prayer and work, and, in the case of certain ordained religious, to the cura animarum or care of souls as priests. It is called a “state of perfection,” for two reasons: first, because the members profess vows that assist them in achieving perfection by removing obstacles to the practice of the commandments and second, because the members have an obligation to work toward their perfection by observing the counsels and their rule.
(3) The single chaste state is the state of those who are neither married nor ordained, but who live their baptismal life in the world as lay people. They may profess private vows of chastity, but are not obliged to, although they are obliged to keep chastity according to their state in life. This life is fraught with dangers — such as loneliness and temptations against holy chastity — but it does occasion a single man to pursue various intellectual, charitable, and spiritual pursuits without the burdens undertaken by the married or the ordained. It has in common with the religious state and the secular priesthood of the Latin rite the intrinsic superiority of virginity and celibacy, which state is objectively higher than the married state. That last statement, by the way, is not a question of opinion. It is the de fide definita teaching of the Catholic Church in the matter, settled dogma from the Council of Trent.
(4) The married state constitutes a man the head of a family and is ordered to the begetting and rearing of children. In the noble expression of Pope Pius XI, the vocation of Christian parents is to populate Heaven, which is no mean thing. This is the common state in life of most Christians. A baptized person is constituted in this state by the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Although it is inferior to the religious state, it is holy. Here, in these matters, it is not a question between the good and the evil, but, rather, between the good and the better.
Pope Innocent III, the greatest pope of the High Middle Ages, spoke of the different states in life in a sublimely Christological way: the laity anoint Our Lord’s feet by good works, almsgiving, defense of the weak, and the common good in general; the secular clergy anoint His body by word and sacrament; and the religious anoint His head by their liturgical and contemplative life. Here, Innocent is specifically applying the tropological sense of the Bible to our states in life, and no member of the faithful is without supernatural significance in this scheme of things.
The means of discernment of a priestly or a religious vocation are commonly given as prayer, counsel, freedom from sin, and retreat. I would suggest that these means are useful for the priestly vocation and for the three states of religion, marriage, and single blessedness. Again, those means are prayer, counsel (that is, advice from someone who can actually give it competently), freedom from sin, and retreat.
If a young man is striving to live the ideals that we have presented in this talk, he will have disposed himself to make this decision wisely. Let none of us — especially parents — be ungenerous in encouraging good young men to embrace the priestly vocation or the religious state.
At our table (and in our online store) the brothers have some materials on vocations and states in life that go into more detail on the subject, especially a series of conferences on vocations and states in life I gave years ago at Saint Benedict Center.
We come at last to part five: “the Matrix.” Some of you may be wondering “what is the Matrix?” But that’s the wrong question. You should ask, “Who is the Matrix?”
A matrix is “something within or from which something else originates, develops, or takes form.” But here the “something” is a “someone,” because I am speaking of Our Lady. She is that holy matrix where the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord develops and takes form. If we are to live our tropology and achieve our anagogy, we are to be conformed to that same image and be other Christs. Will you be made “perfect men,” who will chivalrously live out your vocation and your state in life? Then go to this Woman to have Jesus perfectly formed in you.
Saint Louis de Montfort said, “all the predestinate, while in the world, are hidden in the womb of the Blessed Virgin.” He further adds, “St. Augustine speaking to our Blessed Lady says, ‘You are worthy to be called the mould of God.’ Mary is a mould capable of forming people into the image of the God-man. Anyone who is cast into this divine mould is quickly shaped and moulded into Jesus and Jesus into him.”
To do this, Saint Louis Marie de Montfort recommends total consecration to Jesus through Mary.
It may be objected that Total Consecration to Mary cannot possibly be a means to a restored Christian manhood when it points us men to a woman, who cannot, after all, be an exemplar of specifically masculine virtue. Let me address this.
By means of this devotion, Our Lady more perfectly unites us to Jesus. In that vital union with the Man-God — and through Him, with the Trinity — we find holiness. If Mary more perfectly unites us to Jesus by means of this Consecration, she is uniting us to the first cause of all good. It strictly follows that she can thereby produce a sanctified masculinity. She is the “perfect mould of God,” as Saint Louis Marie says, in which the Son of God was made Man. Her womb is the bridal chamber wherein humanity and divinity were wed as Saint Augustine attests. When we mystically enter into that womb — that Matrix — the Holy Ghost and Mary reproduce in us their great masterpiece: Jesus Christ, the very Epitome of sanctified manhood.
Having just given the essential answer to how Mary makes possible a restored masculinity, I offer three additional considerations to support the contention:
1.) Saint Louis Marie himself was very masculine. He not only gave us a recipe, but cooked it well.
2.) The cult of chivalry, which made Christian men not only properly manly, but also properly gentle towards women — hence, gentlemen — grew out of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. To uphold the prerogatives and defend the honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary is supremely chivalrous, therefore supremely masculine.
3.) At a very practical level, the thirty-three day preparation for the total Consecration provides two periods of reflection which can specifically help all men, no matter what their state in life, to grow in sanctified masculinity: the period of knowledge of self and the period of knowledge of Jesus Christ. Approaching the week of knowledge of self with an examination of conscience specifically for men will enhance the effect, as would focusing of Jesus Christ as the sanctified Man par-excellence, who objectively remedied all our masculine failings in His Passion and wills to apply that cure to each of us here and now.
In Saint Louis Marie’s prayer of Total Consecration, we address these words to Our Lady: “I, (Name), a faithless sinner, renew and ratify today in Thy hands the vows of my Baptism; I renounce forever Satan, his pomps and works; and I give myself entirely to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, to carry my cross after Him all the days of my life, and to be more faithful to Him than I have ever been before.” Here, the great Marian apostle explicitly invokes the knight’s oath of fealty to his liege, whereby the knight put his clasped hands in the open hands of his feudal lord. Before the knights derived this from a Germanic practice, monks never did this, but religious professions thereafter developed to include this chivalrous posture.
Men: If you would live a chivalrous vocation, take Mary as your Mistress and the Lady for whom you fight. Then, with her help, learn your history, see Christ in it by allegory, live your tropology daily, and aim very high for your anagogy.