February 14, 2011
WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Recognizing evil, our forefathers sacrificed with manly courage to change the world. They took action for a nobler purpose.
In today's secularized society, however, men often buy into popular opinion, reject the Church and lack the courage to stand up for what is right. To adhere to magnanimity — a necessary virtue of a real man — Father Paul Nicholson advised patterning one's life after St. Joseph.
Mary followed and trusted St. Joseph because she sensed in him an authentic man. For St. Joseph, fear was an obstacle to overcome, not something that paralyzed him. A man of crowning virtue and a faithful defender of Christ, he had a willingness to face danger.
"St. Joseph jumped up and did God's will. That's what separates real men from artificial, counterfeit men," said Nicholson, an enthusiastic preacher from London, Ont.
Nicholson was the keynote speaker at the Men of Integrity Catholic men's conference. About 500 men attended the event, held Feb. 4-5 at Holy Trinity Church in Spruce Grove.
"Having magnanimity means you are a man of desires, of big dreams, plans, strategies and doing things, of not being some passive spectator. These days we have way too many passive spectators, which stands contrary to what it means to be a man," said Nicholson.
The modern man is raised by a generation of women. They are overcautious, coddled, think things through and avoid taking risks, he said. Today's man stands around waiting passively for somebody else to solve his problems.
"What are we, a bunch of schoolboys waiting for recess? That's not who we're supposed to be. That's not what God intended by putting before our eyes these extraordinary men like St. Joseph," said Nicholson.
"He expects of us to be men of decision, men of desire, men who are willing to complicate their lives for the sake of a great cause."
An important complication most men face is marriage. They get married and have children. But this generation of young men is waiting longer to get married. Instead, they choose to stay at home with their parents because life is more comfortable and their mothers can cook their meals, and they can carry on cavorting at the taverns, living a life of leisure.
"How completely opposed this is to the Christian vision of man. As men, we are not to stay at home quietly waiting for something better to come along. We must forge ahead, and do what has to be done," said Nicholson.
Family is the number one apostolate of men. Family is the area where men can sacrifice personal ease and practise the virtue of magnanimity. Particularly in the father-daughter relationship, a girl is looking for her dad to be her champion and defender.
"Being a man means taking on wild complications, and all sorts of pots are on the stove and everything is boiling all at once," he said.
He urged every man to spend time exploring his faith further. The days of passing on the Roman Catholic faith through books, schools, family and Church are gone. The Internet is the modern approach. The Internet provides an unbelievable opportunity to reach young people with Catholic teachings.
"Whether it's poker or pornography, the devil has the Web under his authority," he said. "But I often think that our efforts would be best applied if we went full scale into this endeavour and found ways to stake our territory there."
Patrick Schiller, a conference organizer with Catholic Family Ministries, said it was great to see so many men brave the harsh winter to attend, some coming from outside of the archdiocese, including Saskatchewan and B.C. For him, the conference was all about fellowship and gathering together with other like-minded men.
Schiller enjoyed Nicholson's Friday evening talk on men's call to share their faith with others.
"He put a real challenge on us, a challenge to go out and evangelize," said Schiller.
Andrew Wesolowski, from St. Anthony Parish in Lloydminster, told the WCR that the conference was a chance to build on such virtues as courage, integrity, manliness, commitment and fidelity.
"Sometimes it seems a bit too long. After we get the message, we need to relax or do something. Maybe it's too much to take in all in the same day," said Wesolowski.
A challenge that many men face is raising their children well. A man's success in raising his children constitutes his success or failure in life. As a result, many fathers brought their sons to the conference.
"It's the way to grow the family. When parents bring their kids to this, it can take them a long way. They may never find it (this message of manliness) elsewhere. It's actually the parents' responsibility to teach them," said Wesolowski.
Almost every Church service includes men, women and children. What sets the men's conference apart, said Leo Labrecque, from St. Mary's Parish in Red Deer, is that the whole event is focused on a solely male perspective.
"It's different from when he's talking to the total congregation, women included. Here, he can be more frank when he's speaking. He can speak on things that are more pertinent to us," said Labrecque.
Men are busy in their everyday lives, so the conference is a chance for them to break out of their complacency and experience their Catholic faith with a new zeal and appreciation.
"It's the spiritual growth, and you can always learn something different. It's the sharing factor, talking to other men, hearing their perspective on things," said Labrecque.
The notion of "stepping up to the plate" is what Labrecque learned most from Nicholson's talks.
"He's talking about manly men, speaking the truth, and standing up for what you believe as the main themes in all he said.
"The norm out there is to be politically correct, not trying to hurt or offend anyone. What he's saying here is stand up for your values and principles, like the teachings of the Church," said Labrecque.