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Name: Collin Sceski
The Search for True Manhood
Joe* and Mike*, they were our captains. The whole football team had voted, and they had won by a landslide. Mike was one of our biggest linemen, and Joe was a deadly jack-of-all trades. They both played hard, physical football; they were rowdy and inspirational on the field. Off the field they were constantly making us laugh with stories of drunken revelries, drug usage, fights they had been in, and most importantly: women they had been with. Joe and Mike took us to battle each Friday night. They hyped us up each pre-game, and kept us focused all forty-eight minutes. In practice the team gathered around them as they entertained us. In one way or another, everyone tried to emulate them; players copied their humor, borrowed their pickup lines, and adopted their favorite music. It occurred to me one day as I watched the captains with their band of followers, the crowd didn’t just follow them, the captains followed the crowd. They were popular because everyone liked them; everyone liked them because they did what was popular. By the end of the year however, neither of them was captain. Joe was too proud to obey the coach’s orders, and Mike skipped a class every day for weeks until he was finally caught. As a result both were relieved of their captain positions.
It takes real men to be leaders. In a society where popularity overrides virtue, real men are sometimes hard to find. On the football field I would have followed Joe and Mike through dirt, snow and rain, against the toughest opponents and the bitterest defeats, but off the field I knew God was calling me to a deeper manhood than their worldly lives professed. This essay is about the search for true manhood in today’s society. Perhaps the greatest aid in my search for true manhood is the Theology of the Body.
Raised in a Catholic homeschooling family, a deep desire to follow God’s commandments is always prevalent in my life. When I first learned about sex, I accepted its restriction to marriage without questioning it. If God intends sexuality to occur only within marriage, that was all I needed to know. However, as I began to interact with other men who hadn’t received my religious upbringing, the prime example being my teammates in high school football, I needed answers for my convictions. When interrogated by upperclassmen as to why I practiced chastity, the answer, “Bbecause God says I should,” just wouldn’t cut it. I needed to be able to defend my commitment to the practice of chastity, and to do that I had to understand it. Fortunately, Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body provides all people with the resources to understand God’s plan for sexuality.
Throughout my high school years I have studied Theology of the Body through the eyes of varying authors, and heard it articulated by many speakers at youth conferences and retreats. From the most serious textbook to the most engaging speaker, the message is the same: God has a plan for me. God created our bodies with a purpose that is evident in our bodies and is completely fundamental to life itself. God designed us to be gifts to one another. Blessed John Paul II teaches that this design of the human body is most clearly seen before the fall. John Paul II defines this state of man as ‘original man’. After the fall, the sin of lust crept into the hearts of humanity. The original purpose of man is still present, but ‘original man’ now becomes what John Paul II defines as ‘historical man’. I learned how the effects of original sin make it so hard for ‘historical man’ to give selflessly, and I also learned what the effects of being selfish with our sexuality have on us. I learned that overcoming the effects of sin takes virtue –, in this case, chastity. Chastity is the doorway to fulfillment. It enables us to give of ourselves selflessly.
Living for Christ and truly living for women involve a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifice. Guys love challenges, though –, I know I do. The desire to live and work for something beyond myself is deep inside of me. That’s why I love football, the hard work and sacrifice it takes make every second on the field more meaningful. The game is worth the struggle. That is exactly what I learned about chastity –, it’s worth every ounce of strength I’ve got. Staying chaste and dying to my selfish desires isn’t easy, but the reward is so much more than fleeting physical pleasure, the reward is total fulfillment in Christ. Such an intense struggle for something extremely worthwhile is the basis for so many novels and movies. As a little boy I would daydream about fighting evil monsters and horrible villains just like in the movies or books I read.
After I finished the Theology of the Body for Teens course a friend asked me what I thought. I replied by telling him how excited it made me feel just to be a man. I was truly inspired. Just like as a kid when I wanted to fight monsters, but this time the monster was real. Its name is lust. In today’s society chastity is made to sound weak. Movies are made about guys trying to lose their virginity like it’s a curse or a disease. Theology of the Body taught me something completely different. Embracing chastity became a quest against evil and a struggle between life and death. That’s something boys can get enthusiastic about!
As I said earlier, it takes real men to be leaders. If Mike and Joe aren’t real men, then who is? Theology of the Body increased my understanding of a Scripture passage that I’ve heard many times in church; “Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” Ephesians 5:25. Real men lay down their lives, and Christ is the perfect example of this. For me to be a real man I have to lay down my life. It’s not a one-time deal however; you can’t just schedule an appointment and get it over with. I learned that I’m called to die to myself constantly. Every lustful thought, every selfish desire must die. It’s a big calling, but it’s a heavenly calling. Blessed John Paul II said “’Christ assigns the dignity of every woman as a task to every man’” (quoted in Theology of His Body, 14). To be a man means to accept that assignment.
So how has the Theology of the Body impacted the way I see myself in today’s culture? I see myself on a mission, a mission instituted by Christ. It’s not easy, in fact it’s a tremendous struggle, but it’s a struggle that’s worthwhile. Because of this, I’m excited for the task, I’m excited to conquer lust. I know that chastity is the doorway to manhood, and true manhood is the only way to be a leader. One day I’ll lead a family, or a parish, and unlike my high school football captains I won’t walk away when the coach (God) gives an order, or skip any of my duties in life. Theology of the Body made me see myself as a young man called to be a leader for Christ.
*Names changed to protect privacy.