Phoenix bishop Thomas Olmsted is urging the Catholic men of his diocese to man up and do battle with forces of evil that are “killing the remaining Christian ethos in our society and culture, and even in our own homes.”
Drawing on the military language used abundantly by Saint Paul in the Bible, Olmsted tells the men that they have the privilege to be “soldiers of Jesus Christ and to do battle with the devil,” who “is waging a fierce battle on masculinity and fatherhood in our day.”
The bishop, in a powerfully worded letter, also invites them to respond to God’s call to enter the fray and there to “experience the joie de guerre of being soldiers for Christ.”
Following the example of heroic “Catholic men across the centuries” who have responded to this call, the bishop spurs them on to fill the breach in our time. “Be confident! Be bold! Forward, into the breach!” he writes.
Olmsted tells the men that there is a battle “raging around you,” that is “wounding our children and families” and “distorting the dignity of both women and men.”
“This battle is often hidden, but the battle is real,” he writes.
“The world is under attack by Satan, as our Lord said it would be. This battle is occurring in the Church herself, and the devastation is all too evident,” he says, before citing a number of disturbing statistics regarding Christian practice and the drop in marriages and baptisms.
Bishop Olmsted writes that one of the main reasons that the Church is “faltering under the attacks of Satan” is that “many Catholic men have not been willing to ‘step into the breach.’”
“A large number have left the faith, and many who remain ‘Catholic’ practice the faith timidly and are only minimally committed to passing the faith on to their children,” he writes.
In his message, the bishop urges his readers to be true men, exploring the meaning of Catholic manhood, as well as how a Catholic man loves and the importance of fatherhood.
Our Judeo-Christian patrimony is being eaten away by “termites” which seek to undermine what is most precious in Western culture, he writes. It would be “foolish,” he says, “to ignore the current and growing trends that threaten the remaining good, and dangerous to risk squandering the patrimony with which we have been blessed.”
The response of Christian men, the bishop continues, must be to shrug off apathy and gear up for battle.
“The Church,” he says, is “a school that prepares us for spiritual battle, where Christians are called to “fight the good fight of faith,” to “put on the armor of God,” and “to be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil,” again quoting Saint Paul.
Among the specific attacks against Christian culture, Olmsted proposes “the rapid advance of a ‘gender ideology’ [that] has infected societies around the world. This ideology seeks to set aside the sexual difference created by God, to remove male and female as the normative way of understanding the human person, and in its place, to add various other ‘categories’ of sexuality.”
“This ideology,” he says, “is destructive for individuals and society, and it is a lie. It is harmful to the human person, and therefore, a false concept that we must oppose as Christians.”
“Do not be fooled by those voices wishing to erase all distinctions between mothers and fathers, ignoring the complementarity that is inherent in creation itself. Men, your presence and mission in the family is irreplaceable! Step up and lovingly, patiently take up your God-given role as protector, provider, and spiritual leader of your home,” he writes.
The bishop rejects many “counterfeit” models of manhood, proposing instead the person of Jesus Christ in his loving sacrifice on the cross, as the model of the perfect man.
“Herein lies the fullness of masculinity; each Catholic man must be prepared to give himself completely, to charge into the breach, to engage in spiritual combat, to defend women, children, and others against the wickedness and snares of the devil!” he writes.
In his call to “man up,” Bishop Olmsted urges those in his diocese to prepare even for the ultimate sacrifice of martyrdom.
“Indeed, in this time of evil’s growing boldness, each man must prepare himself for nothing less than martyrdom, whatever form this may take, and to instill in his children and grandchildren the willingness to do the same,” he writes.
It is ultimately the Holy Spirit, he says, who is “moving us to rise up and reject passivity in a culture of fatherlessness.”
“Woe to us,” therefore, “if we do not pick up the weapons of the Spirit – offered to us freely – and accept them bravely and gratefully!”
Olmsted also suggests a number of practices that are essential to win this battle, the first of which is prayer. “Until you realize that prayer is the most important thing in life, you will never have time for prayer,” he advises. And without prayer, “a man is like a soldier who lacks food, water, and ammunition.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome