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Book Review: Man To Man: A Real Priest Speaks To Real Men
By F. K. Bartels
January 8th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
"Real men are constantly challenged by a culture that is sexually out of control. . . . My dear brothers in the Lord, I know that as married men you are challenged every day. I am writing to you in order to encourage you to remain faithful and to be a hero." "If the house is burning, get a hose and put out the fire. If someone is trapped inside, we need to go in for the rescue. Only the cowards would watch from the sidewalk and do nothing" -- Fr. James Farfaglia
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) -- Many of the readers of Catholic Online are familiar with the articles written by "The Happy Priest" Fr. James Farfaglia, whose keen insight into the many facets of the Catholic life have proven helpful in our daily effort to thrive in a world so often far-removed from love of God.
When I first had the opportunity to listen to Fr. James during a conference call, what impressed me was his willingness to speak from the heart with sincerity and openness, always doing so with a deep integrity that is borne of a life lived in service to the Gospel. I found him to be someone immanently approachable, knowable and amiable, quickly becoming for me a new friend who yet seemed an old companion.
That same sincerity and openness, mixed with a healthy dose of concrete advice and practical example, sets the tone of his book, Man To Man: A Real Priest Speaks To Real Men About Marriage, Sexuality and Family Life. This very readable book -- not long winded or overly complex, which is important for those of us whose schedules leave little time for study -- is available for PDF download.
But why is Fr. Farfaglia's book important for men today? It would not be an exaggeration to say that every man -- Catholic or otherwise -- is involved in a fierce spiritual battle. That is simply the nature of our existence at present. For we live in a militantly secularist society whose false values miserably fail to reflect the proper values of the Gospel. Under attack is the institution of marriage as the indissoluble union of one man and one woman, the nature of conjugal love, the family as the foundation of society and the womb of Christian virtue, and so forth.
Pornography is also on the list. Men face never-before-seen challenges in this moral arena. The high level of pornographic material circulating in the media and entertainment industries, on the Internet, in colleges and universities and the workplace, presents an extremely difficult obstacle to living a chaste life. Consequently, people are often very confused about the meaning of human sexuality, which can result in untold spiritual, physical and emotional damage to men, women and children.
Ultimately, as Fr. Farfaglia points out in his book, love itself is misunderstood. The truth about who we are and how we are to act as men in relation to others is being undermined in contemporary society by what Pope Benedict has termed the "dictatorship of relativism." We live in the age of anti-truth.
What is at stake here is not simply the temporary loss of some measure of satisfaction in life. It is far more. We are speaking about our spiritual well-being, the quality of our life and the lives of those we love and who deserve our respect. We are speaking about eternity -- ours, our wife's and our children's. We cannot flourish as human persons and become who we are destined to be in Christ apart from the truth.
The truth is vital to life in its fullness. If we fail to embrace the truth, we fail to live and act rightly; we thus become less than human, which can have eternal consequences for ourselves and for others. The truth is necessary to thrive as men, to love our wife and raise our children, and to attain to our sublime destiny of eternal beatitude.
It is because of the immensity of what is at stake that Fr. Farfaglia wrote his book. In the introduction he writes: "My dear brothers in the Lord, I am writing this book for you, man to man, with deep love and concern so that you will be happy in this life and eternally happy in the life to come."
In Chapter One the topic of love is addressed: "Today, the word love is equated with sex. For most young people, the words 'to date' mean dinner, movie and sex. For most young American men, if the dinner and movie could be dispensed with, all the better. . . . The damage that this cheapening of sexuality has done is enormous."
But Fr. Farfaglia does not simply list our illnesses, rather he provides sound theological advice on their remedy according to Tradition, Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church. He quotes the saints and the popes, Scripture and the Catechism and contemporary writers. Drawing on more than twenty years of pastoral experience, he writes about how to love and how to live; about the importance of the Eucharist, about the sacraments of Matrimony and Holy Orders; about conjugal love and human sexuality. In a straight-forward manner, he provides men with the basics of how to survive in a world that is often bent on our failure.
Fr. Farfaglia's book helps to give men the tools to reclaim their masculinity, to live as real men in loving obedience to Christ. Therefore it is an important read for all Christian men -- young and old alike, and especially those who are married -- who are hungering for the truth in order to thrive as members of the one body of Christ.
In September of 2010, Pope Benedict spoke these words in preparation for his apostolic visit to Germany: "Where God is, there lies the future. What this means is that we must restore God to our horizon, the God who is so often absent but of whom we have such great need. You may ask me: 'But, does God exist? And if he exists does he really concern himself with us? Can we reach him?' It is, indeed, true that we cannot place God on the table, we cannot touch him or pick him up like an ordinary object. We must rediscover our capacity to perceive God, a capacity that exists within us."
Man To Man: A Real Priest Speaks To Real Men About Marriage, Sexuality And Family Life is a book about our present and our future. It is about how men can find healing and purpose; how men can thrive in marriage and attain new horizons of love with their beloved wives; and how men can strengthen their families in a society which continues to marginalize and devalue them. It is a book about how men can rediscover their capacity to perceive God, living in and with and through Christ as real men: as courageous husbands, fathers and brothers.
F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at catholicpathways.com
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