A priest, Father Terrence Ehrman, recently visited my college, Holy Cross. He teaches at the university on the other side of the road. A small, obscure, morally ambiguous university by the name of Notre Dame. He recently published a book called “Man of God.” The subtitle is “Lessons for Young Men about Life, Sex, Friendship, Vocation, & Loving with the Heart of Christ.”
The modern world is fraught with sins that have the power to corrupt. It is true that they have always been present, but it is only within the last hundred years that they have been normalized to the extent that they have.
Right there in the subtitle are those parts of a person’s life that experience the most harmful effects of sin: sex, friendships (relationships in general), and vocation. And this book tackles some of these issues.
The book is written from emails that a priest sent to a man who is receiving spiritual direction. The man struggles with pornography and masturbation, but then we get to see him grow and have to struggle with an intimate relationship.
Though the book is primarily dealing with sins relating to sex, it has insights that one could use for any type of sin. And, at the end of each chapter, it has three bullet points about what the man (or we) should do to become a better man (or people) of God. How do we fight the demons? How do we keep from sliding back into whatever addiction we might be dealing with?
Daily prayer is a big deal. It reminds me of the old adage: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Except, to truly adapt it to prayer, it would be something like this: “Turning everything you do into a prayer keeps the devil away.”
Being mindful of where one’s eyes and mind are focusing is also important. When one starts to focus too much on the wrong thing, it is important to re-center oneself and raise one’s mind to God.
This discipline is necessary not only to be a man of God, but to be a better, more charitable, and all-around good person. And let us not forget that “good” has little meaning outside of religion. What is good? Without a definitive moral code, a person could make an ethical case for practically anything.
But discipline is an important aspect to focus on. It takes discipline to pray each day. It takes discipline to raise one’s mind to God when one would rather not. It takes discipline to be a man or woman of God.
Discipline, whenever I hear the word, makes me think of the group of people who are usually thought of to be the most disciplined: those in the military. And this fits with Church teaching as we are considered the “Church Militant” here on earth. Those who are in purgatory are the “Church Suffering.” And those who are in heaven are the “Church Triumphant.”
Discipline is obviously related to the word “disciple,” which is what those who follow Jesus Christ are. Disciple comes from the Latin discipulus, discipuli, which means learner or pupil. So, too, we are called to be disciplined in our study of the Lord’s word.
This reminds me of something G.K. Chesterton said, which was something along these lines: It used to be that people would see a teaching of the Church that they disagreed with and they would study it and find out why that teaching is correct. Now, when people see a teaching they disagree with, and that is where it ends. They either leave the Church or they simply live with the cognitive dissonance of being a part of an organization with which they disagree.
All in all, this book is quite an interesting read. It is easy to read, easy to understand, and has simple yet effective steps for coming closer to God. I would recommend it to anyone who struggles with sin. So that means I would recommend it to everyone.