On the Interstate yesterday I followed a truck that had signs on the back indicating that it was part of "Sunday Night Football." I was on my way to Green Bay where I gave a talk today to over 100 men who are part of a Catholic men's group called Esto Vir (http://www.estovir.com/).
I met with some of the leaders over a fish fry on Friday night and they told me about the origin of the group and its name. It comes from #4 in the first chapter ("Character") of St. Josemaria Escriva's book The Way: "Don't say, 'That's the way I am - it's my character.' It's your lack of character. Esto vir! - Be a man!"
I'm sure some people are put off by that line - "Be a man!" It's often used to tell men not to show emotion or weakness, not to cry. And the result is a "macho culture" with all sorts of stereotypes that are denigrating to men as well as to women. Esto Vir doesn't promote that; rather, it calls on men to be a man like St. Joseph who was the focus of the first speaker at today's meeting--Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay. Bishop Ricken told personal stories of how in times of need he was not too proud to ask for help. He turned to St. Joseph and went to the Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal, Canada, where he asked the foster father of Jesus to help him raise over $100,000 to pay the bills of his seminarians when he was bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming. He was inspired to have a special collection in his diocese and the people contributed over $300,000.
Bishop Ricken's simple message - "Go to Joseph" - is the title of a new book by the late Fr. Richard Gilsdorf that was made available at the meeting. The editor, Patrick E. Beno, drove to the printer the day before to pick up copies "hot off the press." The Publisher is "Star of the Bay Press" and copies are available through Catholic Word (http://www.catholicword.com/). Bishop Ricken wrote the Forward and Appendix 3 contains Pope Benedict's homily for this year's Feast of St. Joseph, given in Cameroon, Africa.
The mission statement of Esto Vir is: "Challenging men to live extraordinary faith and leadership in everyday life." In a world that has very confused and distorted ideas about what it means to be a man, Esto Vir has a clear and simple message. To be a man means to be like Joseph, whose foster son - the Son of God - "reveals man to man himself" (Vatican II's Gaudiem et Spes #22), and, in a particular way, reveals true masculinity to men. Esto Vir encourages men to "put on Christ" as St. Paul says (Romans 13: 14), "and grow in the virtues of men empowered by the Holy Spirit: leadership, honesty, integrity, humility, fortitude, loyalty, obedience, chastity, spirit of service" (Esto Vir brochure).
I followed a truck on its way to broadcast a football game, something that in many ways is an unfortunate caricature of what it means to be a man today. I found an expression of true manhood in Esto Vir.