The Franciscan University men’s tennis team has received much good news over the past two years. I have, however, never seen a reaction so unique as the one elicited when the team was informed that we were to meet the Rev. Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., while on an overnight stay in Pennsylvania between conference matches.
I’ve never seen another pair of eyes that could rival those of Father Scanlan’s. They were terrifyingly honest, electrifyingly truthful, windows into the soul of a man so overwhelmingly backed by his faith that four papal meetings later, his smile still betrayed his identity before he had the chance to introduce himself.
I will remember those eyes until I close mine for the last time, and the solidarity of the man behind them. Contemporary culture slams down the throats of every man a template that exists shockingly below the Catholic blueprint. The pinnacle of Catholic manhood died on a cross to redeem the men who exist today intentionally contrary to his example.
As the minutiae of each and every difference between authentic manhood and popular culture distance themselves farther from the other, the drive of each and every male heart must compensate with faith.
A man doesn’t walk from fear. When Peter fell beneath the waves as he stumbled toward his Savior, the threat of the tumultuous depths didn’t cause him to stumble. His fear of impending failure, not the danger that could cause it, led Peter to fall. In the same way, with Christ firmly on our side it will always be the fear of the world, and not the world itself, which will exist as the reason behind our inability to mirror Christ more fully.
A man embraces his faith, not only as a vessel to flourish in holiness, but as a replacement for visible fact. More often than not, the faith of a man can be measured in proportion to his commitment towards that which has yet to reach fruition. Faith rests on the foundation of reason, but thrives when man employs a formula of faith-heavy action, not reason-dependent response.
A man is determined. He understands the concept of work and the importance of a determined demeanor to facilitate that work. Determination remains especially crucial to a Catholic man, and ideally, manifests itself as trust in God’s proven but often unrevealed plans. So long as divine revelation imparts upon humanity both God and his will, determination will prove irreplaceable as the fuel for faith-founded progress.
A man works. He dreams of rolling up his sleeves before he will ever dream of fabricating an excuse for lack of accomplishment thereof. And a Catholic man understands the grime underneath his fingernails to exist as a representation of dividends he may never personally witness. We are commissioned with the construction of God’s Kingdom. Only later are we issued an invitation to gaze upon it.
This culture thirsts for a radical age of men. Men no longer roll from the Catholic assembly lines. They trickle from the near-dry spring of traditional humility, unattractive to secular-paced life, keys to the doors of hearts unwilling to loosen their grip on the poison of temporary gratification. Scanlan was a member of that forgotten generation. There’s still room beside him.