The Courage of a Catholic Man


I think when most men heard about the heroes of 9/11 they wondered, “Could I step up like that?” I’m willing to bet most men thought they could, and I’m also willing to bet that most men indeed would step up. Without taking away anything from the heroes of that day, I believe that most of us would have acted without thinking too much. In a situation like that, you choose sacrifice and action over cowardice and inaction.

But today, twelve years later, inaction seems to be a bigger threat. I face the world and feel small, and then I feel ineffective. I think many of us do. Watching the culture slowly crumble on 24-hour news networks is demoralizing. It’s easy to throw in the towel and give in and resign ourselves to an existence of hiding out and surviving. I would rather just carve out my own Catholic corner of the world and live out my life in relative peace and quiet.

But that’s the insidiousness of cowardice. It rarely strikes in the heat of battle. I think it works its way into our lives slowly, gaining a foothold as the daily grind wears us down and makes us weak. Before we know it, we have confused cowardice with caution and responsibility. We go along to get along.

Since 9/11 we have been told that living in fear means the terrorists win. When Catholic men live in fear it means the Devil wins. It takes a certain amount of heroism to get out of bed each day and face the world as it is, and to continue to actively engage the culture.

Whenever I feel as though everything is going south and that I am helpless to stop it, I remember a quote from one of my favorite films. Open Range is the story of a couple of free-range cattlemen (Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall) facing a tyrannical cattle baron who has the citizens of a small town under his thumb. Tired of being pushed around, the two free-rangers try to enlist a few of the townsfolk to stand with them. The men in town respond with excuses as to why they just don’t measure up to such a formidable foe:

“We’re freighters. Ralph here’s a shopkeeper.”

Costner’s reply is like cold water in the face of anyone who has ever been a coward:

“You’re men, ain’t ya?”

Whenever we feel powerless as men, it may help to remember who we are: children of God, with all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Be not afraid!

There are plenty of opportunities to be courageous men of God in our daily lives. Perhaps it means summoning up the courage not to laugh when the Church is mocked in a conversation at work. Implicit consent is cowardice. Mind you, I am not saying that we must be combative whenever someone begins a rant against the Pope. I think perhaps it might require more fortitude to stand there and not give consent than it would to get swept up with emotion and offer a fiery comeback. Courage might mean holding your tongue. It could mean waiting for the right moment to say something.

As Catholic men we need fortitude to remain chaste as we make our way through a culture that tells us at every turn we are fools for our chastity. Can we weather the possible scorn and ridicule of our coworkers if we don’t act like “one of the guys?” What if it means we are no longer a member of the inner circle at the gym, or likely to give up opportunities at work? Do we have the courage to do that? Are we brave enough to look like less of a “man”?

Are you embarrassed to make the Sign of the Cross on a crowded bus during your morning commute? Would you say grace over a hot dog and a beer in a crowded stadium? Everyone expects a man to rush into a burning building, but how will they look at you if you bless your Buffalo wings at a sports bar on a Saturday night?

It’s a difficult line to walk. As men we can be rough around the edges, and when we are in a group we need to be able to feel the camaraderie of other men. There is a difference between being virtuous and being a wet blanket. No one wants to be lectured. Be patient and live a life of virtue, don’t try to stamp out vice wherever you find it.

If Catholicism is a life of daily conversion, then living that conversion means daily fortitude. We need to fight the good fight and finish the race!

To do anything less would be cowardly.



  1. Elizabeth-1057606 June 22, 2014 Reply

    Wonderful article and so true. How much we need masculine spirituality to rescue the culture! (Even if, like Judith, women take up the sword of truth as well.) Amen.

  2. Magdalena-948040 September 11, 2013 Reply

    Courage, God do the rest

  3. Stewart-977845 September 10, 2013 Reply

    Thank you for the excellent article. I agree with everything you said.

  4. Stewart-977845 September 10, 2013 Reply

    Thank you for the excellent post and I agree with everything you say. I recently returned to the Catholic Church after a fifty year absence and really appreciate the opportunity to be a witness for Christ in my daily life. I have never been happier.

  5. George-38733 September 10, 2013 Reply

    Great Article Eric. As men we travel in PACKS. We need other men to help us on our journey. We need other men to hold one another accountable as to our faith walk/ journey. I have found a group of men I call Brother Knights. I have been a Sir Knight of Columbus for over 30 years. These guys walk the walk and talk the talk. i feel I am a better man and a Catholic Gentleman because of my association with my Brother Knights. They hold me accountable and help me walk the Catholic Christian path. Check em’ out …………….

  6. Lisa-933589 September 9, 2013 Reply

    Thank you Erik for posting this, as I whole heartedly believe Catholic Men also need other Catholic Men (each other) to help win the battle with faith, courage and hope. To stand up and be counted- as you have done here I hope is contagious 🙂 and yes, St Michael please protect and bless Men of God and keep from all temptation & evil. And thank you fella’s for all your Catholic courage and willingness to go the extra mile!

    All for Jesus,

  7. Theodoric-68091 September 9, 2013 Reply

    Interesting article – the line between unflinching faith and self-righteous zeal is a fine one! God give us strength to be men of God. St. Michael, pray for us!

  8. William-607613 September 8, 2013 Reply

    We shouldn’t forget it’s our faith that gives us confidence.

    Mark Twain once described a man as having “the calm confidence of a Christian with four aces.”

  9. Beth-440770 September 8, 2013 Reply

    Be Not Afraid! Thank you Erik for your call to Godly men. As a woman I will do all I can to recognize and encourage Christlike behavior in the men around me at work, at church, and in the community.

    Step up ladies! A ‘Thank you sir’ takes but a moment and just may lift a heart.

  10. Lucy-41785 September 8, 2013 Reply

    Wow! Great article! Luckily, I know of a few such men. I look forward to the day that I am able to partner with a guy like this, but until then, I will appreciate those men who lead us with such courage.

  11. Laura-997821 September 8, 2013 Reply

    Oh, Eric, thank you, so much for writing the truth out loud! This article also is true, is spirit, for all of us Catholic Women. I am inspired. And, I am inspired to know that there are (Catholic) men out there who still aspire to being as Christ; not aggressive to make their point, but confident; “not grasping” with themselves in who they are or the power of our Holy God. Loving, but being persistent through actions; speaking when necessary. Great article.

  12. Carol-799486 September 8, 2013 Reply

    Sometimes courage is both a divine gift and a human emotion curse. Those people who risk their lives at the 9/11 twin tower tragedy where are they now? They became an unsung heroes after 12 long years. Heroes for a day and forgotten tomorrow.
    We Catholics we do not rush into an inferno without God in our thoughts. God’s teaching is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. And that what makes us Catholic unique. Those people who died in trying to save another life may not get a life long merit on earth but in heaven they will get crown for whole eternity. So its okay to get courageous just do not dip your finger into the trouble of other people who loves trouble.

  13. Simon-828768 September 8, 2013 Reply

    Great post Erik, I agree wholeheartedly. One is never assured of ones’ courage, even ’til the day you die.

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