A Key to the New Emangelization – Fraternity
Father C. John McCloskey III, one of the priests who has participated in the New Emangelization Project (listen to an extended interview with Father), has recently written an article on the critical importance of friendship among Catholic men.
One of the great impoverishments of contemporary American life is the difficulty of forming and maintaining strong male friendships. (Women, on the whole, seem to do much better in befriending one another.) Virtually the only time I see groups of men meeting together regularly occurs in front of a television – at home or at a bar or restaurant – watching sports. Most of the time, these men are primarily enjoying not each other but the game. Now, there is nothing wrong about enjoying sports together or enjoying other hobbies and social activities. An important aspect of male bonding occurs around the pursuit of vocations or avocations. Still, a deeper dimension of friendship often seems missing.
Psychologically and emotionally, the dearth of deep friendships among American males is a significant cause of perhaps the greatest plague affecting modern-day American society: loneliness. There are many reasons for this, including absent mothers and fathers; frequent family moves that uproot individuals and families from the support of extended family and friends (Facebook and Instagram, being poor substitutes); our consumerist culture’s marketing of material possessions over human relationships; the worship of youth.
As one author once wrote, “the average American male has one good friend, and that is his wife” (or, more likely in our era of declines in marriage, his ‘significant other”). Anyone who has spent an extended period in a country with a Catholic cultural background (whether or not actual religious practice has plummeted) has probably noticed how profoundly American men have been affected by our overwhelmingly Protestant culture, with its emphasis on individualism. There is a very powerful image of the strong, isolated male figure in American culture: the autonomous adventurer who rides off into the sunset; the “strong, silent type” who hides his private feelings behind a crusty exterior; the man who is ultimately answerable only to his own conscience.