Several years ago a former student of mine was involved in a situation that brought him to question his own masculine-moral integrity. The scenario involved several of his friends challenging him on his supposed lack of interest in girls to the point that he was asked: “what’s wrong with your masculinity.” Now, the fact that a group of young men asked my student this question should not come as a complete surprise, but it did make me pause and ask how these young men defined authentic masculinity.
The situation left my former student wondering if there was something out of touch with his masculinity but more important his moral integrity that drives his masculinity as a man of God. As he and I discussed what happened, it become apparent that there was nothing wrong with his moral integrity and masculinity as both are gifts from God. It was also important for him to know that as a father to my own son, part of my responsibility was to properly form and foster his moral integrity and masculine traits. Both gifts are specific characteristics on how we are all called to reflect Jesus Christ crucified. I assured him that his natural masculine traits were just fine and are rooted by his moral integrity and should not be repressed or viewed in a shameful manner. I encouraged him to raise the level of his moral integrity exercising his masculine gifts to serve others in the name of Jesus Christ.
Understanding our Moral Integrity
The Catechism of the Catholic Church articulates a clear distinction on how God makes Himself known through the various stages of Revelation. He reveals Himself incrementally because he desires for all to have eternal life with Him in heaven (CCC 54). A result of the relationship between God and man is man’s profession of faith by means of his baptism into the kingdom of God.
Whoever wants to remain faithful to his baptismal promises and resist temptations will want to adopt the means for doing so: self-knowledge, practice of an ascesis adapted to the situations that confront him, obedience to God’s commandments, exercise of the moral virtues, and fidelity to prayer (CCC 2340).
At the heart of man’s moral integrity lies the gift of chastity and the willingness to attain a self-mastery in human freedom (CCC 2339). Moral integrity is based on the exercise of the will and free choice meaning it is intimately rooted in respecting the dignity of the human person.
Exercising the gift of Temperance
The challenge that my former student faced was that his friends had a distorted view of their own masculinity which led toward a perverse view of women hence the lack or unwillingness to exercise any form of moral integrity let alone any mastery of their own thoughts and actions. The gift of temperance is the moral virtue that helps us moderate the pleasures that attract us in a balanced and holy way. It provides an opportunity to act in an honorable fashion but keeping our desires temperate fostering moral integrity.
A simple and practical way of keeping our desires balanced and focused on Christ is through the act of fasting. The denial of a basic necessity such as food I propose provides the opportunity for a self-mastery of one’s actions. Another practical way to maintain moral integrity is through a simple examination of conscience based on the cardinal virtue of temperance e.g. have a looked at a person in a improper way?; have I failed to respect the dignity of another person?; have I failed to exercised the gift of chastity with my eyes, heart and soul?
St. Augustine, the Great Doctor of the Church provides us with the following meditation on maintain your moral integrity:
To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted through temperance. No misfortune can disturb it and this is fortitude. It obeys only God and this is justice, and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery and this is prudence.
De moribus eccl, 1, 25, 46:PL 32, 1330-1331