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Four Ways Men can Be Shepherds

Mt. 9:36-10:8

At the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”

Then he summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon from Cana, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”

Four Ways Men can Keep Watch

As part of the ongoing controversy about the L.A. Dodgers, Nationals pitcher Trevor Williams spoke up defending his Catholic Faith.

“It had to be said,” Williams said on EWTN News In Depth. “We cannot stand idly by while Our Lord gets mocked.” When asked what prompted him to stand up for his faith despite the potential backlash and repercussions, Williams explained that he felt defending his faith was his duty as a Catholic man. “When I die,” he said, “and St. Peter greets me at the gates, he’s not going to ask what your win-loss record was in 2023. He’s going to ask, ‘How did you build the kingdom of heaven?’” (Pinedo, 2023)

Today’s liturgy speaks about how Jesus promises good shepherds to his people, to his Church. As we celebrate Fathers’ Day, we can also reflect on the need for good, holy priests in the Church, who are called to be fathers to the congregations that they shepherd. If we have a crisis of holiness within the priesthood, it is because first we have a crisis of authentic Christian manhood.

Pope John Paul II reflected on the role of priests in the Church in his post-synodal exhortation, Pastores Dabo Vobis. (1992)

"I will give you shepherds after my own heart" (Jer. 3:15). In these words from the prophet Jeremiah, God promises his people that he will never leave them without shepherds to gather them together and guide them: "I will set shepherds over them [my sheep] who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed (Jer. 23.4). The Church, the People of God, constantly experiences the reality of this prophetic message and continues joyfully to thank God for it. She knows that Jesus Christ himself is the living, supreme and definitive fulfillment of God's promise: "I am the good shepherd" (Jn. 10:11). He, "the great shepherd of the sheep" (Heb. 13:20), entrusted to the apostles and their successors the ministry of shepherding God's flock (cf. Jn. 21:15ff.; 1 Pt. 5:2). Without priests the Church would not be able to live that fundamental obedience which is at the very heart of her existence and her mission in history, an obedience in response to the command of Christ: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Mt. 28:19) and "Do this in remembrance of me" (Lk. 22:19; cf. 1 Cor. 11.24), i.e:, an obedience to the command to announce the Gospel and to renew daily the sacrifice of the giving of his body and the shedding of his blood for the life of the world. (John Paul II, 1992, 1)

Now, there are very real enemies to authentic Christian manhood in the modern world. I would focus on three in particular: victimhood, false ideas of manhood, and the “Peter Pan syndrome.”

It is easy to fall into victimhood. It almost seems that there is a competition nowadays to see who the greatest victim is. This is damaging to all of us, but to authentic Christian manhood in a very real way. Instead of standing up to problems as is typical of authentic character, the temptation is to cower and hide, justifying the behavior by past trauma. Now, this does not mean that we are meant to suffer alone. We do need to face our trauma and develop a healthier psychology. We may even need professional help. But it is manly to face the real problems.

False ideas of manhood plague our society. There is either a “machismo” or a neutered version of being a man that weakens true masculinity. Unfortunately, too often we think of being a man as something that is offensive, vulgar, and uncouth. But a true man is one who is able to die to himself in order to serve those around him.

Finally, there is the “Peter Pan syndrome.” So many men want to never grow up. They live in a constant twilight of Neverland, holding on to childish habits such as video games and hoping that others will take care of them. It reminds us of the old Toys ‘R Us jingle: “I don’t wanna grow up.” Video games, cellphones, and other childish pursuits hold their attention and they are not able to commit to a grown-up lifestyle.

Now, the good news is that it does not have to be that way. We can respond to the greatness of the call that God places on the heart of each one of us. We hear it in today’s Gospel. We are all called to be shepherds, people who care for those around us. We correct gently when we must, but especially we are concerned to make sure that they have what they truly need.

There are four keys to recovery of authentic Christian manhood.

First, we have to know the landscape. I am always impressed by the way that Aragorn describes the role of the Rangers in the Lord of the Rings. Although mysterious to many, especially to the Hobbits, they were fulfilling a vital role of watching out for the advance of evil and riding out to meet and defeat it when necessary. Such is also the role of Christian men today.

'But my home, such as I have, is in the North. For here the heirs of Valandil have ever dwelt in long line unbroken from father unto son for many generations. Our days have darkened, and we have dwindled; but ever the Sword has passed to a new keeper.... Lonely men are we, Rangers of the wild, hunters — but hunters ever of the servants of the Enemy; for they are found in many places, not in Mordor only.
'If Gondor, Boromir, has been a stalwart tower, we have played another part. Many evil things there are that your strong walls and bright swords do not stay. You know little of the lands beyond your bounds. Peace and freedom, do you say? The North would have known them little but for us. Fear would have destroyed them. But when dark things come from the houseless hills, or creep from sunless woods, they fly from us. What roads would any dare to tread, what safety would there be in quiet lands, or in the homes of simple men at night, if the Dúnedain were asleep, or were all gone into the grave?
'And yet less thanks have we than you. Travellers scowl at us, and countrymen give us scornful names. "Strider" I am to one fat man who lives within a day's march of foes that would freeze his heart or lay his little town in ruin, if he were not guarded ceaselessly. Yet we would not have it otherwise. If simple folk are free from care and fear, simple they will be, and we must be secret to keep them so. That has been the task of my kindred, while the years have lengthened and the grass has grown. (The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 2, Ch 2, The Council of Elrond)

Second, men need to develop virtue and prayer. “Virtue” means literally strength. It is not more “manly” to conquer more women, as is often boasted about in locker-room talk. Rather, it is more “manly” to be faithful and to raise a family. Or for a priest, to give his life faithfully for his flock.

Third, men need to reject the false pleasures of the world. Temptation is enticing, but it leads us down a path to destruction.

Fourthly, men are called to “stand in the breach.” There where evil may enter in, men are called to defend the weak and defenseless.

One of the key reasons that the Church is faltering under the attacks of Satan is that many Catholic men have not been willing to “step into the breach” – to fill this gap that lies open and vulnerable to further attack. A large number have left the faith, and many who remain “Catholic” practice the faith timidly and are only minimally committed to passing the faith on to their children. Recent research shows that large numbers of young Catholic men are leaving the faith to become “nones” – men who have no religious affiliation. The growing losses of young Catholic men will have a devastating impact on the Church in America in the coming decades, as older men pass away and young men fail to remain and marry in the Church, accelerating the losses that have already occurred. (Olmsted, 2015)

On a day when we celebrate our earthly fathers, let us make sure to lift our gaze to our Father in Heaven as well. And let us pray for priests, who are called to spiritual fatherhood. And let each one of us see how we can be better shepherds to those around us, beginning first with chasing away the wolves and robbers who threaten the safety of our own souls.


John Paul II. (1992). Pastores Dabo Vobis [Post-synodal Exhortation I will Give You Shepherds].

Olmsted, T.J. (2015). Into the Breach.

Pinedo, P. (2023). Exclusive: Washington Nationals pitcher Trevor Williams speaks out on Dodgers controversy.

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring.

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