(Adapted from an address of Archbishop Charles Chaput 4 February 2018)
There’s only one way any of us will ever become a genuinely new man – a new man right down to our cell structure; the new man our families, our culture and our world need. It’s by giving ourselves totally to God. It’s by putting on the new man in Jesus Christ that Paul describes in Ephesians 4 (22-24) and Colossians 3 (9-17). And the kind of new men we become demands the armour Paul gives us in Ephesians 6 (11-17) – because, like it or not, as Catholic men, we really are engaged in a struggle for the soul of a beautiful but broken world.
To put it another way: The “new knighthood” St. Bernard once praised never really disappears. It’s new and renewed in every generation of faithful Catholic men. And brothers, that means us. It’s a vocation that belongs to us, and nobody else. The rules of our order – all 22 of them – were written down 500 years ago by the great Catholic humanist, Erasmus of Rotterdam, in his book, The Manual of a Christian Knight. It’s a dense text for the modern reader, but here’s the substance of what he says:
- Rule 1: Deepen and increase your faith.
- Rule 2: Act on your faith; make it a living witness to others.
- Rule 3: Analyse and understand your fears; don’t be ruled by them.
- Rule 4: Make Jesus Christ the only guide and the only goal of your life.
- Rule 5: Turn away from material things; don’t be owned by them.
- Rule 6: Train your mind to distinguish the true nature of good and evil.
- Rule 7: Never let any failure or setback turn you away from God.
- Rule 8: Face temptation guided by God, not by worry or excuses.
- Rule 9: Always be ready for attacks from those who fear the Gospel and resent the good.
- Rule 10: Always be prepared for temptation. And do what you can to avoid it.
- Rule 11: Be alert to two special dangers: moral cowardice and personal pride.
- Rule 12: Face your weaknesses and turn them into strengths.
- Rule 13: Treat each battle as if it were your last.
- Rule 14: A life of virtue has no room for vice; the little vices we tolerate become the most deadly.
- Rule 15: Every important decision has alternatives; think them through clearly and honestly in the light of what’s right.
- Rule 16: Never, ever give up or give in on any matter of moral substance.
- Rule 17: Always have a plan of action. Battles are often won or lost before they begin.
- Rule 18: Always think through, in advance, the consequences of your choices and actions.
- Rule 19: Do nothing — in public or private — that the people you love would not hold in esteem.
- Rule 20: Virtue is its own reward; it needs no applause.
- Rule 21: Life is demanding and brief; make it count.
- Rule 22: Admit and repent your wrongs, never lose hope, encourage your brothers, and then begin again.
Maleness, brothers, is a matter of biology. It just happens. Manhood must be learned and earned and taught. That’s our task. So my prayer for all of us today is that God will plant the seed of a new knighthood in our hearts — and make us the kind of “new men” our families, our Church, our nation, and our world need.