On Manliness: Perseverance

prayinghandsmanManliness. Thanks to websites like the Art of Manliness, Catholic Gentlemen, Whiskey Catholic and many others, the internet is a buzz with discussion of what makes a man a man. What traits, virtues, and abilities must a man exhibit to be considered a true man, and not an adolescent adult? Is he judged by his brothers to have met the agreed upon standard of manhood, or is there a God-given goal on the heights that each man strives to reach? And, most importantly, if he reaches those lofty peaks is he given a “man card?” These are all questions that need answering.

In simple chapter and verse, Acts 13:22 says; “And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king; of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David, the son of Jesse, a man after my heart, who will do all my will.”

While this verse clearly states, do God’s will, I find such Biblical quotations, or sentiments, to cause me to lose the trees in the forest. How do I do what I need to do? So, I will pick one virtue each man MUST possess; perseverance.

Why perseverance as a prerequisite for manliness?

Are we not all called to persevere in Christ?  We are, but I think there is an aspect of perseverance that is distinctive for manhood. Perseverance implies several other traits of the possessor; fidelity, discipline, strength, courage, and, as Catholic men, trust in God.  St. Augustine, in On the Gift of Perseverance, wrote,

For we are speaking of that perseverance whereby one perseveres unto the end, and if this is given, one does persevere unto the end; but if one does not persevere unto the end, it is not given … But since no one has perseverance to the end, many people have it, but none can lose it. For it is not to be feared that perchance when a man has persevered unto the end, some evil will may arise in him, so that he does not persevere unto the end. This gift of God, therefore, may be obtained by prayer, but when it has been given, it cannot be lost by [disobedience].

We elevate and draw strength from the martyrs precisely because they endured their trials unto the end for the sake of Christ and His Church. Something about the consummate survivor, or the man who bears his trials with a smile that stirs the heart.

I remember watching Sands of Iwo Jima with my dad, and just being amazed when John Wayne gruffly said, “Saddle up,” and just kept going forward. Some of my favorite book examples of perseverance are the Lord of the Rings. When Lord of the Rings was first published, one critic complained that Tolkien’s characters are too Romantic and static.  However, this is exactly the sort of example men should emulate.

Through thick and thin, a man should be upright and steadfast. Men who are not governed by circumstances, but instead rise to meet them. Within this tale is supreme loyalty to friends despite desperate times; loyalty that accepts death rather fleeing from it.

Think of the Wiglaf in Beowulf. When all other ‘men’ fled the dragon, leaving Beowulf alone, Wiglaf rebuked them, “…As God is my witness, I would rather my body were robed in the same burning blaze as my gold-giver’s body than go back home bearing arms. This is unthinkable…I well know the things he has done for us deserve better. Should he alone be left exposed to fall in battle?”

Prayer, Obedience, and Fidelity

How does a man achieve such levels of manliness, especially when a man is confronted with habitual sin, failure, and seemingly insurmountable trials?  As St. Augustine said, pray.

In years past, I defined my prayer life as a quick, muttered prayer before falling asleep, and a prayer before meals. Usually, the duration and intensity would increase as difficulties increased. This approach in no way cultivated a strong relationship with Christ. I could not persevere in prayer.

Eventually, after I began turning to God first instead of others or distractions, I realized God would not fix my problems, but assist me in learning from them in  overcoming them. Prayer and contemplation help us to fix our eyes on Christ and his example. Christ prayed for God’s will to be done, was obedient unto death, and is faithful to His own forevermore. Prayer can be difficult, but it is the means to gather strength to push forward.

St. Teresa of Avila had this to say when speaking of prayer in her work The Way of Perfection,

Let us now return to those who wish to travel on this road, and will not halt until they reach their goal, which is the place where they can drink of this water of life. As I say, it is most important – all important, indeed – that they should begin well by making an earnest and most determined resolve not to halt until they reach their goal, whatever may come, whatever may happen to them, however hard they may have to labor, whoever may complain of them, whether they reach their goal or die on the road or have no heart to confront the trials which they meet, whether the very world dissolves before them.

St. Ignatius of Antioch in one of his final letters before his martyrdom wrote,

Heed the bishop, that God by heed you, too. My life is a ransom for those who are obedient to the bishop, presbyters, and deacons; and in their company may I obtain my portion! Toil together, wrestle together, run together, suffer together, rest together, rise together…

To my fellow men, we must up lift each other up in Christ, and hold each other to a higher standard than what the world offers, which is no standard at all. Christ guides and strengthens us, but we can also reinforce each other to do God’s Will. Encourage one another by word and example.

No matter how many times you fall down get back up, go to Confession, and just keep going. We admire the men who can persevere precisely because it is so difficult at times to carry on. But, it is not impossible. We should pray for each other that we can honestly echo St. Paul’s words at the end of our days,

I have fought the good fight.  I have finished the race.  I have kept the faith.

Michael is a Texan living in self-inflicted exile as he finishes his PhD. in the history of early modern Britain. After completing his undergraduate degree at Baylor (Sic 'em!!), he decided his faith life needed re-evaluating and reinvigorating. He quickly realized that spiritual growth is a life long affair and not a quick fix. This created a thirst for a deep knowledge of the faith and a desire to share every nugget with others who may benefit. Michael is addicted to movies and books and enjoys quality time with friends and family.

  • Guy McClung

    Michael-Can I send you some Pace Picante Sauce, tortilla chips, or some enchiladas from La Fonda here in San Antonio? Thanks for raising this issue and the overarching issue: what happened to the Catholic Church which was a church of men, a church of soldiers? The “effeminate” have taken it over. St. Thomas Aquinas’s words echo what you have written: “Now, it must be known that, although some believe that adultery is a sin, yet they do not believe that simple fornication is a mortal sin. Against them stand the words of St. Paul: “For fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”[11] And: “Do not err: neither fornicators, . . . nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind shall
    possess the kingdom of God.”[12] But one is not excluded from the
    kingdom of God except by mortal sin; therefore, fornication is a mortal
    sin.But one might say that there is no reason why fornication should be a
    mortal sin, since the body of the wife is not given, as in adultery. I
    say, however, if the body of the wife is not given, nevertheless, there
    is given the body of Christ which was given to the husband when he was
    sanctified in Baptism. If, then, one must not betray his wife, with much
    more reason must he not be unfaithful to Christ: “Know you not that
    your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of
    Christ and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid!”[13] It is
    heretical to say that fornication is not a mortal sin. [Aquinas, Catechetical Instructions]. That issue of heresy may play out at the Synod this Fall if it and/or the bishop of Rome proclaims the heresy that the divorced and remarried are not in sin or that being in a “loving” sodomite relationship is not living in sin. Guy McClung, San Antonio, Texas

  • KarenJo12

    How is this perseverance unique to people with Y chromosomes? Is it okay for women to give up? Is it simply that our flighty and defective lady-brains can’t complete anything and we need the big, strong boys to save our stupid butts?

    • BMD

      I don’t think writing about the need for men to have perseverance precludes the need for women to also have perseverance. Just because this article is written for a particular audience does not negate that the message could also apply to another. As a man who is often discouraged, I found this a good message for myself. Perhaps you could write an article specifically for women as an audience.

      • Guy McClung

        Dear Karen Jo12, It has been my experience thru children and grandchildren that my wife, their mother, their grandmother exudes perseverance and practices it 24/7, 101% with respect to helping me and them get to heaven. It may sound sexist, but it is like her DNA is programmed for absolute perseverance in caring for us and loving us. And she doesn’t think in terms of “Oh, Lord, give me the perseverance to get thru this.” She simply does it naturally- and I have seen this same virtue in numerous mothers and wives. Men, on the other hand, often need Mr. Michael Lane’s words. God bless you and keep you. Guy McClung, San Antonio, Texas

        • Bucky Inky


          Let’s not get sentimental here. KarenJo12 will (rightly) call you to the table on that. The reality is that perseverance is a challenge both to men and to women, though (and here I am sure I depart from KarenJo12, who rails against any idea of natural differentiation b/t the sexes) the specifics of what each sex finds especially difficult differs.

          We men benefit from the sort of encouragement that the Michael Lane gives here, but this does not mean that women are not in need of a different sort of encouragement in their specific temptations against perseverance, or that women as a general rule need no encouragement of any sort in order to persevere in faithfulness to all they have been called.

          Your “24/7, 101%” comment may be what you have perceived, but I know that my wife would not appreciate the assumption that she’s got this perseverance thing all in the bag just by virtue of being a woman. It’s not generally true.

    • Phil Steinacker

      You keep popping up on Catholic sites to complain about perceived sexism where there is none. You snarky language is a dead give-away. I wouldn’t so easily recognize your name without my memory being refreshed by your crudity and simmering hostility.

      No one is obligated cater to your wounded pride – and pride is exactly what ails you, as it afflicts feminism completely. Things might work out better for you if you gave up trying so hard to be offended,

    • Pax

      i think you
      have the subject and object transposed. Perseverance is necessary for manliness
      not unique to it. More over manliness means great deal more than simply having a
      Y chromosome. The Y chromosome gives a person certain capabilities which
      naturally effect their perception, just has having 2 X chromosomes gives a
      person capabilities that must effect their perception as well. Perseverance is
      a virtue and as such is necessary to all people, its effects on that person
      will be different because of our abilities and perceptions. So a better
      question might be in what way masculine perseverance differs from feminine
      perseverance? I think that answer that
      question can lead towards some deep and interesting reflections on truth.

  • goral

    Finally we have a presidential candidate with a chest. When interrogated by women with chests he doesn’t cower and apologize like the dem. worms.
    Although not a 100% to my liking, it’s a start to get the discourse to a sensible level and allow real men to do what we do best – serve, fight and protect.