About a year ago, I received a message from a newly made friend, Sam Guzman, asking me to ‘like’ on Facebook his blog, The Catholic Gentleman. I did so right away because he was a good guy and a great Catholic. Nearly 26,000 ‘likes’ later, it is easy to see that his initiative was a lot bigger than I originally thought.
I first met Sam Guzman in the Pro-Life Wisconsin office where he had been hired as the Communications Director. Peggy Hamill, the director, introduced us. What first interested me in Sam was our joint affection for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. A recent convert, he noticed that after leaving Protestantism everything looked the same liturgically. We shortly began working together with a couple other friends toward introducing the western side of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to tradition (not as easy as it sounds!). I eventually had the opportunity of hosting the post-Baptism party for his youngest son at my apartment. Although the East side is full of parties, I doubt it has ever had one quite like that.
I admit that the original reason to check out the blog was because I was impressed by Sam. Had I not known him beforehand, I would have never even bothered with the site. Most initiatives directed toward men serving Christ come across as either Neanderthalic or corny. They emphasize a few Stoic virtues Christianity shares with said philosophy and then come up with goofy tag lines to explain why Christianity is manly.
Sam Guzman’s blog was different.
There was something a bit deeper about the Catholic Gentleman. I cannot quite explain it, but I will try. There seems to be a sense of the interior life in his posts. The posts are not simply about the externals of the faith. His writing elicits the same qualities that the saints have when writing: a personal relationship with their Redeemer, soul-piercing insights, and strong motivations to do the Will of God. This is no small part due to the fact that much of the site’s Facebook page is filled with quotes from the great saints themselves! However, it takes a true man to know his strength and his weakness. Rather than be reckless with other’s souls, Guzman courageously makes use of his talents.
Sir Isaac Newton most famously said of himself that if he has seen farther it is because he stood on the shoulders of giants. If you wish to see farther in your spiritual life, you can do no better than to stand atop the shoulders of The Catholic Gentleman.
Without further ado what follows is an interview with the great Sam Guzman.
What inspired you to start the Catholic Gentleman?
For a long time, I’ve been a fan of the blog The Art of Manliness. This blog seeks to revive traditional manly skills and virtues that have been lost in recent generations. It also holds up great men of the past like Teddy Roosevelt as examples, and encourages men to imitate their way of life.
What The Art of Manliness is missing is any kind of religious foundation. One day, I was praying to Our Lady and asking her to use me in some way for the coming of the kingdom of Jesus, when I rather suddenly had the idea for a Catholic version of The Art of Manliness. In addition to teaching men about the four cardinal virtues, I would also encourage a revival of the three theological virtues. Instead of holding up great political leaders as examples, I would write about the great masculine saints of the Church. The Catholic Gentleman was born.
What makes your initiative to reach out to Catholic men different than so many others?
I think the thing that sets the Catholic Gentleman apart is the “vintage” flavor. I use a lot of black and white imagery and write about traditional aspects of the faith. Part of this is just for fun (it’s amusing to use pictures of men with handlebar mustaches from time to time), while the other aspect is practical.
After all, modern men, including Catholic men, have lost their way to a large degree. They struggle to know what true masculinity looks like in the face of the caricatures the world offers. After all, if a man isn’t a metrosexual, frat boy, womanizer, chest thumping Neanderthal, or beer and pizza guzzling sports fanatic, what is he? What does true Catholic masculinity look like?
I believe men need a reference point, and often times, it is helpful to look back to find the way forward. We can learn what true masculinity looks like from our forbears in the faith. Rather than reinventing the wheel and trying to invent new methods of becoming holy, we can look back to the methods that are tried and true and that produced thousands of great saints through the ages.
Why do you think it has been received so well, so quickly?
I certainly attribute the majority of the growth to the blessing of Our Lord and Our Lady. It came together so quickly that I can’t attribute it to anything else. If you would have seen my previous blogs, and how pitifully under-read they were, you would realize that this has nothing to do with my writing skill or personality.
But perhaps another reason that it has grown so quickly as that men are hungry for meat, not milk. I try to write about serious subjects and not water things down. In recent times, the faith is often presented in such a, for lack of a better word, wimpy manner. It’s all joy and community and warm fuzzies. Those things are well and good, but men want more. Deep down, every man knows that the way to true and lasting joy is the way of the cross, the way of sacrifice. Yet, they almost never hear that anymore.
I hope to challenge men to rise to greater heights, to press beyond mediocrity and complacency and do something great for God. There is no way to know for sure, but I do believe that is part of the reason The Catholic Gentleman has grown so quickly.
How has the Catholic Gentleman impacted your own faith?
Writing the Catholic Gentleman has inspired me to be more disciplined and mature in my own spiritual life. I am by nature lazy and rather chaotic in the way I do things. Many times, when I am challenging men to be intentional, I am writing to myself as well.
I want to encourage others to press on toward holiness, but more than this, I want to pursue holiness myself. I want to be able to say like St. Paul, “Follow me as I follow Christ,” but sadly, I’m not always able to do so. I don’t like that fact, and every exhortation I issue to other men motivates me to be more disciplined myself. It is very healthy for me.
I noticed you started a separate initiative, the Catholic Lady. How did that get started?
It’s pretty simple. For months after I started the Catholic Gentleman, I was getting many requests for a lady’s version. I obviously didn’t want to run such a venture myself, so it was a matter of finding the right Catholic “lady” to manage it. I mentioned it to a good friend of mine, Emma, and she was excited by the idea. We started the page shortly after, and she currently runs it.
I don’t think that anyone would guess from your initiative that you and your family could be anything but Catholic, cradle to grave. Has your conversion played a role in your decision to start the Catholic Gentleman?
Conversion was a blessing in many respects, but most of all in that it forced me to know the faith. Through the conversion process, I studied a lot of Catholic doctrine and learned a great deal about Catholic history.
After I converted, I realized that many Catholics did not know the most basic elements of what they claimed to believe. It inspired me to share the riches of the faith that I had discovered, and that had so exited me, with as many as possible. That was part of the motivation for starting The Catholic Gentleman.
Beyond this, I knew that Catholicism is more than just a collection of facts and apologetic arguments, it is a relationship with a person. We have the tools to grow in this intimate relationship. It breaks my heart to see many Catholics lukewarm and tepid in their faith when they have 2,000 years worth of guidance on how to become holy. I want to bring these time-tested tools to a new generation of men.
On your blog you mention that you have a strong devotion to not only Our Lady but also a couple Marian saints. Why do you think such a devotion to Our Lady is so important for men?
Devotion to Mary is critical because as Catholic men, our mission is to imitate Jesus Christ in every respect. And what did Jesus do? He gave himself totally to Mary. He shared her flesh and blood and she formed him in her womb. He trusted her, he obeyed her even though he was her Lord. As a child, he ran to her when he was hurt or frightened, as is depicted in the beautiful icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. On the cross, her presence comforted him in his agony. In short, Jesus loved Mary intensely and depended on her completely, even though he had no need of doing so.
If we want to be true men in imitation of our Divine Captain, we must likewise submit ourselves humbly and lovingly to Mary. Just as she formed Jesus in her womb, she can form us in a similar manner through grace. Jesus came to us through Mary, and all the graces of God come to us through her. We should go to God the same way he came to us— through Mary. The closer we are to her, the more we will be like Jesus, and if we are like Jesus, we will be the best and truest of men.
Can we get a sneak preview of your upcoming book? At least the thesis or inspiration?
The thesis of the book is the theme of the blog: Be a man. Be a saint. It will be a call to holiness, offering practical advice on how to be holy and manly in the modern world.