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Behold the Man! An interview with Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers about his
new EWTN series | Carl E. Olson | February 28, 2006
Burke-Sivers is a deacon in the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, and
the founder of Aurem
Cordis, an apostolate dedicated "to promote the truth and beauty
of the gospel by encouraging others to submit themselves freely to the
life-giving love of the Trinity and to become living witnesses to that
love in the world." Deacon Burke-Sivers gives talks around the country
on spirituality, family life, lay vocations, and other topics, and has
appeared on "Catholic Answers Live", EWTN, and many local television and
radio programs. He has a BA in economics from Notre Dame and an MTS from
the University of Dallas. He, his wife Colleen, and their four children
live in Portland, Oregon.
Deacon Burke-Sivers produced a series with EWTN titled
the Man: Spirituality for Men," which debuted on Ash Wednesday,
March 1, 2006. Carl Olson, editor of IgnatiusInsight.com, interviewed his
former classmate and longtime friend about the series and mens spirituality
in the Catholic tradition.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Tell us a bit about your new EWTN series, "Behold
the Man", and why you produced it. What do you hope viewers will learn
Deacon Burke-Sivers: I developed the idea for the series while attempting
to answer the questions, "What does it mean to be a man in today's
society?" and "How does contemporary culture speak to men about
truth, faith, and the meaning of life?" I quickly realized that secularization,
radical individualism and moral relativism were eroding the heart and
soul of our spiritual lives as men. In "Behold the Man", I explore
how living an authentic male spirituality rooted in the Cross of
Christ, the sacramental life of the Church (most especially in the Eucharist
and Reconciliation), and the teachings of the late Pope John Paul II
allows men to open their hearts to love Christ more deeply and to follow
him more closely as faith-filled servants of truth, goodness, and beauty.
The series examines how a Christ-centered male spirituality fosters and
nurtures growth in holiness, how it encourages men to become defenders
of the culture of life, how it inspires men to become loving servants
of their wives, families and (as priests and religious) the Church, how
it develops an understanding and appreciation of the human body as the
temple of the Holy Spirit, and how the power of the Eucharistic Christ
can sustain men in the every day lived experience of their faith.
It is my prayer that "Behold the Man" will inspire men to live
their faith with joy, enthusiasm and in loving fidelity to God's holy
will. By doing so, we will become freer to love and more open to receive
the gift of grace in response to the Lord's call to "be perfect as
the heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
IgnatiusInsight.com: From your experience, what do you think most Catholic
men think of when they hear the term "men's spirituality"? Are there stereotypes
or misunderstandings that have to be addressed or overcome?
Deacon Burke-Sivers: Negative stereotypes surrounding male spirituality
abound. When I ask men what they think "male spirituality" means,
many have no idea. Some men tell me that "male spirituality"
evokes images of an "encounter" group where men sit in circles
and "get in touch" with their feminine side, or of a "therapy
session" where Jungian archetypes of the "mature masculine"
and elements of New Age spirituality (Enneagrams, labyrinths, etc...)
Many of these misconceptions are fueled by a culture that has turned men
into caricatures, extolling the "virtue" of egocentrism while portraying
men as buffoons, jocks, and womanizers as people not to be taken
seriously. The moral lives and consciences of men are being formed and
influenced by the secular culture, leading many of us to believe, "I am
free to do whatever I want, whenever I want, however I want." In short,
we have bought into the lie! Thus, in a fleeting attempt at some semblance
of spirituality framed within this narcissistic context, incoherent stereotypes
When we allow the culture to shape our consciences in accord with its
"truth", the results within the family and society are devastating. For
example, there are attempts to redefine and revise marriage that undermine
the solid foundation of covenant, of the life-giving love between one
man and one woman. There is widespread corruption and greed in the workplace.
Relationships abound in which immediate self-gratification takes precedence
over chastity. Prostitution and pornography are rampant. Domestic abuse
and other forms of senseless violence perpetrated against women have reached
An authentic male spirituality is truly an encounter: an encounter with
the Living God in the person of Jesus Christ, who is the quintessential
example of what it means to be a man. We must listen to Gods Word
as he reveals himself to us in Sacred Scripture and discern how to respond
to that Word in faith through the Holy Spirit. Male spirituality means
embracing the Cross in our own lives and meditating on what it means to
make a complete gift of ourselves in loving sacrifice and service, because
it is in giving ourselves away in love that we truly find ourselves in
IgnatiusInsight.com: How is Christian spirituality different for men than
it is for women? What are some of the essential, basic building blocks
of sound Catholic spirituality?
Deacon Burke-Sivers: This may come as a shock but it needs to be said:
men and women are different! We are different physically, psychologically,
emotionally and spiritually but we live in a society that says, "In order
to be equal, you have to be the same." This cultural affirmation denies
the fact that, from the beginning, men and women are completely equal
in Gods eyes. Since both are made in the image and likeness
of God, neither is denied the unique gifts inherent in their "maleness"
and "femaleness". Hence, there is a fundamental unity within the complimentarity
of their one-flesh union. It is precisely in the "two become one
flesh" union (Genesis 2:24) that we enter into the heart of the Trinity,
into a relationship of intimate, personal, loving and life-giving communion
with Almighty God. The way we live that spirituality as men and women,
in response to God's invitation to love, is distinctive but complimentary.
The spirituality of woman is rooted in the fact that she is the heart
of love. Our beloved Holy Father of fond memory, Pope John Paul II, makes
this point quite clear: "In God's eternal plan, woman is the one in whom
the order of love in the created world of persons takes first root. The
Bridegroom is the one who loves. The Bride is loved: it is she who
receives love, in order to love in return (Ephesians 5:21-23).
]The passage from the Letter to the Ephesians . . . enables us
to think of a special kind of "prophetism" that belongs to women in their
femininity. The analogy of the Bridegroom and the Bride speaks of the
love with which every human being man and woman is loved
by God in Christ. . . . It is precisely the woman the bride
who manifests this truth to everyone" (Mulieris Dignitatem, 29).
Male spirituality is rooted in headship (Ephesians 5:21-33), but is not
the model of power and authority that is promulgated by the culture. The
headship constitutive of male spirituality is rooted in service (John
13:3-16). An authentic male spirituality means that a man must possess
the willingness and ability to give his life: to die protecting and defending
his Bride, and also to die to those things within himself and throughout
the culture that want to separate love from life. The separation of love
from life, which is the culture of death, leads to the destruction of
an authentic male spirituality.
IgnatiusInsight.com: How has your experience as a man, husband, father,
and deacon shaped your approach to the spiritual life? And what elements
of Benedictine spirituality, which you are very familiar with, do you
incorporate into your spiritual life and your teaching about men's spirituality?
Deacon Burke-Sivers: If we are open to Gods holy will in our
lives, His grace will truly heal, elevate and perfect our human nature.
Every phase of my life as a man of faith has been deepened and strengthened
by a previous experience of Gods grace. In other words, when I truly
endeavor to live an authentic male spirituality, I am a better husband.
Because I am a better husband, I am a better father. Because I am a better
father, I am a better deacon. This is easier said than done! However,
I find that when I make a serious effort to live as a man of God, and make
frequent reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist
an important part of my life, Gods grace imbues me with the strength
to live as the person He created me to be, made in His image and likeness.
The Benedictines taught me about the centrality of prayer and the spiritual
purpose of work. My appreciation of and love for the sacrifice of the
Mass and Sacred Scripture was nurtured by the monks. The daily recitation
of the Divine Office, together with active engagement in lectio divina,
engendered a regimented and systematic approach to prayer, reading, and
contemplation that I still follow to this day. Benedictine spirituality
has even influenced the name of my apostolate, Aurem Cordis ("Ear
of the Heart"), which is taken from the prologue of the Rule of St.
St. Benedicts Rule provides invaluable guidance in balancing an
active work, family and prayer life. It provides a wellspring of spiritual
wisdom that can be easily integrated into the practice of male spirituality.
Particularly relevant is St. Benedicts treatment of the role of
the Abbot (the "father" of the monastery), and the chapters
on good works, obedience, humility, and daily manual labor.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Some of the challenges and temptations facing men
seem obvious: working too much, pornography, avoiding responsibilities,
etc. What are some of the less obvious, but serious, temptations and difficulties
that men have to contend with?
Deacon Burke-Sivers: The temptations and challenges faced by men today,
resulting from the gross misinterpretation of the relationship between
truth and freedom, are rooted in our inability to make ourselves vulnerable.
The culture has convinced men that it is a sign of weakness for us to
open ourselves and share our hearts, our most intimate thoughts, and our
deepest insights with others. Our role model, however, is not the culture
but the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). It is Christs
vulnerability on the Cross in the work of our salvation in giving
his life for his Bride in the ultimate act of self-gift that is
the source and summit of male spirituality. We are truly fulfilled as
men when we make a firm commitment to live Christs Paschal Mystery.
Being vulnerable means not being afraid to be counter-cultural; to embrace
and become servants of a culture of life! Being vulnerable means recognizing
that receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation enables us to open our
hearts and trust the Lord completely, not being afraid to say, "Lord,
I love you but I am human and in my weakness, I've made a mistake"
and then receive forgiveness. Being vulnerable means emptying ourselves
before the Sacrament of the Eucharist in complete surrender to the will
of God so that He can fill us. Being vulnerable means exposing the deepest
parts of who we are to our "Brides": our spouses and the Church.
It is only when we begin to understand the gift of vulnerability lived
from the Cross, can we can begin to understand what it means to be a spiritual
IgnatiusInsight.com: How does men's spirituality fit into the overall
work of your apostolate, Aurem
Cordis? Are you currently working on related projects?
Deacon Burke-Sivers: Aurem Cordis is my effort to promote the truth
and beauty of the Gospel by encouraging others to submit themselves freely
to the life-giving love of the Trinity and to become living witnesses
to that love in the world. I give talks on a number of topics: male spirituality,
the sacraments (especially the Eucharist, Reconciliation and Confirmation),
the theology of the body, evangelization, the diaconate, family life,
and others. I particularly enjoy speaking to mens groups, youth,
and young adults.
Currently, I am writing a book on male spirituality, which I hope to finish
later this year. Im also working on developing resources for parish
mens groups and writing a short book on Pope John Paul IIs
approach to male spirituality. Most importantly, I am working hard to
be a living witness of Christs love for his Church to my wife and
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles:
The Meaning and
Necessity of Spiritual Fatherhood | Harold Burke-Sivers
Hearing and Living
the Truth | Harold Burke-Sivers
and the Lie | Harold Burke-Sivers
Source and Summit of Christian Spirituality | Mark Brumley
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