Male Spirituality, and John XXIII

Forging the Male Spirit: The Spiritual Lives of American College Men, by W. Merle Longwood, William C. Schipper and Philip Culbertson. Wipf & Stock (Eugene, Ore., 2012). 151 pp., $19.00, PB.

Forging the Male Spirit presents a study that has been taking place on several small college campuses over the past few years. “This book aims to assist colleges, universities, and others who are interested in encouraging increased authenticity and spiritual growth among traditional-age college men,” say authors Longwood, William and Culbertson.


The authors continue, “We believe that young men change significantly during their college years and that best practices can be implemented that will facilitate the development of the spiritual dimension of their lives. . . . Our focus in this study is intended to answer the question whether traditional-age college men regard it as manly to be spiritual, or in other words, whether there is a connection between their masculinity and their spirituality.”

The work is divided into five easy-to-read chapters. The first presents “Recent Research on Emerging Men’s Groups.” Chapter two presents “The Development of Men’s Spirituality Groups on Campus: The Saint John’s Experience.” This latter chapter explains a process used at St. John’s College, Collegeville, Minn.

The third chapter takes a broad look at “American Men, Religion, and Spirituality.” The heart of the book is chapter four, “Masculinity, Spirituality, and the Measures of Being a Man.” Participants’ reflections are recorded in this chapter.

The last chapter, “Conclusion and Future Directions,” ties the material together and points toward some possible next steps for those interested in helping college males develop a healthy spirituality. Because the work is a study, an appendix presents the research methodology, and there are suggestions for further reading on the topics of fathers and sons, gender, masculinity and spirituality.

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On June 3, 2001, 38 years to the day of his death, the body of Pope John XXIII was transferred from the crypt beneath St. Peter’s Basilica and placed beneath the altar of St. Jerome in the central nave of the basilica, where the remains of now St. John XXIII remain to this day. Only two others popes have the distinction of being displayed in glass: Blessed Innocent XI and Pope St. Pius X.

The Good Pope, by Greg Tobin (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2012. 288 pp., $26.99 HC) narrates the story about the man who occupied the chair of St. Peter for about five years, wrote eight encyclicals, called the Second Vatican Council and watched over the first of its four sessions. John XXIII is remembered for his Pacem In Terris, which received positive feedback from around the world. He is also remembered for the over 2,000 bishops, experts and observers he assembled in 1962 to update the Roman Catholic Church. For this latter accomplishment, Tobin calls John “a gentle revolutionary.”

Subtitled, The Making of a Saint and the Remaking of the Church — The Story of John XXIII and Vatican II, Tobin’s easy-to-read book traces the pope’s story in three parts: Priest and Protector, The Soul of a Pope, Father of the Council.

In the first part, Tobin narrates the beginning of Angelo Roncalli’s life, his family, his work and his entrance into the seminary. Also covered are his ordination to the priesthood, his service in World War II and his service to the Church in Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, France and Venice.

The second part of the book narrates his election in 1958, his first year as pope and the calling of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The third part of the book focuses on the beginning of the council, the writing of Pacem In Terris, John’s death and the election of his successor, Giovanni Battista Montini, Paul VI, the first cardinal John had named once he became pope.

Tobin writes that John XXIII “moved the Church in ways still felt today, five decades later — and if he had not, it is impossible to know what the state of the Church and our world might be, nor how a billion souls could be nourished with a Word that claims eternal potency and absolute truth.”

He adds, “In theological terms, John responded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit by convoking the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican; he was clearly inspired, in the purest sense, by the third person of the Holy Trinity.”

According to Tobin: “His council was to be the most important moment in the history of the Church since the Council of Trent. If nothing else, the liturgy would be reformed as one of the most enduring and outwardly visible signs of the life of the Church for all to see.”

During these years marking the 50th anniversaries of the issuance of the various documents of Vatican II, it is important to remember the man who started aggiornamento. “This book,” writes Tobin, “represents an attempt to understand why the phenomenon of Pope John XXIII and his reputation as Il Buono Papa, the Good Pope, remain so durable and so inspirational for so many and why he deserves to be known by new generations of Catholics in search of a more open and ecumenical Church.”

FATHER BOYER, a priest of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri, is the author of 37 books on biblical and liturgical spirituality. His latest books are: A Spirituality of Ageing (Wipf & Stock, 2014) and Caroling through Advent and Christmas (Liguori, 2014).