The power of manhood ceremony
A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - February 9, 2017 - 12:00am

(Part III of – “Raising a Modern Day Knight”)

In the late ‘60s, Robert Lewis, the author of “Raising a Modern-Day Knight,” met Bill Parkinson and Bill Wellons at the University of Arkansas. Their common desire for spiritual discovery and growth is what brought them together. As young Christians, they were in Campus Crusade for Christ together.

After graduation they went their separate ways but was brought back together in 1980 as pastors of a new church in Little Rock, Arkansas.

By 1989, with seven growing sons between them, they began to feel an urgency to give them some clear masculine tracks on which to run.

The growing cultural controversy and confusion about men in general, and men’s roles in marriage and society in particular, sparked their initial discussion.

Part I and II defined manhood and identified the son’s code of conduct. This column focuses on the power of manhood ceremonies. Ceremonies are those special occasions that weave the fabric of human existence – weddings, award banquets, graduation, or simply the day one becomes a Boy Scout or were accepted into a fraternity. We remember because of a ceremony. A ceremony should be one of the crown jewels for helping a boy become a man.

The elaborate ceremony of medieval knighthood

Lewis wrote in his book that historian Will Durant describes this memory-making event as a ‘dubbing.’ The candidate began with a bath as a symbol of spiritual purification. He was clothed in white tunic, red robe, and black coat symbolizing purity of his morals, the blood he might shed for honor of God and the death he must be prepared to meet fearlessly.

“For a day he fasted: passed a night at church in prayer, confessed his sins to a priest, attended mass, received communion, heard a sermon on the moral, social and military duties of a knight and solemnly promised to fulfill them.”

He then advanced to the altar with a sword that the priest blesses. The candidate then faced the lord from whom he sought knighthood and was questioned sternly, “For what purpose do you desire to enter knighthood?”

The candidate would answer: “To be worthy and to do honor to knighthood.” With this answer, the knights or ladies then clothed him with a knightly array. The lord, rising, lays the flat of the sword upon his shoulder and “dubbed” him, “In the name of God, St. Michael, and St. George, I make thee knight.”

The new knight received a lance, a helmet and a horse. He leaped upon his horse, brandished his lance, flourished his sword, rode out from the church, distributed gifts to his attendants and gave a feast for his friends.

Going beyond the ‘conventional vision of manhood’

The typical young male in our society invests his time and energy in a group of self-centered activities — his career, his pleasures, his possessions — all the while believing they will matter beyond the moment.

This “conventional vision of manhood” has five characteristics.

First, equating manhood with a “position.” Second, because a man’s identity arises from his work, he becomes highly competitive. Third, in his vision of manhood, success is the goal — often at the expense of one’s marriage, one’s children, and meaningful, close relationships. Fourth, the reward of conventional manhood is power, chiefly in the marketplace.

Finally, if a man becomes successful in his plan, he enjoys personal wealth and affluence. The problem with this conventional model of manhood is not that it is wrong, but that it is incomplete. Something critical is missing — a noble cause that rises above all these.

What are the characteristics?

1) It must be truly heroic, a noble endeavor calling forth bravery and sacrifice; 2.) It must be timeless, containing significance beyond the moment; 3.) Supremely meaningful, carrying a vision of life that connects time and eternity.

A father can use these key moves for presenting the noble cause to his son: First, share tales of courage and bravery with your son. Join with other dads and take your sons through a lively discussion of the tales of King Arthur and his knights’ quest for the Holy Grail, the heroes and villains of ancient to modern history, 20th century heroes like MacArthur, Patton, General Luna and Bonifacio. Second, today’s youth also needs Christian basics, the vision of manhood with a spiritual perspective. This means helping the poor, taking a courageous moral stand and sharing your faith with a neighbor or friend.

3 dads with their mission create a family crest

“We realized we needed something tangible and memorable to initiate our sons into manhood. …We needed to create a family crest. Nancy Carter, a graphic artist employed at their church developed it.

“Using the form of a shield, the Greek words across the top said: “Fight the good fight.” The helmet symbolizes the fight of faith. The sword in the shape of a cross represents the conventional manhood that must be surrendered to Jesus Christ. A crown and wreath symbolize authentic manhood (the crown with three jewels stands for the three imperatives of real manhood: rejecting passivity, accepting responsibility, leading courageously; the wreath below stands for the promise of greater reward, God’s reward.)”

Commemorating key passages in a boy’s life

Robert Lewis continues, “We now had a major symbol, but we still lacked a process. As our discussion continued, the three of us identified some key passages in a boy’s journey to manhood. 1) PUBERTY is a great transition at the start of adolescence when a boy’s body wreaks havoc with his mind. 2) HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION when for the first time a young man experiences unrestrained freedom. 3) COLLEGE GRADUATION when a man must face the world and begin to provide for himself. (If your son chooses not to attend college, identify a similar milestone: completion of a vocational training program; beginning of a career-oriented job; conclusion of a military assignment.) 4) MARRIAGE when a man assumes responsibility for a wife and the leadership of a family.

Puberty: The ‘page’ stage

Age 13 is a pivotal time in a boy’s life. Testosterone, the male sex hormone, which has always been present in smaller amounts, begins to appear in large quantities. School activities like Scouting, Leadership Training and Citizen’s Army training altogether facilitate this maturation period. Dr. James Dobson writes in his book Parenting Isn’t for Cowards: “Something equally dynamic is occurring in the brain. How else can we explain why a happy, contented, cooperative twelve-year-old suddenly becomes a sullen, angry depressed, thirteen-year-old?”

High school graduation: The ‘squire’ stage

A second ceremony occurs when a son finishes high school. After high school graduation the “three dads” took each of these young men to a nice restaurant and celebrated this major passage in their lives over dinner. Then, in a formal way, they talked with each son about important issues regarding leaving home and continuing his education at college — which they all have. Each father openly shared about his own collegiate success and failures; they described honestly and in detail the things they did wrong, the things they did right and how these impacted their lives later on. They also discussed what they would choose to do over if they could, with their wisdom of experience.

They emphasized the importance of beginning strong academically, setting goals and boundaries, and resisting the hosts of temptation that awaited them. Each son was given the opportunity to ask any questions on any subject. The interaction was spirited and frank.

Lewis said “One of the truths we always communicated to our sons at this juncture was that we will no longer treat them as boys. From now on our relationship will be more like peers. They are on their way to becoming men now and can be expected to be treated as such.”

(Reference: “Raising a Modern-Day Knight” by Robert Lewis)

(Next week: “College Graduation, the ‘Knight’ Stage”)

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