There has been a great deal of talk in recent years about a crisis in masculinity in the Western world. There are regular complaints that men are not living up to their responsibilities in their families, even as policy makers make it easier for men not to take any responsibility whatsoever. It has long been argued by the more radical elements of the feminist movement that men are simply unnecessary, and in response to that philosophy the more demonically-influenced elements of the scientific community are attempting to remove the need for male DNA from the process of artificial conception.
We are often told that in the present day, most men are really little more than coddled adolescents, who need to be pushed out of the way in favor of men who think and behave more like women – or to be more precise, a certain type of woman. We are little more than bumbling oafs incapable of doing anything other than making a mess, giving rise to unnecessary wars, exhibiting bad manners, and acting like misogynist pigs. Governments seem increasingly bent on blurring the lines between the sexes, both domestically and militarily, in order to serve the false notion that there are no fundamental differences between men and women other than genitalia.
Last evening at the annual Vigil of All Saints at the priory of the Dominican House of Studies here in Washington, the student brothers selected four 20th century saints and blesseds for us to focus on in our meditations. One of these was Blessed Bartolomé Blanco Márquez of Spain, who was executed by the leftists in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War, for refusing to join their forces to fight General Franco. His last letter to his girlfriend, written the day before his execution, was read out in the darkness of the chapel, a space illuminated only by candlelight, and the reading of these words seemed to touch a great many people – including, it must be said, this scrivener. For when it was concluded, there were audible sniffles echoing around the nave.
I reproduce the text of that letter here, for your reflection. It is not only a very modern window into what it means to give one’s life in faithfulness to Christ, but it is also an insight into true masculinity. Bartolomé was just 21 years old when he wrote this letter, yet despite his youth this fellow clearly “got” what it means to be both a Christian and a man.
Provincial prison of Jaen, Oct. 1, 1936
My dearest Maruja:
Your memory will remain with me to the grave and, as long as the slightest throb stirs my heart, it will beat for love of you. God has deemed fit to sublimate these worldly affections, ennobling them when we love each other in him. Though in my final days, God is my light and what I long for, this does not mean that the recollection of the one dearest to me will not accompany me until the hour of my death.
I am assisted by many priests who — what a sweet comfort — pour out the treasures of grace into my soul, strengthening it. I look death in the eye and, believe my words, it does not daunt me or make me afraid.
My sentence before the court of mankind will be my soundest defense before God’s court; in their effort to revile me, they have ennobled me; in trying to sentence me, they have absolved me, and by attempting to lose me, they have saved me. Do you see what I mean? Why, of course! Because in killing me, they grant me true life and in condemning me for always upholding the highest ideals of religion, country and family, they swing open before me the doors of heaven.
My body will be buried in a grave in this cemetery of Jaen; while I am left with only a few hours before that definitive repose, allow me to ask but one thing of you: that in memory of the love we shared, which at this moment is enhanced, that you would take on as your primary objective the salvation of your soul. In that way, we will procure our reuniting in heaven for all eternity, where nothing will separate us.
Goodbye, until that moment, then, dearest Maruja! Do not forget that I am looking at you from heaven, and try to be a model Christian woman, since, in the end, worldly goods and delights are of no avail if we do not manage to save our souls.
My thoughts of gratitude to all your family and, for you, all my love, sublimated in the hours of death. Do not forget me, my Maruja, and let my memory always remind you there is a better life, and that attaining it should constitute our highest aspiration.
Be strong and make a new life; you are young and kind, and you will have God’s help, which I will implore upon you from his kingdom. Goodbye, until eternity, then, when we shall continue to love each other for life everlasting.
Blessed Bartolomé Blanco Márquez (1914-1936)