“When men engage in true friendships – and by this I mean more than spending time together playing sports or video games – they can encourage one another toward holiness.”
Schaefer pointed to the household system at Franciscan University, through which more than half of the university’s students participate in small, single-sex faith communities.
“These same-sex communities help members grow in mind, body, and spirit and hold each other accountable to ongoing conversion.”
“In men’s households, they are encouraged to be on more of a schedule by committing to weekly gatherings, generally focused on prayer. They are present to console in times of need and celebrate in times of joy. They are brothers for the Christian walk.”
This type of accompaniment is not easily accomplished, said Daniel Porting, a missionary leading FOCUS Greek outreach at Southern Methodist University, who reflected on his own college experience in the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.
Porting told CNA that most fraternities have mentoring programs, but that those programs are not always taken seriously.
“So that’s a very good structure, I’m not saying they do it well, but there is a structure in every fraternity where they want to inspire that good authentic and organic friendship, where it starts on a one-on-one level, where one person can accompany another,” he said.
But secular culture is struggling to foster this type of friendship, Dr. Langley said, “because an authentic friendship with men, in some ways, needs to be reinvented.”
“As men, we connect through doing things side-by-side, but if you look at the routes that men have to connect with each other, it’s very superficial.”
Dr. Langley said that some social norms and stereotypes make it difficult for men to pursue deep friendships with one another.
“Until recently in our culture, being affectionate with another man was really frowned upon and looked at as being effeminate, or a person would worry about [appearing] homosexual.”
(Story continues below)
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Research conducted by Dr. Niobe Way, a psychology professor at New York University, published in 2013 by the American Sociological Association, showed that male friendships, which include emotional vulnerability, are typical during boyhood. But as boys get older, and deep male friendships become associated with homosexuality, she said men lose this avenue of emotional vulnerability.
“It is only in late adolescence – a time when, according to national data, suicides and violence among boys soar – that boys disconnect from other boys,” said Way in a 2013 article in Contexts magazine.
“The boys in my studies begin, in late adolescence, to use the phrase ‘no homo’ when discussing their male friendships, expressing the fear that if they seek out close friendships, they will be perceived as ‘gay’ or ‘girly.’”
Mark Harfiel, vice president of Paradisus Dei, a family-based Catholic ministry, said that when culture doesn’t support true masculinity, men lose sense of what it means to be authentically human.
“When you turn from Christ and begin to make all truth relative with no absolutes, you begin to lose a sense of what it even means to be human. All relationships have become sexualized and masculinity itself has even come into question.”
Secular culture often promotes a damaged view of masculinity, Daniel Porting said. He suggested that there are three main characteristics of heightened masculinity in the culture: an emphasis on power, pleasure and wealth.