Genre

Nonfiction, Memoir

Audience

Fathers with Sons

Author’s Worldview

Catholic

Year Published

2022

Themes

initiation, growing up, rite of passage, teenage life, manhood, masculinity, parenthood, fatherhood, fathers, fathers and sons,

 

Reviewed by

Dr. Lisa Theus

How do you help your son become a virtuous man? It’s a question every Christian boy’s parents have to discern, and – of course – requires a lifetime of modeling and trial-and-error. But there is something to be said for formal ceremonies, too. David Arms and Steven Arms reveal their family tradition in Milestone to Manhood. Initiation rituals are a part of many cultures, but they aren’t common in modern America. There are some important events – confirmation, graduation – but even those have a different character from a formal declaration that a boy has earned the responsibilities of a man from the men he respects. Enter the Rite of Passage (ROP) weekend. Part memoir, part guide, Milestone to Manhood is an insight into what a father can do today to usher his son into manhood.

In Part 1, Steven Arms recounts his perspective as a thirteen-year-old experiencing his Rite of Passage weekend. In Part 2, the authors put the events into a framework for others to follow, with notes on how to organize it, what features are most important, and what other events should be taken into consideration for the weekend. Features of the ROP include: the father inviting his son’s male role models, making the weekend a surprise to the boy, an entrance ceremony, an open fire representing God’s presence, sharing what it means to be a man, giving a gift, scripture sharing, a ribbon ceremony with discussion of vices and virtues, bestowing of the title of man, and a final blessing.

The biggest concern some fathers will have is the formal nature of the ROP – “Isn’t it awkward? Isn’t it cheesy?” That’s a decision you have to make for yourself. David (the father) and Steven (the son) share their memories of Steven’s Rite of Passage weekend, and Steven is honest in his recollection of the various feelings you’d probably expect from a thirteen-year-old – the lack of enthusiasm about a trip with his father, the unease of having big conversations with men he respected, and the accompanying pride for the same reasons. Rituals aren’t easy, and they can feel a little forced, but as David and Steven argue, boys want affirmation and to be heard from their fathers. If they don’t feel like they are respected as they grow up, they might seek affirmation in ways that are often stupid and harmful.

One weekend can’t ‘fix’ a relationship – if you’re coming to this as some sort of way to set things right or change someone’s behaviors, that’s not what this is for. Instead, it’s an impactful way to reinforce the virtues of manhood your son has hopefully begun to develop–and warn him about the vices. One gift given over the ROP is a collection of letters from various adults that the boy takes with him and can read, over and over, for the rest of his life. These are the sorts of memories that can give people strength in difficult times. For a society where some young adults are stuck in a permanent adolescence and some parents hover to the point of stunting their children, it can be good for both parties to acknowledge that your boy is growing up and should bear more rights and responsibilities.

Even though the author is Catholic, the rite of passage is presented as an event for all Christian denominations. And although all teenagers would benefit from such a weekend, Arms’ rite of passage is explicitly meant to encourage a relationship with Jesus Christ. Secular readers might be inspired by some of the general ideas, but nonbelievers likely won’t want to work through this book.

The authors helpfully include a couple of indices to discuss options for other arrangements – for boys of single mothers, and for mothers to put on a rite of passage for their daughters. I understand why there wasn’t much room devoted to these topics, but I would love to hear more from people who have used this model in these situations. To state what might be obvious, I’m not a father or a man – but I have a son, and I’m hopeful my husband will offer something like this. And if I have a daughter, I’d be curious to hear more about their ideas for that event. I already know there are some things I would want to change or wouldn’t be comfortable doing, but the authors make a convincing case for why certain features are important. You – hopefully – know your child best, so you can make slight tweaks to suit your situation while maintaining the spirit of the event: to dig deep and provide affirmation and direction as your child grapples with adulthood, to keep them from the harmful rituals of society.

Me, Ruby & God; A Journal of Spiritual Growth by Linda Crowley

A beautiful memoir about the love of God and the love of a good dog.

Woman: My Confession by Marianne Collins

In her memoir, Marianne Collins pulls no punches in presenting the mistakes she made in her journey to find a fervent and lasting love

All Things New by Erin McCole Cupp Breaking the Cycle and Raising a Joyful Family

A guide to self-aware parenting for those poorly parented

Zeal & Zest: Where to Begin with Hillaire Belloc

Belloc was known as a Catholic polemicist with a vicious talent for skewering his opponents. Anyone struggling to persevere as a Christian in the fields of journalism or media should read him. His children’s books have an acerbic humor that will appeal to bored veterans of political correctness, especially teens.

Seeking Allah Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi

When a Muslim man asks God to show him who he is, he is unprepared for the answer.

August & September New Book Releases

Step into Fall with a Good Book

How Can You Still Be Catholic? By Christopher Sparks

There are many good apologetics books out there but this book teaches you how to speak to the heart as much as the head.

Bead by Bead: The Scriptural Rosary by Meggie K. Daly 

A scriptural meditation and a moving witness of how the rosary brought the author back to The Church.

Three Reformers: Luther, Descartes, Rousseau by Jacques Maritain

Reaching back to a forgotten era of integrated Christian philosophy, Maritain retrieves concepts that could solve the dissolution of postmodern society.

Wanderings of an Ordinary Pilgrim by Tim Bete

Poetry that will take you deeper into Scripture and help you see the extraordinary in the simple.

Secrets of Successful Financial Planning by Dan Gallagher

“Where the heart is, there will your treasure be.” Uncover what is most important to you regarding your money.

An Exorcist Tells His Story by Fr. Gabriele Amorth

Do not be afraid. The Vatican’s top exorcist shares stories of his day job that prove God’s power over evil.

In the Footsteps of St. Therese: How to Be Single but Not Alone by Teresita Ogg

A Filipino woman recounts her lifelong journey in a single vocation, with Saint Therese guiding the way.

Revelations Of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich, read by Sr. Wendy Beckett, Edited by Donna K. Triggs

A 14th century account of visions exploring the meaning of love, and God as love.

Broken Brain; Fortified Faith: Lessons of Hope Through a Child’s Mental Illness

When her daughter is stricken insane her mother finds the grace to do what she must to save her and bring her back to sanity.

Help from Heaven by Andrea Jo Rodgers

In this year of tragedy, Rodgers reminds us of the miracle of human kindness.

Broken and Blessed: An Invitation to My Generation By Fr. Josh Johnson

Fr. Josh addresses some of the common misconceptions people have about God and what getting to actually know him actually means.

Pilgrim River: A Spiritual Memoir by Kenneth Garcia 

“I see a small-time scholar and a semi-autistic loner, a flawed man who has persistently sought the Holy. The Quiet One.”

Abolishing Abortion by Fr. Frank Pavone

An invaluable handbook for pro-life religious non-profits that want to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—without risking their tax-exempt status.