“I just can’t imagine a richer spiritual experience than seeing these places and praying the prayers that make reference to these places,”
By Nora Kenney
Sam Guzman is a husband, father, internationally-renowned blogger—and, in 2020, a pilgrim. He’ll be joining Verso Ministries’ upcoming trip to the Holy Land, an opportunity that he sees as deeply aligned with themes that originally drew him to the Catholic Church and inspired him to write about spirituality and masculinity: themes of beauty, history, truth, and tradition.
Before starting the popular blog the Catholic Gentleman, Sam grew up in Wisconsin in an active Protestant ministry family. His grandfather founded a Christian radio network and his mother was a Christian talk-show host. His family explored different Protestant denominations throughout Sam’s childhood, which left him feeling skeptical about Christianity in high school, doubting whether any denomination had objective truth.
During Sam’s senior year, however, a Presbyterian pastor helped restore Sam’s faith in Christianity, ending what Sam describes as a period of cynicism and rebellion. The next year, when Sam began college, pursuing a general humanities degree with an English emphasis, he also started working in an art gallery—a job that would prove pivotal to his faith journey. He found himself moved by Catholic artwork, and his rapture led to curiosity.
“Seeing all the beautiful Catholic artwork there really inspired me to learn historically what Catholics believed about the Reformation,” Sam said. “And I didn’t jump into the Catholic Church immediately but it kind of led me on a four-year journey of looking for the historic Church—the original Christianity, if you will. And that led me to the Catholic Church.”
The next step, he recalls, was telling his wife. “I told her that I was strongly considering [converting] about a week after we got back from our honeymoon. It did not go well. It was not smart of me,” Sam says, through laughs.
After a contentious period—and through the help of books by Scott Hahn—Sam’s wife was persuaded, and the two entered RCIA together, ultimately receiving the sacrament of Confirmation in 2012. The next year, Sam started the Catholic Gentleman blog, an idea that came to him as he was praying a 9-day consecration to Mary, inspired by his favorite saint, Saint Maximillian Kolbe.
The blog helped fill a void that Sam noticed in the Catholic Church. “In the Protestant church, they have all sorts of men’s ministry resources—conferences, books, etc. But there was less of that in the Catholic Church back in 2012.”
It also offered an outlet for Sam to discuss his reverence for truth, beauty, history, and tradition—themes which have resonated with thousands of readers.
In 2020, the Catholic Gentleman blog will engage these themes, chronicling Sam’s pilgrimage to the ultimate location of Christian tradition: The Holy Land.
“I’ve never been in on a pilgrimage before,” Sam said. “And I’ve only left the country once or twice!”
He is looking forward to experiencing locations from scripture and history and seeing them “come alive.” He also said he is expecting the trip to help him grow spiritually, and he looks forward to renewing his baptismal vows in the Jordan River, celebrating Mass, and praying the Stations of the Cross.
As for the Holy Land’s connection to the themes he describes in his blog—the themes of truth, beauty, tradition, and history that ultimately sparked his conversion—Sam had a lot to say:
“My quest [as a convert] was always for the truth. I always had a really strong passion for finding the truth. I was absolutely convinced that Jesus was real and I was absolutely convinced that he founded a church and that that church must exist somewhere today. But I wanted the original Church. Not one where you could name the founder—you know, Martin Luther or John Calvin. I wanted Jesus to be the founder. I wanted the source. So going to a place like Jerusalem is really going back to the source. Just as I did intellectually and spiritually and through a lot of study [in college], this is really going there, and experiencing these things first hand.”
Sam also sees a natural complementarity between the concept of pilgrimage and the namesake of his blog, Catholic masculinity. Both masculinity and Catholicism require a reverence for tradition in order to thrive, and pilgrimage offers a profound opportunity to embrace tradition:
“Something that’s underemphasized a lot, and is foreign to our modern way of thinking … is the importance of tradition, in the sense that you respect what your ancestors have left you. Very much of what we are is received. We’re not just completely autonomous agents that just invent ourselves as we go. And we all receive an inheritance, so to speak, from our ancestors. And that applies to both our masculinity and to our Catholic faith.
What does it mean to be a man? Well honestly a lot of that is culturally received. I’m not saying the essence of manhood [is cultural]—I’m not saying masculinity is up for grabs, culturally. But what I am saying is the more secondary elements of manhood are cultural, like wearing a suit and tie, or how you treat a woman, and different things like that. And how do we act and behave as men? Those are things we do that we receive culturally, and I think that’s why a lot of men today re so deceived because they’ve kind of been cut off from that.
In the 1950’s, people knew what it meant to be a man, by and large. You had the example of your dad. You’d shave like he did, dress like he did, you’d work on your car like he did. All of these things you were initiated into, and manhood was clear and well-defined. Everybody wore a suit, everybody wore a hat, they talked a certain way, walked a certain way, and there were clear expectations. Now everything’s up for grabs. What kind of man do you want to be? Nobody even knows anymore. So we’ve kind of been cut off from that masculine tradition. And when you see a lot of men’s movements today, whether its secular or Catholic, a lot of it is trying to get back in touch with that tradition—that manly tradition—then recover it and apply it to the modern way of life.
So I would say for Catholics too it’s important for us to acknowledge what’s gone before and to be aware of that Catholic tradition. And if you go to a place like Jerusalem, you can’t escape that. I don’t think there are any churches that are less than, like, 500 years old, or 1000 years old. And you’re pretty in touch with that living tradition of the faith in a very tangible, vital way. And you can see that ‘here’s what we claim about ourselves’ but you can actually tangibly experience it. So we say we go back to the beginning. OK, well let’s go visit the upper room, where Pentecost took place. Or let’s go sail on the seas where the disciples sailed. Let’s experience these things and see that there’s real continuity here. That living tradition extends from the early days all the way to where we are today, and guess what, it’s the same faith. And I think that is a powerful thing for any man to experience, to be put in touch with that living tradition.”
Along the pilgrimage, Sam says he’ll be asking for the intercession of his favorite saint, Saint Maximillian Kolbe, as well as Blessed Charles de Foucauld.
For more information from Sam Guzman on his journey with the Catholic faith visit Sam’s website, here.
Also, please consider joining for his upcoming pilgrimage to the Holy Land, May 11-20, 2020. For more information and to register, click the link below!