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He helps men find strength, spirituality in vulnerability.

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- As boys become men, they typically learn to be independent and controlling, to achieve power over the behavior of others.

They follow this path to success. "You acquire so you can be autonomous," said Jesuit Fr. Dick Rice, "but you end up alienated," spiritually bankrupt and typically lonely by age 40 or 50.

Spiritual director Rice specializes in masculine spirituality, helping men in small groups and retreats to achieve healthier attitudes and behavior.

He begins retreats by asking: What are you afraid of? Do you know what fear is? Do you know the difference between fear and anger? Do you know any of your feelings? The next morning, Rice leads retreatants on to: What might you be grateful for? What have you received?

For years, Rice "didn't know a feeling from a soccer ball," he said, recalling that as a student in the competitive, masculine environment of Marquette High School, Milwaukee, he knew at all times where he ranked academically in relation to every classmate.

Twelve years ago, he was "a prime example of the highly competitive, individualistic, independent individual whose life was headed for disaster," he said. Then, to deal with alcoholism in his family, he joined Al-Anon and began to confront his vulnerable side.

Rice contends that men need to blend masculine and feminine qualities as women did, learning to stand up for themselves and become independent.

Citing an example, Rice said religious men in congregations named for a woman -- Oblates of Mary Immaculate, for example -- typically have a well-developed feminine side, he said, unlike communities men founded, such as Jesuits or Dominicans.

Many gay men develop their feminine spirituality more than straight men do, he said. They tend to develop their masculine side, too, "because they have had to rage against God, as they probably had to rage against their fathers. To the extent they have come out to their family, especially to their fathers, they have come out to God also."

Every man's relationship to God is about as healthy as his relationship to his father or mother, he added.

As men develop their spirituality, they begin looking for other men with whom to explore fundamental questions. A group encourages them, identifies their tasks, helps them, for instance, "to separate fear from anger or sadness from anger, and to learn to be appropriately said. Or to learn to compliment and confirm people, not just criticize them."

Generally, "if men think they're doing their (spiritual) work alone, they're usually kidding themselves," he said. Left alone, a man "will completely forget the task and got out and plant alfalfa 20 minutes later."

He recommends books (see box) as well as 12-step and church groups. Members of 12-step groups such as Al-Anon are often among the healthiest men, he said, because they confront questions other men resist.

Many variations of 12-step groups exist, including groups for workaholics and sex addicts, and even for addiction-free men seeking Christian maturity. "Most mainline Christian churches have at least two or three places in cities where men are gathering," he said.

Rice develops his own spirituality in a four-Jesuit community living at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, St. Paul. The men have agreed on four values, he said: to live simply and "do for one another"; to be mutually accountable, "so we know each other's comings and goings"; to share authority; and to share their faith, which they do for three hours over a meal every Sunday night.

At that time, they talk "about whatever is important to us. If the Chicago Bulls are important" to a man from Chicago, "we'll talk about what that means to him," Rice said.

Rice is beginning to weave his discoveries about male spirituality into a book. One of his insights is that "the spirit of Jesus, for men in our culture, is to be vulnerable," which allows them "to be in community." He tells men, "Share what you have and allow others to share with you, so you are vulnerable to one another, and real community can take place."

Fr. Dick Rice's network:

* Books on male spirituality by Robert Bly, Michael Meade and Sam Keen; tapes by Fr. Richard Rohr.

* Touchstones, a book of daily meditations for men, part of the Hazelden Meditation Series, published by Harper/Hazelden.

* Twelve-step programs.

* Men's Center in the Twin Cities, 3255 Hennepin Ave. S., Suite 55, Minneapolis, MN 55408. Support groups, workshops, annual conferences, quarterly newsletter Men Talk.

* Newsletter and book: Wingspan, Box 23550, Brightmoor Station, Detroit, MI 48223. Chris Harding, editor; Dick Halloran, publisher.

* The Rev. James Nelson, United Theological Seminary, 3000 N.W. 5th St., New Brighton, MN 55112. His books on developing the intellectual perspective on men and spirituality: The Intimate Connection: Male Sexuality and Masculine Spirituality, Westminster Press, Philadelphia; Embodiment: An Approach to Sexuality and Christian Theology, Augsburg, Minn.; Body Theology, Westminster-John Knox, Louisville, Ky.

* Austin Men's Center, 1611 W. Sixth St., Austin, TX 78703. Quarterly journal Man on spirituality, relationships, other men's issues. Psychotherapy and counseling in the Austin area only.
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Title Annotation:Fr. Dick Rice
Author:Gibeau, Dawn
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Sep 3, 1993
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