Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Manlier Mass

This came through my outrage generator today:

Masculinity in the Liturgy
An Irish Catholic friend has told me that his grandfather, who was a coal miner, would rise well before dawn to attend 5:00 am mass with his fellow miners. These men took the faith seriously and they loved the mass. They also weren’t unique. Parishes used to be packed with men who saw the mass as something masculine, inspiring, and something worth sacrificing time for. 
A few decades later, most parish masses are dominated by women. The lectors are women, the cantors are women, the extraordinary ministers are predominantly women, and the altar servers are often girls. Other than the priest, there are hardly any men involved in the liturgy.
This is not to denigrate women. The most glorious creature God ever made is a woman. I also do not mean to say there are no men involved in parish life, because this is not the case. I am referring specifically to the liturgy. 
Why is this? I am not a liturgical scholar, and I can’t propose to provide a precise diagnosis. Many others, including Pope Benedict, have done a fine job of that. Instead, I will share 7 reasons I think men no longer love the mass.
Taking the article as a whole, I'm going to give Mr. Gentleman the benefit of the doubt and assume that it's poor writing and editing rather than intention that makes it sound like he thinks that women are shallow, disorderly, undisciplined, prone to the commonplace, the subjective, and the vaguely ambiguous, sickly sweet, sentimental, weak, trite and haters of everything old. Instead, I'd like to point out that as a former Latin Mass goer, I feel every bit as much of a fish out of water as he does at the Novus Ordo Mass, only in my case I'm not sitting there waiting for church to make me feel like a woman.

I've heard this before. It's not new. And I know a Catholic guy who programs machines in factories in places like Muskogee and eats sandwiches of raw, frozen meat that he hacked into pieces with a screw driver who absolutely flat-out refused to come to the Latin Mass with me, but then again I seem to know a lot of outliers. Claiming that the TLM is masculine is insulting to A) Women who prefer the TLM, B) Men who prefer the NO, and C) Pretty much every other Catholic and probably a few Anglicans as well.

If the Novus Ordo was actually intended to appeal to women, why would Adrian Brody not usher me to my pew with a latte in his hand? Where isn't there Camera Obscura music emanating from the choir and Stations of the Cross purchased at Anthropologie or Pier 1 on the walls? What's this hard bench and where are my throw pillows and blankets? If the Catholic Church really wanted the liturgy to appeal to me as a woman, it would have Mass every Sunday morning in my living room, or possibly my bedroom, if I didn't feel like getting out of bed.

I get what he's trying to do, up to a point. My favorite place to go to Mass is in a tiny chapel in Santa Clara where a tiny Italian priest says low mass (in Latin) with, thank you Jesus, no singing. I'm not a fan of hymns of any kind, but imagine how silly it would be if I came out of church florid because a bunch of dudes had to go on and on and on with their chanting, imposed on everyone, and did you have to sing the litany, too? And then prayers.

Okay, maybe I've done that. But it's wrong. The mass isn't about us or our identity. Plus, it's weird to say "This new liturgy is all about feelings and the people and community, how awful" and then to turn right around and say, "I prefer the old mass because it makes me feel manly and like I belong to a secret club."

Three last thoughts:

The sign of peace is not feminine. It's shaking hands, dude. "It's for men," a Peruvian guy at a party reprimanded me when I teased him about not shaking hands with me, too, when he was leaving. "It's for men," he said, shrugging, as though he couldn't change the laws of the universe.

Latin sounds masculine? You want a manly language? Try ancient Greek. You'll be crying and begging for mercy after half a semester.

One of the nice things about growing up sedevacantist is that nobody made silly comparisons like this, because nobody cared about the Novus Ordo, anyway.


  1. Why would you read a blog that annoys you so much that you call it your outrage generator? I can see why you'd find the article annoying. I only skimmed it, but it does seem to ascribe an unnecessary gender dimension to the liturgy wars.

    Still, we encounter involuntarily so much in this world that can annoy and outrage us. Why seek it out?

    1. It was Facebook. A friend posted it. I had never heard of the blog.

    2. I mean, I agree with you about not seeking this stuff out. I really don't. This friend isn't even traditional and has never posted anything like this before--and I've unfriended people who have posted things like this. I try to avoid it, but it's pervasive. My only option is starting to look like staying completely away from all Catholics.

  2. Ah, I see. Facebook is hard to avoid.

  3. I wasn't at Vatican II, but it seems at least possible to me that a big part of why the mass has become feminized in some ways was because it was TOO masculine before. The author of that article seems completely blind to the thought that maybe the mass SHOULD also appeal to women.

    I am not a practicing Catholic anymore, but it was always pretty obvious to me that the preference for the older style (not so much the rite itself, which has some theological foundations) was more of an aesthetic preference than anything important.

    1. It's an interesting theory. I'm still not sure what "masculine" means in terms of liturgy, but maybe other people see things that I don't. I often wonder what the church was really like pre-Vatican II. There seem to be so many urban legends floating around about it--one group says it was crazy strict and another says it was getting lax and allowing all kinds of innovations to come in.

      One thing that I find pretty silly about the article is that those miners the writer finds so manly probably would have loved to have a leisurely life in which they could sit around writing longwinded theoretical stuff on the internet.

  4. This is pretty great. In Orthodoxy there's a meme going around that men convert to Orthodoxy because they love the challenge that Orthodox practices bring. Even liturgy is challenging; you're supposed to stand for most of it. SO MANLY!11!1! (The article is here:

    Supposedly this means that we don't have the imbalance that those *sniff* Catholics and Protestants have, tho one look around your average parish shows that this is quite false.

    Totally agree about the identity thing. Merica!

    1. Wow. That article was VERY similar to the Catholic one. What is going on in all this? Because my guess is that past generations of men didn't sit around worried about church didn't make them feel manly.

      It also weirds me out that all the stuff I cared about growing up "trad" is now being claimed as masculine. Are men really that bored? And who's to blame for that if they are? Because I really don't think that this is a problem that women can or should be expected to fix.

    2. I have been racking my brains to answer this question for years now. If you figure it out, please let me know.

  5. The writer of that article didn't seem to get that there's a difference between a liturgy being intrinsically 'feminine' (whatever that means) and liturgy being ruined by divas and/or people who mean well but can't sing. (And, to point out the obvious, though he says 'men love tradition', it was actually men who gave us the New Mass and wrote most of the sentimental hymns in the first place!)

    1. Exactly! I can't understand why he feels like he has to encase his objections to modern liturgy in terms of gender. It reminds me of school-age kids calling someone a "girl" as an insult.

      Oh, but it's never the fault of the men when things go wrong. *wink*

  6. I honestly never got the logic behind that meme. Maybe it's living in Southern California, but there seems to be a lot of women at both forms, and are oftentimes the majority in the pews. And it seems to be the women attached to the EF, once you remove the priests and the altar-boys.

    And have you seen the vestments the Oratorians wear? If that's masculine in the 21st Century Western sense of the word, I'm the Emperor of Japan.

    Andrew, yes, in the end, both forms are the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I think for some it has become more a party badge of which sub-tribe they belong to rather than anything substantial - like how politicians these days wear American flag pins.

    -Al Javier

  7. I’m thinking perhaps the writer is poorly expressing what he means, and is probably not intending to instigate a battle of the sexes.

    The issue (An issue) with the NO liturgy, at least as it’s celebrated where I live, is not that it’s feminine but rather that it’s effeminate.