The Bride of Christ Needs to Stop Being So Damn Feminine.

By Karen Mannino                                                                           September 9th, 2013

Recently, I read a blog post in which the author argued that men were falling away from the church because the liturgy is not masculine enough.

Femininity and masculinity, the sexes, and what sociologists call gender rolls fascinate me. When you break it down, it is a little strange to call the liturgy by these terms. But it would actually be a little more strange to have a masculine liturgy than a feminine one. The point that the blogger was trying to make was that the liturgy does a bad job appealing to men. The point he actually made was that the Novus Ordo fails to appeal to people of both sexes who are like him. But I have been looking for an excuse to write about the way we use these words, so I’m going to take it and not get into the dangerous water of Latin vs English and all that.

Masculine and feminine, in my very un-authoritative free computer dictionary, are adjectives that refer to traits associated with men and women respectively. The second definition has to do with the gender of nouns in languages. They are grammar terms. They are also refer to which beat a cadence lands on in music.

These particular grammar terms are associated with the sexes because something about the differences between the words reminded us of the differences between the sexes. This is my theory: When you come right down to it, the difference that we were reminded of, was strictly biological and sexual. It comes down to masculine things are convex, and feminine things are concave. It reflect our sexual biology. Somehow the concave or convex concept got applied to all sorts of abstract characteristics. The ones that were somehow convex were thought appropriate to or common in men, and the concave ones in women.

This is a useful way to classify things, and it can even be beautiful. It makes me kind of gnash my teeth when masculinity and femininity are made to be the rule by which men and women should behave. That is not useful at all. But that’s another blog post.

Christ gave us a beautiful metaphor for his relationship with the Church. We call her Mother Church and the Bride of Christ, making her distinctly feminine on some metaphorical level. This is useful and beautiful because it tells how the Church (and that’s all of us) ought to relate to Christ. We ought to relate in a way that is concave. The Church receives Christ, she lets him fill her. Like a bride receiving her husband sexually. She also relates to each soul who belongs to her in a way that is concave. She opens her arms to anyone who is willing to come and grow in the sheltered place inside her. Like a mother who bears a child in her womb. She holds these souls and presents them to Christ who makes all things knew within her.

At this point, I seems very strange to me to think of the liturgy needing to be more masculine. I have a theory as to one reason why a more traditional catholic man might think that liturgy used to be more masculine, and needs to return to that. My theory: The radical feminists made us aware of patriarchy (which exists, ladies and gentlemen, whether you like it or not) and empowered women to refuse to live in that system. In patriarchy women are morally, and spiritually inferior to men. The Catholic Church has been teaching against this concept since the first Roman women started converting in their husbands’ despite. So that should be no big deal. But here is the problem: Patriarchy also degraded “women’s work” so that it was beneath the dignity of a man to participate in an activity that a woman could, or normally would do. When the feminists liberated women from patriarchy they failed to liberate men. So now men are stuck in this rather silly situation. If women join academia, it is no longer cool for men to be academic. A few console themselves by saying that men are still better at academics than women. But many just figure it is more masculine to do something that women don’t do, like play football, or drive trucks. Anything that isn’t just for men is no longer masculine.

Traditionalists of both sexes often complain that women shouldn’t be lectors, alter servers, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, etc. My inner feminists suspects that this is because they feel, subconsciously, that having a woman participate in in the liturgy in those ways degrades it somehow. If this were truly so, there should be no women anywhere in the liturgy. There might be reasons why women should not do some of these things. But usually the argument I hear is that it isn’t traditional, or it’s a slippery slope to women priesthood. In all frankness, I don’t think that holds water.

If anything, each and every person at mass should be striving for a more feminine relationship with Christ. That’s what the holy mass is about; the community, and each soul in it opening themselves, and making a concave place that God can fill.

Karen Mannino is the token feminist on this blog. She lives in the great Inland Northwest. Her other interests include singing Gregorian Chant at the Novus Ordo mass, playing tea party with her kid brother, and art.


6 thoughts on “The Bride of Christ Needs to Stop Being So Damn Feminine.

  1. I have to agree and disagree with this post. I wouldn’t say girls shouldn’t be altar servers because of tradition, but rather altar servers should be boys given the fact that they learn what the priest does and says and it’s a learning experience for them and possible preparation for the priesthood. Extraordinary ministers can be whatever sex, it’s not necessary to get caught up in the details of who can help a priest once parishioners are old enough to understand the role they are in; however, children are a bit different and it could be confusing to a girl later in life as to why she cannot participate in the mass as a celebrant when she had helped all throughout her childhood. I know this is a grey area and the church doesn’t oppose it, but I would rather encourage my daughter to volunteer to sing, read, bring up the gifts, or usher rather than altar serve, unless, of course, there is no other option.

    • The alter serving controversy is not something I’m super passionate about. I wouldn’t be terribly offended if we went back to only male servers. I have known girls who do it very reverently. My father is my favorite alter server. In his case there is no discernment process going on, obviously. If alter serving were an official part of a discernment process, I would be very happy to uphold an only boys rule. But it is not. I dislike the argument that because of the presence of girl on the alter, boys will be less likely to be called to the priesthood, or less likely to be interested in serving. And as for girls thinking they ought to be priests because they can serve, well, if that is the case, we need to teach them better in charity.

  2. Contrary to the opinion of our dear friend, The Catholic Gentleman, if the mass is largely inhabited by women it is not because the liturgy is lacking; it is because men are lacking. It is not that the Bride of Christ is too feminine but that our men are not masculine. I believe it a masculine quality to love, embrace and protect the feminine. In a culture that emasculates men is it any wonder that they do not value the feminine? And if our men can’t value femininity then how can they value the mass? How can they love, embrace and protect the Bride of Christ?

  3. I agree Hollydolci and I agree with ohnimus too. Great comments. The post was good but female altar servers is where I disagree. Hollydolci is completely right about the issue. Having boy altar servers fosters vocations to the priesthood.

    • Blessed John Paul II,
      “This is the way to be courageously taken. To a large extent, it is a question of making full use of the ample room for a lay and feminine presence recognized by the Church’s law. I am thinking, for example, of theological teaching, the forms of liturgical ministry permitted, including service at the altar, pastoral and administrative councils, Diocesan Synods and Particular Councils, various ecclesial institutions, curias, and ecclesiastical tribunals, many pastoral activities, including the new forms of participation in the care of parishes when there is a shortage of clergy, except for those tasks that belong properly to the priest. Who can imagine the great advantages to pastoral care and the new beauty that the Church’s face will assume, when the feminine genius is fully involved in the various areas of her life?”

  4. Pingback: Trads and Womenpriests – same problem, just dressed differently | The Porch

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