What is it that attracts men to worship? And should the Christian faith be demanding to the point of heroism? I say yes. Definitely.
In some parishes it seems that lectors and everyone else on the sanctuary, except the priest, are women or girls, and that in our Catholic schools the majority of our teachers are women, especially in our Primary Schools. In that sense the Church of today is really, if not feminine, it is dominated at parish and diocesan level by women. I think that accounts in many ways for the breach between the ‘local Church’ and what is invariably nowadays called the ‘institutional Church’. The faith is invariably transmitted through feminine perspective.
I remember a sermon once on the healing of the Centurion’s servant, in which preacher compared the Centiturion to Our Lady, the Centurion want orders, Our Lady was willing to ‘ponder these things in her heart’, we men do ponder but against clear guidelines of ‘do this’, ‘do that’, I remember a young man at Sandhurst, who loved all that marching up and down because it gave him the chance to pray, obeying orders came naturally to him,
The Lectionary of the Old Rite certainly seems to be clearer than that of the New, quite a lot about the evils of fornication and unchastity in the Epistles, and quite a lot about how to live a ‘good’ life in the Gospels, whereas the New Rite Lectionary, certainly on Sundays, presents morally ambiguous extracts from the Old Testament, a rather massaged series of extracts from the Epistles and Gospels. The theology is different, the selection of readings rather than organically developing over centuries gives us a very definite ‘Christ of the Council’, or at a least a Christ, a Christology and Ecclesiology taken from the decade or so over which the Lectionary was compiled and of those involved in its manufacturing. It comes from a time when ambiguity was fashionable, the Christ that is presented to us is ambiguous, or at least it is different from the morally and theogically directive Christ of the old Lectionary. That is not surprising considering the old Lectionary came into being in a time of real theological debate and ecclesial growth whilst the new Lectionary was put together by men who were essentially conciliatory towards what was then the ‘modern world’.
I am not suggesting the Lectionary is ‘unmanly’ but the Christ it presents is of its time. Dr Shaw, interestingly, says of Pope Francis that he isn’t interested in philosophy or the theology, that he is essentially a politician. I think that is a fair description. In that sense I think he is indeed a conciliatory Pope. The words of Cardinal Kaspar, “the Pope’s theologian” ring true in this context, when he speaks about ordinary Christians not being given to heroism, “But it’s a heroic act, and heroism is not for the average Christian.” It is this absence of heroism that seems to be problematic for men (and boys) today.
Hey, it’s problematic for me. I do not like fluffy, wishy-washy theology, thank you very much. And Christianity demands heroism, of both men and women.
Had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day where she put forward this view about men and women—that when it comes down to it, a healthy, spiritually integrated man or woman would not necessarily be that different and that a lot of the qualities of male and female have to do with the necessary roles for bringing up children. I agreed that in both men and women, there needs to be a healthy balance of feminine and masculine qualities. Women need the masculine traits of being able to take initiative, for example; men need to develop feminine traits of better listening and interpersonal skills. But this is on an archetypal level. I think the balance has tipped way too far on the feminine side.