Skip to comments.Men and the Liturgy – Thoughts on a Recent Survey
Posted on 08/19/2015 6:33:56 AM PDT by Salvation
A recent study of more than 1400 Catholic men from over 1000 parishes indicates a substantial disconnect from the Church and a dissatisfaction with what the Church offers and how she ministers to men. The survey was conducted in the fall of 2014 and an analysis of the results was published by Matthew James Christoff, Director of The New Emangelization Project (Helping Priests Become More Effective in Evangelizing Men).
It is clear that men are not monolithic; they have a range of views and preferences. But overall, the men surveyed feel disengaged from the Church and sense little interest from the Church in listening to them or reaching out to them. Further, there are some concerns that, in general, are shared more by men than by women. While the study indicates a number of themes and recommendations, I will not reproduce them all here. You can and should read those at the link above.
But there are two issues on which I would like to focus, since we often discuss them here on this blog: liturgy and homilies. The men in the survey, especially in the narrative comments, had some pointed observations about both areas (see pages 9 and 20-21). And while the preferences and concerns do not break out simply into mens opinions vs. womens opinions, it is clear that there are overall tendencies in what men prefer or find satisfying.
Liturgy – Modern liturgy has emphasized community, warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, accessibility, and being easily understood. Parishioners are often encouraged to greet those around them warmly, shake hands, hold hands, etc. Music has often become emotive and lyrical (rather than metered and march-like) and the themes emphasize welcome, intimacy with God, reconciliation, love, etc.
None of these things are wrong in themselves, and there are masculine ways of expressing and experiencing these things, but there is a lack of balancing virtues that are often more appealing to men such as duty, call, honor, awe, reverence, respect, transcendence, sacrifice, spiritual warfare, and the struggle against evil.
Stirring, metrical hymns paired with equally vigorous verses describing virtues and themes such as adoration, obedience, faith, strength, hope, Gods power and glory, the ultimate victory of God and the faithful, tend to appeal more to men and masculine ideals.
It does not have to be one thing or the other in the liturgy; it really is about greater balance. Much of the modern liturgical fare in many (though not all) parishes is weighted toward aspects more often preferred by women. And while most men do not talk about it much, when asked, they consistently report being uncomfortable with and uninspired by modern liturgies.
It is no surprise then that men (according both to this and other polls as well as anecdotal observation) are on average more likely than women to prefer the solemn, formal liturgies of the traditional rites. The discipline, skill, and almost military-like precision appeal to many men. Tradition here need not refer only to the pre-conciliar forms, but also to newer forms that contain more traditional elements and formality.
Homilies – Most of the men polled indicated that they respond more to a homilist who sounds like a leader, summons and challenges them, calls for courage, and articulates a clear stance on the moral issues of our day.
The men surveyed noted that often the emphasis seems to be on safe homilies, designed not to unsettle or offend, homilies in which Gods love is emphasized more so than the challenging themes of discipleship like obedience, repentance, sacrifice, resistance to the world, and willingness to rebuke sin within our families. Soft and suggestive tones are in, while bold and directive sermons are harder to find.
Here, too, it need not be one or the other, with one being bad the other being good. Rather, it is the lack of balance that is the problem. Men do not ordinarily speak about these views, but, when asked, are fairly consistent in their sense that the balance is off. They feel that sermons do not seem to be aimed at them and do not involve themes or topics that are most interesting to them.
You can read more at the link above, paying special attention to page 9 and pages 20-21.
Clearly, whenever we speak of liturgy we are hitting the third rail and blood can boil. Just remember that this is a discussion and the goal is to listen and to find balance. There is obviously overlap in what men and women think. All men dont feel the same way any more than all women feel the same way. Lets also avoid reducing this to a matter of right vs. left, pre-conciliar vs. post-conciliar, etc. Say what you mean, and mean what you say, but dont say it mean.
Monsignor Pope Ping!
Most liturgical music heard at mass sounds as if it were written to appeal to 10-year-old girls.
Very, very interesting ....
Jesus was NOT a wimp. But for too long since the 1960s the seminaries were turning out priests and ministers who took the view that Jesus was a ‘nice guy’ who would never offend anyone and would never stand up for anything; i.e. he was a wimp. I do not see Jesus as a wimp and wish he were not portrayed as such. Perhaps then, more men would find a role model in Him and return to attending church and growing in their faith.
For example: Were John Wayne’s western characters manly? Yes. Was he compassionate when required and sometimes not required, yes. But was he a wimp in doing so? No, he portrayed a man who knew what was important and had rules to live by. Thus I make the comparison on how to have a manly Jesus without the ‘wimpishness’ that some clergy have preached to ever shrinking in numbers of men attending congregations.
That doesn’t answer your mention of preferring ‘solemn, formal liturgies’ but there may be a link in there somewhere.
I agree. I your John Wayne reference is spot on.
If the music makes you want to hold hands and sway or if it sounds as if it belongs in a Disney Princess movie . . .
Let’s get back to chant.
I think the main point of his article is “Let’s get back to reverence.”
Even when leaving church.
Regarding John Wayne, no, I didn’t know. But for some reason I though that Patricia Neal was Catholic. And she was friends with Mother Dolores Hart and came on retreats to the monastery where Mother Hart was a member; perhaps that is why I thought it. Read Mother Hart’s autobiography: Ear to the Heart.
“If the music makes you want to hold hands and sway or if it sounds as if it belongs in a Disney Princess movie . . .”
I like to use the date/digit method.
You look at the date of the composition. If it only has three digits (e.g., 967) then you’re good, and that music may be used.
If it has four digits, then you must examine the first digit. If it is a 2, then the composition is to be avoided at all costs.
If the first digit is a 1, then you must look at the second digit. If it is a 9, then the composition goes on the compost heap with the 21st century garbage.
If it is an 8, then the composition must be evaluated for intellectual and theological maturity. If the third digit is a 7 or lower, the composition is almost certain to be acceptable.
This is a problem that infects all denominations. Far too often the Church (Catholic and Protestant) is run like a woman’s spa. It’s all lovey and warm and squishy but has nothing for men.
Do I love Jesus? You bet. Am I comfortable singing about it every service all the time? No.
This is one reason why so many men are abandoning the church and practicing their faith in private. And why so many churches are having to have women fill roles men should be in (Elders, deacons etc.)
More importantly though, Did John Wayne become a Christian on his deathbed?
“Catholic” is no more equivalent to “saved” than “Baptist” or “Pentecostal” is.
I realize that we have all good saved Catholics and Protestants on these threads, but I have met so many lost Catholics (I was one for years) and lost Protestants through the years that church affiliation means nothing to me anymore as an evidence of salvation. Only one’s relationship with Christ matters.
“This is one reason why so many men are abandoning the church and practicing their faith in private.”
Is that happening? How do we know that those men are practicing their faith in private, given that it is private?
Good suggestions. I’m going to look for these.
Thanks for your post. I was wondering if this spanned into non-Catholic churches too. You answered my silent query.
“More importantly though, Did John Wayne become a Christian on his deathbed?”
Actually your question doesn’t work. John Wayne was always a Christian, but not a very committed one - that’s why he was divorced and remarried more than once (married three times if I remember correctly). In his choice of becoming Catholic on his deathbed (for which he woke up out of a coma to do so) he finally made a commitment which would hold true as necessary.
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