Being a Man in a Church Who Is Bride

June 5, 2024

The Church is also especially a “she” because she is the mother through baptism of all believers, and it is to her we come with mouths opened like little babes to receive the nourishing milk of the sacraments.  “Christ truly nourishes us with his body and blood in holy Communion,” Bishop Athanasius Schneider once said, “and, in the patristic era, it was compared to maternal breastfeeding.”  Thus, the Church as a body is essentially motherly because she births (baptizes) and feeds (gives the Eucharist), both of which are the source of our communion.  She’s a she.

This does not mean that the members of the Church are all “she’s”.  The feminine human heart may have a greater skill at intuitive receptivity, but masculinity is not contrary to receptivity.  Also, masculine outward-ness is harnessed for the sake of the body of the Church – the communion – and is thus not suppressed in the “she” of the Church but directed toward serving her.  As a husband can be masculine for the “she” of his wife so Christian men can be masculine for the “she” of the Church.

While we preserve unity in one body and this entails femininity, we are also called to mission, the “action orientation” of masculinity.  As baptized members of the Church, we are “sons in the Son”, masculine, and in Christ have the mission to “go”.

The mission and the action it entails, after all, is received.  Paul was action-oriented because he was receptive.  King David was receptive and therefore action-oriented in the right way, after God’s own heart, cracking the skull of Goliath and establishing a kingdom that would stretch to eternity through Christ.  Being oriented outward toward mission, toward “going”, is not a deficit in men, provided that they receive those orders to “go” from God and not their own egos or worldly desire for gain.  (I cannot recommend the book The Soul of the Apostolate by Jean-Baptiste Chautard enough for those men for whom action tends to eclipse their receptive prayerfulness).

We men go forth in action and battle because we received the command to do so.  We “go get” the lost sheep because Jesus said we should (Matt. 18:12).  Jesus said to “go baptize” (Matt 28:19).  Even in prayer, which always entails receptivity, we are told to “go” into a room and pray to our Father in secret (Matt. 6:6).  I have known wildly effective men, “doers”, that are powerful in their action and in their prayerful receptivity. In the saint receptivity and action are integrated and effective in each other.  It is in the dividing of these things that error and sin show themselves.  “Faith without works is dead” (See James 2:14-26).

Thus all Christians share in a certain way in the feminine character of Christianity, but also in the masculine.  We cannot be severed from the body of the Church without falling into the danger of hell, and we cannot neglect our mission to love and convert the world lest we fall into impotence and lukewarmness.

Impotent means to lack the potency, the power that is true to a thing – it is not fulfilling its potential (which has the same root word).  And in the case of a father or pastor, their masculinity lends itself to the boldness to protect, defend, and advance the Church and her mission.  To not act with the manliness that this calls for is not “acting feminine” but it is lacking in masculinity.  The feminine of the Church – her desire to maintain the communion – does not lend itself to the idea that maintains a farce of peace at any cost (not disciplining some, firing others or closing bad programs for example) as acting womanly; rather, it is being passive in the face of duty and potential.

Anyone who charges ineffectiveness with effeminacy has perhaps not encountered the extent to which a mother protects and defends her young.  Once I was jumped by a group of older girls (that’s right, I got beat up by a bunch of girls – they were young adults and I was like 8!).  When my mother found out she went up to the park across the street and began – how do I describe it? – whooping anyone she could get close to.  She had to be physically restrained by a friend to end the mayhem.  Mothers do not let their children get harmed, thus a shepherd or father’s failing to expel wolves and correct wayward sheep is not being feminine, but he may be failing in his masculinity.  Sometimes the unity and communion of the body requires the severing or disciplining of members.  Again, femininity is not a lack of masculinity, and masculinity is not a lack of femininity – neither is deficient in itself of the other.  Male and female he created them.

The courage needed in today’s situation requires attention to both the feminine and the masculine aspects of the Church, care for the communion and the mission of the Church, but it does not allow for impotence and passivity.  It is time to go and do what needs to be done.  The boldness and decisive action of men should be welcomed and harnessed for the good of the Church.  You most certainly do not need to be less manly in order to be a saint.


Reprinted with permission from Those Catholic Men. Check out more articles like this one in Sword&Spade.

Jason M. Craig is the editor of Those Catholic Men and Sword&Spade magazine, the author of Leaving Boyhood Behind (OSV 2019), and co-founder of Fraternus. He has a Masters in Theology from the Augustine Institute. Craig runs a small Grade A dairy with his family and hosts retreats and workshops through St. Joseph’s Farm. He is known to claim that his family invented bourbon.

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  1. Andrew says

    Would highly recommend reading “Church Impotent: The Feminization of the Church” by Leon J. Podles, because there is a lot more to this than what has been written. In short, both men and women are inclined towards communion, but men are also inclined towards division first because they are the ones who are primarily responsible for making sure that no union or communion occurs with faithless and sinful things or people that will corrupt it.

    Also, Eve was birthed from Adam’s side while the Lord put him in a deep sleep and the church was birthed from the side of Jesus when he was pierced on the cross to finish the Passover meal of the New Covenant that He began with the Apostles the night before. So, to say that men do not have the capacity to give birth with the Lord is incorrect. However, the birth that men are inclined to is birth in the spirit instead of in the flesh, and rebirth with the Spirit is required to overcome our sinful flesh.

    In Christ,
    Andrew

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