Traditional Mass, Men, and Masculinity

From Prodigal Daughter:

A friend of mine passed along an article about the Tridentine Mass, “Refugees From the Vernacular Mass.” (New Oxford Review) The author had me with the opening paragraph:

I see there’s a new book out, Why Men Hate Going to Church (Nelson Books). David Murrow, a television writer and producer, decided to write it after years of attending Catholic, Orthodox, mainline Protestant, and evangelical churches. He found that “no matter the name on the outside, there are always more women on the inside.” I haven’t read the book, but according to Peter Steinfels, who wrote a column about it for The New York Times, Murrow cites surveys showing that in most forms of church-related activity women constitute a great majority of participants, generally from 60 to 80 percent, and that most churches are “dominated by women and their values.”

Many years ago, I noticed the very same thing. In fact, I started to call it “the feminization of the culture” before I heard others use the same phrase. Feminism wasn’t satisfied with giving women the right to vote and be paid equally. The agenda seemed to shift toward destroying masculinity altogether. Since men were, as they said, the “enemy,” it wasn’t enough to subdue them but eradicate every aspect of their oppression. The injustice that so many feminists fought against, became the very same tool they used to bludgeon men. The irony was shameful.

There is something about women and spirituality. Women are usually on a quest of one kind or another in order to understand the world around them. For a woman, relationship takes precedence, whether it is the relationship with her friends, her boyfriend or spouse, or God. I believe it is because God built the desire for relationship into women; for instance, Eve was created for relationship with Adam. Adam was first given something to do, which explains why most men would rather pound nails with their bare hands into wood than discuss their “relationships.” Women, on the other hand, can happily discuss relationships until the cows come home. But I digress.

The writer of the article goes on to point out how men, generally, do not attend church. However, he noted that plenty of men were in attendance at a Tridentine Mass. I’ve noticed the same thing. Here are a few reasons why I think men like it.

Men are not distracted. During a typical church service, there is often too much going on. Whether it’s an overly eager worship team that “wants everyone to join in” or constant flow of people assisting at a service, it produces a flurry of activity that often causes a man to think, “Now why did they have to go and do that?” Many times, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the actions. There are also times when it is obvious that someone didn’t get the memo.

At a Tridentine Mass, it doesn’t seem as disjointed. Everything is flowing toward the same point. The priest, deacon, and servers are engaged in a beautiful liturgy that has been around for hundreds of years. There is deep and profound meaning to each rhythm of the Mass.

Man’s role as the spiritual head is confirmed with the Tridentine Mass. I don’t want to step on the toes of the ladies, but I have to say it. When women take the lead within a worship service, very rarely will a man step up to the plate and join them. I’ve seen it over and over again. Within the last ministry I was involved with, about 80% of the church service activities were completed by women. Did that mean there were few men present? No. Although I’d say the percentage of women was higher than the men, we still had plenty of men. But they didn’t do anything. It was mostly the women who greeted, acted as ushers, took up the collection, and worked the bookstore.

Within the Tridentine Mass, men see men completing the sacred tasks. In the Old Testament, only men were allowed to be priests. There was no such thing as a female high priest. Men are validated in their role when they see only young boys and men assisting at Mass. There are no altar girls, a sure sign that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has been politicized, which is a tragedy. Worshipping God is not an issue of “fairness” or “justice” as though we’re talking about worldly systems such as corporations or sports. There is a pattern God has initiated and men instinctively know when it’s awry. I think women do, too.

Then the author, Tom Bethell, said this:

But there is a much stronger argument for the restoration of Latin. It is well suited to ecclesiastical purposes precisely because it is a dead language. A language that is no longer in use is inherently an obstacle to all innovations and feverish updating. The Church is concerned with the permanent things, and a language without even a vocabulary for modern things is a natural barrier to every fad. You can see why Latin, and the Tridentine rite in particular, do not appeal to those who are working for a politicized Church that keeps abreast of the latest cultural trends.

Men appreciate substance. This isn’t to say that women don’t appreciate substance, but women can become distracted by the bells and whistles of the culture. Men usually ask the deeper questions. My father instilled this in me when I was a young girl. He would constantly challenge me by asking, “why?” Why did I do something? Why did it matter? Why did I concern myself with what others thought? Why did I allow myself to be taken advantage of? Sometimes I thought the questions were overbearing, but they taught me a great lesson: Know yourself and ask questions.

Within the Tridentine Mass, men see the value of tradition which expresses itself by staying true to the purpose of Mass. It isn’t to entertain us or be used as a pawn in some cultural power play. It is holy and the less men and women tamper with it, the better.

Finally, I think men appreciate the Tridentine Mass because they see women understanding the role God has given to them. Many women wear a veil during the Tridentine Mass. The practice is explained in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in chapter 11. Women wear the veil to show their submission. I know firsthand how much this blesses men when they see it. At first I wasn’t sure about wearing it, but then remembered that I loved a prayer shawl I had bought from a woman, who had brought it back from Israel. I love Judaic tradition and have a high respect for Judaism. I would often drape the shawl over my head as I prayed in private, feeling a special connection to God as I did so.

Wearing the veil has the same effect on me. But I’m going to go out on a limb and make a supposition. I believe the reason it blesses men so much to see a women veiled isn’t because he thinks that now “she knows who’s boss.” It because as a woman embraces her role, so a man may embrace his. Very few men enjoy a power struggle with women. Most will relent because they simply don’t want more aggravation at home, which to them is to be a place of refuge. When a woman understands what God has called her to be, there is peace. The woman feels it and so does the man. This, is what I believe happens when a man looks at women at a Traditional Latin Mass. It is radical in its counter-cultural approach and God blesses it.

There is a strength in the Tridentine Mass, an unwavering stance that provides stability in the relentless storm of fickleness which exists in the world. There is security and peace within the old liturgy, untainted by human ego. May God continue to protect and nourish the Tridentine Mass, and may it bear fruit for the universal Church, and the world.


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