Another C365 article went up today, this one some thoughts on Male Spirituality I had after a retreat last December:
In particular, it highlighted something for me. In my experience, it is difficult for modern men to really love Our Lord, or to feel towards Him that intense devotion and attraction that we are told we ought to feel, and which, if we are Christians, know we ought to. We’re apt, then to try to force it by main strength, or to wonder what’s wrong with us that we don’t feel that same love that we find in the Saints.
However common or uncommon, this was certainly a problem I had, but this retreat – albeit building on past reflections I’d made – helped to clarify and correct it. The problem, I think, is less a matter of men being indifferent than a miscalculation on the part of the Church.
To put it in a shockingly a-modern terms, we tend today to present Our Lord in a way that appeals more to women and womanly souls than to men. That is to say, we place a strong emphasis on His gentleness, mercy, and welcoming nature. Likewise, we seem to operate under the idea that it is consciousness of guilt and fear of being judged or treated harshly that keeps people away, and perhaps for some it is. I certainly wouldn’t want us to neglect that aspect (though honestly, I don’t think personal guilt is a prominent feature of the modern American mind. Collective guilt, perhaps, but not personal. But all that’s a topic for another time).
The problem, as I see it, is that this is not really very attractive to men. Men, generally speaking, don’t really want to be coddled and told that it’s all right, that no one’s judging you for what you’ve done wrong, and that you can feel safe here. On the contrary, what men generally want is to be kicked in the pants and told “here’s why you suck and here’s how you can do better.”
Read the rest here.
4 thoughts on “Catholic365 – Masculine Spirituality”
It is one of the paradoxes of the modern world that as theoretical talk of personal guilt decreased, overwhelming sense of personal guilt increased. You are no longer allowed to bring up morality, nevermind actually suggesting someone bears guilt according to it, precisely because “YOU’RE JUDGING ME!!” [pardon the caps, but sic]. Or, perhaps it’s the other way around: what if everyone’s sense of personal guilt has run away with them because they no longer are taught a principled evaluation of it?
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As far as men wanting forgiveness, I actually think forgiveness is a matter of grave import, to men and more generally to people with a decent understanding of justice. It’s the weird, focusing on mercy to avoid the context of justice, thing, that’s… well, weird, since mercy only makes sense and has meaning if you understand justice.
(There is a thing where if you are truly repentant you want to set your wrongs right, of course, which for men tends to mean taking corrective action whereas for women it tends to mean salving the feelings of whoever they’ve hurt and patching up relationships and such: in forgiveness, women on average focus more on reconciliation, whereas men on average focus more on reparation, but the motivation of either is desire to right the same wrongs of which one needs to be forgiven.)
I’ve also known, on the other hand, religious women with mild but persistent depression who manage the symptoms with “Jesus loves me!” and maybe that’s the sort of thing you have in mind? Some of them are, really, the same people who (as previously mentioned) freak out over the imagination that they could be judged, except as long as they think about forgiveness they can keep themselves from thinking too much about how they tend towards the belief that they’re a Bad Person.
(There’s a tangent in here somewhere about the concept of moralistic therapeutic deism, and another about people being affirmed in their okayness.)
Wonder what it would look like for the Church to speak to mentally healthy women or gear herself toward helping women get healthier (not just feel better despite the depressive approach to life and morals)? Maybe it’s the catering especially to depressed women who just want to feel better, that makes it so hard to appeal both to women and to men?
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Hm, perhaps it could be better put that the sense of guilt is unfocused and uneducated, and so tends to manifest in impersonal guilt moreso than the personal kind, unless it’s something blatantly obvious. Though my impression is that personal guilt isn’t a major feature these days, but that might just be an impression caused by it’s being so confused. In any case, I think it’s much less of a feature of the modern male mind than the sense of aimlessness and purposelessness.
I guess what I’m getting at is that it feels like the Church tends to *stop* at offering forgiveness and welcome, with only vague, general, and tepid talk about the mission aspect. For my own part, even in my most sinful moments, I tend to get a little exasperated by being ‘simply’ welcomed and forgiven; I want a sense of an organized call to action to back up my personal resolutions.
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“ I tend to get a little exasperated by being ‘simply’ welcomed and forgiven; I want a sense of an organized call to action to back up my personal resolutions.”
Bingo. Even a little bit of delving into the popular literature and devotions of Catholics before The Council™️ quickly reveals a strong tendency to focus on exactly what you have noted is largely missing today, the idea of a need for serious penance and self-denial, and not just in Lent or Advent (neither of which is observed today with anywhere near the level of prayer and self-discipline once taken for granted.) Of course, this approach naturally went along with the sacrament once formally known as Penance, but now feminized into “reconciliation.” Reconciliation is all well and good as far as it goes, but it’s only half the formula for dealing with our personal sins, in terms of our relationship with others as well as our relationship with the triune God.
I don’t necessarily advocate for a return to self-flagellation in public processions, (at least not all the time…😁), but I believe men would respond enthusiastically to a re-awakening of the sense that personal sin is a problem to be addressed through both reparation and reconciliation, based on an understanding of just how ugly and dangerous personal sin really is.