One common complaint you hear among Catholics, particularly the more traditionally inclined, is that the liturgy has been feminised, or become effeminate.
I sense that men don’t connect with liturgy because it has become effeminized in America. The music is very feminine. The touchy-feely “hold hands” mentality has entered into our liturgies.
I get what people are trying to say when they say things like this. And to some extent, I agree. But honestly, it bugs me.
Just so we’re absolutely clear, the “touchy-feely, hold my hand, while we sing about Jesus my boyfriend who lives in a land of rainbows” isn’t feminine, it’s just trite.
It’s a perversion of authentic femininity. Women are strong. We like hard work. We need the Truth. We want to adore the Lord worthily, to make hard decisions, and to conquer sin in our lives by the Precious Blood of Christ.
For example, in some ways, I’m your typically emotional, touchy-feely female (if you have any doubts on that score, just read this blog… I over-share waaaay too much!) But you know what one of my favourite chapters in the entire Bible is? Ephesian 6. Yeah, the one about putting on the whole armour of God to stand against the wiles of the devil: the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. (St Joan of Arc is totally with me on that one.)
I know I need the armour of God and the graces of the Mass and a rigorous and beautiful liturgy. Otherwise, weak that I am, I’ll fall off this bandwagon quicker than I got on it. What I don’t need — or want or enjoy — is a banal hymn about how Jesus is my buddy and how great we all are, gathered here around this table.
Because seriously, if my primary goal was good fellowship, I’d join a bookclub. If it was a lovely meal, I’d go home for dinner. And if it was nice and uplifting feeling, I’d just have a glass of wine. I’m here for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
That said, I think many — including Dr. Marshall — would be the first to say the same thing. The problem, I think they would go on to say, is not that the wishy-washy liturgy is feminine but that modern liturgy has become too feminine, and so lost that essential balance of masculinity and feminity which is at the heart of all true beauty and dignity.
But again, I don’t think that’s quite right.
I mean, if most modern liturgies really were overly feminised, wouldn’t they at least be super pretty and elaborate? Wouldn’t there be a whole lot more of this?
Wouldn’t we at least have pretty stuff like incense, and lace, and candles, and flowers, and gold, and embroidery, and all those lovely things? How much more feminine can you get? (Ooooh, how about crotchet vestments?? No?)
And yet, it is the Latin Mass that looks like someone’s ransacked my Pinterest boards and not the supposedly feminised contemporary masses.
In fact, I think you can argue just as much that the problem with liturgy is that it has been overly masculinised, in the sense that it has been rationalised to a reductive fault.
It’s like an engineer (bless their hearts) got a hold of it and went, “OK boys, here’s the plan! We’re cutting this thing down! No repetitions! No bowing and scraping to anyone! I want the simplest vestments, barest walls, and shortest prayers you can find! Oh, and I’m cutting as many mentions of Mary, the saints, and the angels as I can! Because dude, we want to get in, do this thing, and get outta there. Let’s move it!”
Of course, that’s a gross mischaracterisation and an affront to men. That’s why I don’t call bad liturgy “masculinised.” But equally, I think it’s unfair to women to describe plain, inoffensive, milquetoast liturgy as feminised.
The problem with much of modern liturgy isn’t that it is overly feminised or overly masculinsed. It’s that it’s overly humanised in all the wrong ways. It is preoccupied with me, rather than with God — with what I’m feeling and what I thinking and how much time it’s taking and whether it’s “modern” and “effective” and “down-to-earth.”
All that focus on me strips the liturgy of that sense of beauty and strength. Our masses should have that sense, in order to manifest in the physical world what we know to be true in the spiritual world: that there is no One so beautiful or strong or good or worthy as the Lord of Life Himself.
So please, no more calling it “feminised” liturgy. Can’t we just call it what it is?