The Masculinity of The Mass
It’s quite an irritation when feminists speak on my behalf to lament the lack of participation by women in the Church, and especially in the Liturgy. For me and many of my women friends, there is no sense of rejection or denigration because we can’t be priests or shouldn’t distribute the Eucharist. It is simply the way God ordained our roles, and many women are content with that.
As a single mother, I am all too aware that my sons need a strong masculine influence in their lives. At Sunday’s Corpus Christi Mass, it was encouraging to see this masculine influence being provided by an all-male celebration of the Liturgy. It was the first Novus Ordo we had seen which particularly emphasised the manly characteristic of the Mass.
As often happens when we arrive a little late, a seat was found for us close to the front of the church. We sat behind three rows of seminarians, dressed in their surplices. On the sanctuary were several priests, deacons and bishops. The ushers were men; the choir also consisted of men from the Corpus Christi seminary. All was orderly and disciplined.
The congregation was full of lay-people of all ages and from many different nations and states of life. As well as fathers with their families and older men, there were single young men, including friends of my adult sons. Of course, there were many women as well. But I’m sure the greatest impression made upon my boys was seeing the many seminarians, around 70 in all, reverently receiving Holy Communion and then taking their places for the Eucharistic Procession at the conclusion of Mass.
There was more to this masculine aspect of the Mass than simply a lack of female attendants. There was a paternity, a fatherliness, to the distribution of the Sacred Species. The experience was like that of seeing a father providing a meal for his family. I was struck in a new way by the familial relationship of the Trinity - how God gave His Son to die for us, and then gave us His Son as nourishment in the form of the Eucharist.
At Mass, we are being fed by our Father, as at a family meal; we are like His children at table.
Priests, by virtue of their ordination to the priesthood are united among themselves in an intimate sacramental brotherhood. In individual dioceses, priests form one priesthood under their own bishop. Even though priests are assigned to different duties, nevertheless they carry on one priestly ministry for men.
Pope Paul VI
I know that in this day and age it isn’t likely that there is, in fact, complete unity among the members of a seminary. In many ways, the fabric of our beloved Church has been rent like the temple curtain and disharmony is evident in most places within Her Body. But despite that, my boys couldn’t have failed to notice a fraternal spirit among the seminarians and priests.
I was grateful that my sons, especially the older ones, had the experience of attending an all-male Mass. Apart from the Tridentine Latin Mass, which our family doesn’t often attend these days, this is a very rare thing to see. And far from being something to be despised by women in the Church, it is a thing to be embraced and received with gratitude.