“Large numbers of people followed him, and women too, who mourned and lamented for him.” (Luke 23:27)
Praying the Stations of the Cross this Lent, I was struck by the meditation regarding the 8th Station: Jesus Meets the women of Jerusalem. The Apostles, those burly fishermen and militaristic Zealots, all fled and hid, while it was the women who followed Jesus on His way of the Cross. Only John the Apostle had the courage to stick it out. This notion that religion is for “women and children” is rampant in our culture today, too.
This poses a rather serious problem, since research shows just how much of an impact the father has on the religious beliefs of his children. According to the linked study, a child’s religious involvement—continuing into his or her adult years—is almost exclusively shaped by the religious conviction of his or her father. Surprisingly, the religious practice of the child’s mother is negligible! If the father is devout, even if the mother isn’t, the odds are extremely high that his children will be, too.
So the question again, is, where are the men? It seems we have allowed this stereotype, that religion is a womanly thing, to become more than a sneer and grow into a norm. As I write this, ironically, the day after “International Women’s Day”, I think we must acknowledge that as a radical, egalitarian feminist ethic has been allowed to infiltrate Christianity, the Church has itself been unduly feminised. Men very often simply feel that there is nothing for them.
The fact that a man’s impact is so strong on his children (in more ways than simply their religious devotion, too), lends strong credence to the importance of the all-male priesthood of the Catholic Church. These men, who live such surrender, self-sacrifice, and faith, may very well be the only men who take their faith seriously that any child ever sees!
The irony, it seems to me, is that in an era of violence and crusades, religious orders popped up everywhere to the extent that the 4th Lateran Council had to curtail the formation of new ones, and the ones that were permitted grew exponentially! Now, when all we hear sitting in the pews is about how to be nice to one another, from fluffy, toothless homilies, the men are bored. They’d rather be watching hockey, football, or UFC. Is it any wonder? Is there perhaps a reason why men attend Traditional Latin Mass in proportionally greater numbers?
Why was John the only man at the cross? It was because he knew Jesus, he knew His heart, and leaned against it at the Last Supper (John 13:23-25). Men won’t be attracted to a wimpy religion, but they will be attracted to the strong Saviour. Patronising, feel-good homilies won’t win men’s hearts. Only a real experience of the fiery, thorn-encircled Heart of Jesus will do that, manifested in a religion that has, pardon the expression, balls.
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