Fishing for Men

Originally published in The Catholic Faith magazine, July-August 1996
Originally published in The Catholic Faith magazine, Nov-Dec 1999

The predominance of women in the Catholic Church opens a remarkable avenue for evangelization. Millions of Catholic men are not receiving the sacraments and other graces that would help them realize their greatest desire in eternity.

If we are to bring in more men we had better add some intensely masculine themes to the feminine themes already in place.

Spiritual War

The Catholic Church has three divisions: The Church Militant serves us in this life, the Church Suffering serves the poor souls in purgatory, and the Church Triumphant serves the blessed souls in heaven. The Church Militant is built for war. The struggle between good and evil is its great passion. Tradition informs us that when God created the angels He tested their obedience by telling them that his Son would live as a man and that a woman would be queen over them. A third of the angels, led by a cherub named Lucifer, rebelled, crying Non Serviam, “I will not serve.” St. Michael, the archangel who led the holy angels defending heaven, prevailed. Rabbi Yeshua cast Lucifer out of heaven down to the earth, and changed his name to satan (Hebrew: accuser). Satan continued his war against God on earth by destroying the immortal souls of God’s children, mankind, whom God so loved that He made us in his own image, and sent his only begotten Son to redeem us. How often have we heard someone speak of the Church Militant? How often has a priest processed toward the altar while the organist played and the congregation sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…” The first stanza ends, “His truth is marching on.”

The spiritual war is deadly serious. Adam and Eve bore two children who fathered progeny. Cain’s line was evil. Seth’s line was good. But after several generations, “The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose” Gen 6:2. Evil women are generally more attractive to men than good women; evil women seek to attract every man around them while good women only want to attract the man they love. Seth’s line were “mighty men that were of old, the men of renown” Gen 6:4, but the evil women of Cain’s line seduced and corrupted them. The Lord saw that evil was all over the earth, so he destroyed mankind in a 40 day torrent of water Gen 7:12 and started again with Noah and his family.

St. Paul told us, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” Eph 6:11. Rabbi Yeshua gives us armor. “Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” Eph 6:14-17.

The great churches and monasteries for centuries have been fortresses in the spiritual war. The architecture emphasized high ceilings and vertical lines to concentrate the pew-sitter’s mind on heaven. Beautiful paintings on the ceiling inspired us to look up in wonder. The thick walls suggested a fortress, as if this house of God could not be penetrated by evil spirits.

Modern churches often have low ceilings and horizontal lines that concentrate our minds on ourselves as congregation. Lex aedificandi, lex orandi. As we build, so we pray. Many parishioners today pray the Our Father, a prayer aimed straight up to heaven, holding hands as if paying more attention to their friends than to Almighty God.

The Catholic Church has traditionally presented Rabbi Yeshua’s message that we are to love God and love one another in a feminine context. We are to have a personal relationship with Rabbi Yeshua. Women are the artists of personal relations, the healers and nurturers who daily surrender themselves to the man they love.

We need to emphasize that Christ’s message was also robust. From the beginning, our Father made us in his image and likeness Gen 1:27. His Messiah taught us the full implications of what that meant. In the New and Eternal Covenant he gives himself to us, all that he is and all that he has, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. We give ourselves to Him, all that we are and all that we have, body, blood, soul and humanity, by being more like him than like the fallen humanity we are. He told us, “You have heard that it was said, ’You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Mt 5:43-44. Fallen humanity is filled with hate. Rabbi Yeshua’s faithful are filled with love.

We are to do this, moreover, even as the principalities and powers do all they can to interfere. Rabbi Yeshua was locked in mortal combat with Satan during every moment of His public life. Sometimes it looked tranquil on the surface, as when he gave the Sermon on the Mount, or when he fed a crowd of thousands with a few loaves and fishes. At other times, when he went into the desert for forty days of temptation, or on that lonely night in Gethsemane, the war was plainly visible. Rabbi Yeshua knew that Satan was constantly shadowing him to distract his followers.

Holy Mother Church is called to proclaim his robust teaching. Rabbi Yeshua, the perfect homilist, said what had to be said whether or not his listeners wanted to hear it. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” Mt 23:27. Homilists willing to stand up and open fire on the sins their parishioners most often commit are few and far between. Fewer still are prepared to place those sins squarely in the context of a war between Rabbi Yeshua and Satan that has continued from the beginning of man’s days.

When God sent Jonah to Nineveh, Jonah tried to go the other way. God put him there anyway. Let us pray, first of all, that Rabbi Yeshua will take hold of those among his clergy who are timid and put them on the front lines whether they want to be there or not. We have free will, but when a man accepts ordination into Holy Orders he takes on an irrevocable duty to imitate Rabbi Yeshua.

Orthodox Jews attract plenty of masculine men, perhaps because their faith is robust. They see God as a father defending his covenant family, leading them out of Egypt by a path calculated to sustain their courage with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When the Israelites came to the Red Sea the pillar of cloud moved between them and the Egyptians, holding back the Egyptians until the Israelites could cross the Red Sea between walls of water, then releasing the Egyptians so that they were all drowned as the waters closed over them. Again and again, the Lord led the Israelites to military victory until they turned their backs on his covenant, and then he took back the land that he had given them.

Neutered Language
Rabbi Yeshua’s historical particularity has long been a thorn in the side of feminists. He came as a man. A man! He spoke always of Abba, His heavenly Father, and called only His earthly mother Ima. What a mother she was, a virgin. Not just a virgin before marriage but all her life. Feminists so addicted to sex that they will kill for it are not interested in “making women feel better” in Church. They are interested in replacing the Word of God with the words of feminism.

The smoke of feminism has entered the Catholic Church in part through a transformation of language that defaces the Word of God. Its advocates call it “inclusive language” to move the debate away from whether the language does include to whether it should include. Since Holy Mother Church welcomes all who come in faith, calling the style inclusive concedes the argument. Calling it neutered lets all concerned see what it is, an artifice carefully designed to make false appear true.

Traditional language is inclusive. Scripture says so: “Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created” Gen 5:2 Catholic liturgy also uses traditional language to include. “For us men and for our salvation” refers to all humanity. The Latin is propter nos homines, from the root that names our human species: homo sapiens. Not the masculine vir but the all-encompassing homo.

Real men are put off by sexual ambiguity. They want their men masculine and their women feminine. God is vividly personal, bargaining with Abraham, Gen 18:23 revealing himself to Moses, Ex 33:19 and becoming incarnate to redeem his covenant family. Rabbi Yeshua’s Last Supper talk to his Apostles Jn 14-16 and prayer to the Father Jn 17 reveal his awesome personal love for us. Neutered terms such as Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer hide God’s magnificent personality under a catalog of functions.

We can start by making sure we own the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE) of Holy Scripture, the non-neutered translation used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Scepter offers a beautiful leather-bound edition with gold-edged pages. Ignatius offers a fine edition at a lower price in both hard and soft cover. Spain’s University of Navarre publishes the separate books of the New Testament in RSVCE editions with parallel New Vulgate and extensive notes. Some Catholics prefer the Douay-Rheims, a literal translation of the Church’s official Bible, which at that time was St. Jerome’s Vulgate, the Sixto-Clementine edition of 1592. (The New Vulgate, published in 1979, is the Church’s attempt to reconstruct, as closely as possible, St. Jerome’s original Vulgate in light of modern text-critical techniques.)

We can continue by peppering our bishops with polite requests that the RSVCE be read in the Liturgy of the Word. Most bishops hear from feminists all the time; if they don’t hear from true Catholics who understand linguistic dynamics they will follow the path of least resistance.

The Sanctuary
We now have women lectors, altar girls, even women serving as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. When men whose faith is marginal see all this, they think of parish life as something for women.

Every woman who wants to see more men in her parish church should seriously consider giving up her sanctuary ministry and asking her pastor to appoint a man in her place. If there are not enough men, women can try to bring their husbands in by explaining that they are needed in this ministry that is traditionally done by men.

Jewish law wisely requires a minion for most public prayers. At least ten Jewish men must be present for the prayers to be said aloud. Raised a Jew, I did not go regularly to the synagogue, but on many occasions I was asked to join nine other men so they could pray certain public prayers together. It had the effect of pulling me in. Once in, I found the prayers pleasant and always felt refreshed afterward. Perhaps pulling in men for the sanctuary ministries will work. It is worth a try.

Some of us love our ministries because they give an opportunity to be seen and admired by everyone. Rabbi Yeshua warned us, “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” Mt 6:1. Holy Mother Church does not exist to make us happy, but to make us saints.

The Blessing
The Catholic man is the head of his family. St. Paul taught us, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” Eph 5:25. The Catholic husband, modeling Rabbi Yeshua, makes decisions to benefit his family rather than himself. He does not say, “I am the head of this family,” but, “Christ is the head of this family. We will follow him.” When we look at the perfect family, we see that Joseph always obeyed God and protected Jesus and Mary.

These days, with feminism whistling constantly about our ears, it is hard for a man to be the head of his household in a Catholic sense. Perhaps the tradition of the head of household asking God to bless his family each morning or evening could be helpful. He can place his hands on his wife’s shoulders and say a blessing such as the one God taught to Moses, “The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” Num 6:24-26. He can repeat it for each of his children. In this way he can make visible his headship while serving the needs of his wife and children ahead of his own.

The Bottom Line
Highlighting the spiritual war in which the Church Militant is our fortress will awaken many more Catholics to the struggle for their immortal souls. It will particularly stir the souls of many men who now see the Church as something for women. Every man, and every woman who loves a man, should report for duty at the parish recruiting center.

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