Reclaiming Masculinity in the Church

One of the biggest challenges in our world of toxic feminism and identity politics is reclaiming authentic masculinity, particularly in the Church.

Even promoting masculinity as an objective good these days is targeted as somehow bigoted, out-of-touch, <insert invective here>, which is why I was particularly pleased to listen to a new episode of The Catholic Talk Show, called “5 Things All Catholic Men Need to Start Doing Again”.

I’ve listened to several episodes of this podcast before, and while it’s good and orthodox, it generally doesn’t go deep enough for my taste, focusing more on basic Catholic education and information (I was very blessed to have parents who put me through weekly catechesis for the duration of my schooling years).

However, this particular episode struck a chord with me as it hit on something I feel is absolutely crucial in this day and age: re-masculinising the Church and the men in it.

The lack of masculinity in the Church is, I believe, one of the primary reasons there are so few men in it. This, of course, impacts directly on the entire culture of the Church including – yes, the dating scene.

The episode focuses on the Catholic men’s movement “Exodus 90”, an intensive 90-day spiritual exercise which focuses on prayer, fraternity and asceticism (self-denial). I’ve heard of this movement in the past but never really knew much about it until now.

According to executive director James Baxter, 17,000 men have been through the program over the last four years, which sounds pretty extraordinary to me.

Exodus 90 began as an exercise in seminaries to help the men overcome various “idols” – e.g. addictions, bad habits – anything working as a barrier between them and spiritual growth. The movement then expanded to the wider world. As one of the hosts says:

We’ve got it real easy. We can Uber or have any food we want delivered or we can have any sexual deviance we want delivered on our phone, we can have any sort of alcohol, we have divorce on demand, we can choose to abort our children or not support our children, we can not go to church and feel no societal impact.

…there is no structure to our lives right now and anything that appeals to us is available to us so the idea of self-denial is absolutely, incredibly necessary in today’s world because otherwise you are going to be drowned in the amount of things they are force-feeding you in this culture.

The asceticism of Exodus 90 is derived from the early desert fathers, or hermits, who practised a fairly intense form of asceticism in pursuit of spiritual growth.

It’s a really interesting discussion, which touches on another favourite topic of mine – the impact that fathers who regularly go to Mass have on the faith of their children.

I’m not g0ing to lie, Exodus 90 sounds hard, as it’s surely meant to be, but it sounds like an extremely good and encouraging movement that is sorely needed today.

But don’t take it from me, let these guys tell you:

Learn more about Exodus 90.

13 thoughts on “Reclaiming Masculinity in the Church

  1. This post starts off so promising. Giving men positive masculine role models and ideals is a worthy goal, within the church and without.
    Unfortunately, the rest of the post is a bait and switch. That the video here is a real attempt at regaining masculinity is a tenuous position at best. Of all the obstacles to masculine ideals that exist, do you really think that men in the church not living their best Christian male lives is the biggest? What, we just have to make those Christian men that already exist into better Christians and better men to fix this problem? That’d be great if it could work, but it would still be but a small step in the right direction.
    That’s not even addressing the self contradictory nature of trying to reach men in the church who Hitchings told us were practically nonexistent. Perhaps we should consider why there are so few men in churches before we preach even harder to the few males still left in the pews.
    One last note: Are these modern vices of easy laziness and self-gratification specific to men? Do women not face those same situations? If that’s the case, can we start some equivalent to Exodus 90 to teach women the same virtues? Maybe it’s simply much easier to sell a cause based on “reclaiming masculinity”, as if there’s something wrong with men right now, than if we tried the same thing on women?

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    1. I’m not sure if it is any longer true that men attend services less than women, at least among millennials. It is anecdotal, but in my state I’ve attended seven churches in the last eight years: one had 5 or so single young women attending, but the rest would usually have 1 or 2 young single men of marrying age and no young women. I sporadically attend a TLMass and there are usually 5-10 single young men and no single young women. I’ve seen statistics saying that the Orthodox churches men tend to outnumber women in general and I suspect the TLM tracks that closely. I have no experience of Protestant churches. Maybe the question is what the Orthodox are doing right. Serious liturgy and difficult fasting might be part of it.
      If you really did push these five habits on both men and women there would likely be an uptick in Catholic marriages, just because there would be more practicing Catholics and they would be more likely to meet in Parish activities.
      But I agree with you that while there are problems with men there are also problems with women, it is just easier to beat up on men.

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  2. All good advice but it won’t fix the Catholic dating problem.
    1) Go to Mass
    2) Pray the Rosary
    3) Volunteer
    4) Create fraternity
    5) Deny yourself
    6) Search high and low for a serious Catholic girl who is passably attractive and ask her out on a date
    7) Get shot down

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  3. No.
    Masculinity and piety are two separate qualities. I think one of the big reasons that there is a lack of it in the Church at the moment is because these concepts continually get confused. Most guys aren’t “spiritual” and, in fact, find “spirituality” very off putting and find the whole “feelings” and “personal Jesus” thing very uncomfortable. I think that more men would go to Church if it were a matter of duty more than a “dialogue with God” etc.
    Here’s Anthony Esolen talking about the virtue of Pietas from a Roman perspective, pay particular attention to the to his comments about the early Christians. It was a totally different form of piety that we have now or encourage in our men.
    https://youtu.be/NEE7OE8JWoI?t=130
    And here is a scene from Clint Eastwood’s Grand Torino, dealing with the subject of Masculinity. Delicate ears may not want to avert their gaze.
    https://youtu.be/VXD8yOxIPB0

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      1. Correct. Kumbayah Christianity has been toxic to masculinity. I’m not a Trad, and I recognise that the Church needs to engage modernity seriously, but their emphasis on the worship or God is totally different from today’s “Mills and Boon” approach to Christian theology.

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  4. If anything, it seems as if the Church is well on its way to purging what comparatively few men remain. The Pope Francis-led synod currently in session is considering giving women official church ministries. Let’s get real: this is really just the camel’s nose into the tent of ordaining female priests.
    Before you claim reclaim masculinity in the church, it would help if the church leadership realized that a lack of men & masculinity was a real problem that needed to be ameliorated and reversed rather than exacerbated.

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    1. I totally agree dragnet. Our church leaders are showing virtually no leadership in directing the church to where it needs to go, which in my view must involve a dedicated effort at re-masculanising the Church. Sadly though, efforts like Exodus 90 are coming through to fill the vacuum left by the prelates. However, this is a step in the right direction. Perhaps if our Shepherds spent more time looking to what their sheep are craving rather than kowtowing to the demands of the secular world and nominal Catholics we might actually get somewhere.

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  5. Firstly to be physically present we need to get the basics right- Men need to lose weight- cut out the carbohydrates, this will create the new lean you( modelled on the crucified figure of Christ) and the truth will bare itself in your now ‘reduced’ (humbled state)( oxymoronic when judged against atomic (reduction)greed)new BMI( Body Mass index). At this point physical exercise incorporated into one’s daily routine will help encourage the production of testosterone, which men need to physically and emotionally function as per their design.
    But the question is how do we get people to embrace the truth of Christianity as something that bring’s worth to life and as such something that translates into putting backsides on seats?

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