The Case for a Mass Conversion of Men

church, priest, ordination, mass

Chelsea - Mass

Despite the fact the New Evangelization has been an ongoing emphasis by the Catholic Church for over forty years, it has failed to stem the disastrous losses of the faithful in the U.S. Since 2000, 14 million Catholics have left the faith, parish religious education participation of children has dropped by 24%, Catholic school attendance has dropped by 19%, baptisms of infants has dropped by 28%, baptism of adults has dropped by 31% and sacramental Catholic marriages have dropped by 41%. Something is desperately wrong with the Church’s approach to the New Evangelization.

Of Mass and Men

One reason the New Evangelization is faltering is because it is missing men. The New Emangelization Project has documented the serious Catholic “man-crisis” in the United States. 1 in 3 baptized Catholic men have left the faith and of those who remain, 50-60% of them are “Casual Catholics”, men who don’t know and don’t practice the faith. Of those who practice the faith, many are lukewarm, not converted to the point of conviction, a conviction in which they are prepared to make disciples for Christ and His Catholic Church. The New Evangelization has largely ignored men, with no substantial or sustained efforts to directly confront the Catholic “man-crisis”.

The Catholic “man-crisis” matters. The souls of men matter and many are being lost; for example, two thirds of Christian men are looking at porn at least monthly and the numbers are much higher for younger men. The faith of the children matter and huge numbers of young people are leaving the faith because they have followed their fathers out of the Church. Without a New Emangelization in which millions of Catholic men become newly committed to Christ and His Church, there can be no New Evangelization.

While a complex set of forces have driven the Catholic “man-crisis”, including both massive cultural changes outside the Church and serious missteps within the Church, the lack of engagement of men in the Mass is a major contributing factor: men don’t understand the Mass and well-meaning, but misinformed priests in many parishes have de-sacralized the Mass causing many men to simply “drift away.”

Why is the Mass a key driver of the Catholic “man-crisis”? Research shows that almost 9 out of 10 Catholic men don’t participate in a Catholic activity outside of attending Mass; if men aren’t being reached in the Mass, they aren’t being reached. Only about 1/3 of Catholic men are attending Mass on a weekly basis. Only 1 in 50 Catholic men have a monthly practice of Confession, underscoring the fact that many are attending Mass without a proper preparation to receive the Eucharist. 48% of Catholic men are “bored” in the Mass and 55% of Catholic men don’t feel they “get anything out of the Mass.” These statistics confirm what dozens of the New Emangelization Project interviews with top Catholic men’s evangelists know: men don’t understand the Mass. No man can truly understand the Mass and be bored.

A Mass Conversion of Men is Needed

The word “conversion” comes from the Latin convertere, meaning to “turn around” and is related to the Greek word, metanoia, meaning “change of mind” (translated as “repentance” in the New Testament). Catholic men are in serious need of conversion.

A Mass Conversion of Men is needed. Millions of men (masses of men) need to have a conversion (change of mind/repentance) about the Sacrament of the Eucharist (the Mass). When there is a Mass Conversion of Men, a dramatic regeneration of the Church will occur. Men will approach the Mass with a new Grace-hungry mindset that recognizes Christ’s miraculous gift of the Eucharist and their desperate need for it. Men will begin to experience a conversion of heart and sacramentally prepare themselves for meeting Christ by going first to Confession. Men will have a deep understanding of the parts of the Mass and the profound significance of the words and gestures that are made during the Mass. Men will begin to accept a growing fullness of Grace available in the Eucharist and they will increasingly aspire to sainthood. Men will pass along their newfound reverence for Eucharist to their children through their awe, regular acceptance of the Eucharist and fervor to catechize their children.

A man-specific approach is needed. Rather than a gender-neutral catechetical approach, men will be renewed when men are gathered together by their priests and the Mass is presented to them in a masculine way. For example, the Church has a long history of speaking of the Church Militant and spiritual combat; if men have a renewed sense of the life and death spiritual battle, they will see their desperate need for the Mass. Men need to be challenged to fulfill their duty to lead their wives and children to Christ in the Mass. Rather than approaching the Mass as entertainment or self-gratification, men can be convinced about leaving the battlefield to gather with other men to give thanks and get guidance from the Eternal King. Men can recall the powerful men whose words are spoken in the Mass (e.g. John the Baptist, the Centurion, etc.). Men can reconnect with the powerful and manly history in the Liturgy of the Word. Men can be re-taught about the heroic and bloody sacrifice of Christ and the fearsome power of the miraculous transubstantiation of the bread and wine. The Mass is full of powerful elements that can resonate within a man’s heart.

Cardinal Burke and others have spoken about the de-sacralization of the Mass that has occurred in many places; this includes Masses which are priest-focused and not Christ-focused, the horizontal nature of “community” is over-emphasized while the vertical nature of the Divine Presence is de-emphasized, music which is syrupy and sentimental, a general lack of awe for the Eucharist by the priest and lay helpers, parish cultures which accept “going to the grocery store” attire and grabbing the Eucharist like a potato chip, a feminization of the Mass due to an over-representation of women and altar girls in the sanctuary, etc.

Priests are men and large numbers of priests need to have a “conversion” about the Mass. When the Mass becomes “casual”, men become casual about the Mass. The recent New Emangelization Project Helping Priests Become More Effective in Evangelizing Men Survey demonstrates that men hunger and are moved by the Mass when priests offer the Mass with reverence. Many priests need to be re-evangelized about how to infuse the Mass with greater awe and reverence and about the need to specifically evangelize and catechize men about the Mass.

Bishops and Priests need to lead the Mass Conversion of Men

The Mass Conversion of Men will require a sustained large-scale evangelization and catechesis of men about the Mass and a great movement of the Holy Spirit.   This will be a major effort, but not a complex one. The Sacrament of the Eucharist is the “source and summit of Christian life” in which the Savior gives men the bread of life. The Mass has transformed the lives of men since the Last Supper and will always transform the lives of men.   The Mass is the central focus of daily life in every parish and not an extraneous “evangelization program.” There is no greater diocese or parish priority than to ensure men can engage in the Mass. Now is the time for bishops and priests to ensure that every single man can access the eternal graces of the Eucharist.

After forty years, the New Evangelization has so far failed to reverse the growing losses of Catholics in the West. Rather than a continued parade of programs and events, the Church needs to get back to the basics; the Mass and men. When there is a Mass Conversion of Men in which millions of men and priests are evangelized and catechized to the point of conversion in the Mass, the Church will be renewed and the promise of the New Evangelization will be fulfilled.

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19 thoughts on “The Case for a Mass Conversion of Men”

  1. Agreed, Liturgy is the key. As Burke pointed out, the de-sacrilized Mass turns me off. I attend Mass out of duty, but inside I want to run out of here screaming and yelling how innane the Mass is (as it is celebrated). Another factor – priests, bishops, and now Popes that dont stand up for the tough teachings of the faith. Our new Archbishop (Chciago) cannot even bring himself to defend marriage between a man and a woman, and refuses to call abortion a sin. However, no problem talking about immigration. And now our Pope will be publishing an encyclical on the Environment. Really? Basically, the church is focused too much on social justice and not enough about the salvation of souls, sin and salvation. My prediction – after this year, a decrease in priestly vocations as a result. What young man want to give up his life for social justice causes? I barely want to be part of this Church any longer, and I am one of the ‘faithful’ ones. As Obama said recently, this is a slow-rolling crisis.

  2. Every woman at the altar as a Reader, Alter Girl or Eucharistic Minister pushes 40 men to kneel at the altar of Sports Center at St. Mattress and 10 to a proddie entertain me prayer hall…

    ‘Liturgical Dancer’ then multiply the above mentioned numbers by two…

    Your Cramner NO Service is emasculated… The Liturgy is Key…

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  5. All day long at work I hear customers and workers saying how much they hate children; how they intend to ‘get out’ – kill themselves – when they become d and feeble; how much they wish to make themselves transhuman by loading technology into their bodies; and of course, horribly, I see how they have disfigured themselves with piercings and tattoos, and how ugh the young women do to make themselves look like boys rather than girls. The evangelization of men needs above to emphasize our role as those who make life and sustain life, both of children and the aged; our role as creators and builders of the life of thought and of beauty around us. The whole society is immersed in the corporate assault on the historical life of Christendom and on the human life at the present, in which people are led to behave and look like animals. A whole approach to the life God gives us as our Creator will re-virilize men and re – feminize women.

  6. This is not what the Lord Christ or His apostles taught. They did not call men to the mass or to the sacraments but to Christ alone. It is to the gospel alone that men must be converted to and not to a church.

    1. The Acts of the Apostles show that conversion is not to ‘Christ alone’ but to Christ through His body. Jesus says to Saul, ‘Why persecute st thou me?’ not ‘Why do you persecute my followers?’

    2. Not true. Jesus calls all men to follow Him and not a church. We are to be involved in a church though. Not passively but actively.

  7. You might consider experimenting with having priests wear more flannel (the manliest of fabrics) and encourage them to grow thick, manly beards. One might also think about incorporating some P90X into the stations of the cross to appeal to the manly impulse to be fit and strong. How about replacing the sign of peace with a quick round of arm-wrestling? Wine is pretty feminine, could we get some Scotch (single-malt, of course) up in there? If a church has a thin-looking Jesus on the crucifix, consider exchanging for a more muscular model. Just thinking out loud here. Has anyone thought to contact Nick Offerman as a consultant?

  8. I think the sex abuse period caused most of the leaving on a preconscious level. It was 4% of priests who did such things but it was an entire Magisterium who failed to protect children with zeal. That caused drift in men and in children. We had no heroes protecting children amongst Popes, Bishops etc. and our diocesan press newspapers were writing about Sr. Mary’s 25 th anniversary all the time children were being raped. That to me is the major cause of drift despite what poll answers are given.

    1. The failure of bishops came through the spread of sociological and psychological falsehoods throughout the seminaries, especially the false notion that priests should be ‘comfortable with their bodies’ through I discriminate use of physical affection; and under this falsehood, a network as built up by perverted men (like an ex-president in our diocese who received protection from a rotten bishop) and bishops who opposed such notions were lambasted by ‘progressive’ lay groups and heretical priests. In other words, the people who created the crisis and used false concepts of psychological health and applied secular concepts of sociology to pastoral practice – the very ones who insisted that perverse priests still could per form their tasks, since they viewed these tasks in a non-sacramental manner – these all remain invisible, able to wash their hands of what they in fact did in advising, cajoling, pressuring, even blackmail of vulnerable bishops.

    2. To let the Popes off the hook is not being objective. “The buck stops here,” said Truman. We Catholics seem to say ” the buck stops anywhere but the top”. In 1985 St. John John Paul II appointed a priest to investigate the pedophile matter in the US after the Gauthe case which was on 60 Minutes at that time with Diane Sawyer chasing a priest witness who had not said anything. St. John Paul II did almost nothing after that until 2002…17 years later when the press exposed tons….but he had time to visit 129 countries worldwide but would not meet with any sex victims. I believe he is a saint but somewhere between death (2005) and canonization (2014) he was punished in purgatory for this and for other things like kissing the Koran which explicitly denounces the idea of the Trinity…explicitly.

    3. Popes are neither omniscient nor omnipresent, and it’s pure Monday morning quarterbacking to view the matter otherwise. And people have no historical memory or they’d recall that the late 1980s and early ’90s had brought a flood of false accusations in other instititutions, most notoriously the McMartin case, but also the fad of ‘recovered memory’ when people were being encouraged under therapeutic abuse to ‘recover’ memories of many things that didn’t happen and couldn’t have. As ever, the media and the self-appointed prosecutor ill cheer squads never mention the cases in which the claimants admitted to lying or had other mental problems or other vendetta to settle. The moral obligation to not rush instantly to believe or disbelieve every accusation required a much more systematic approach, and a period of a decade between the initial claims and inaugurating a more comprehensive approach is a very brief one. Subjectively for the real victims it was not brief; and subjectively, for the active culprits it was far too long; but the constant delighted and self-flattering immersion in general accusations of culpability is far from objective.

    4. You’re looking for excuses. This one doesn’t wash. St. Pope John Paul sent a priest to investigate the Gauthe case (not the non Church Martin case) and Gauthe was guilty…repeatedly and cost his diocese 20 million. A priest and canon lawyer in the 80’s sent the Pope a report in the 80’s that this problem was so real that it threatened to break out in major scandal….which in fact it much later did in 23 countries…because their warning was ignored. The canon lawyer was Doyle who constantly fed the papal nuncio, Archbishop Laghi, information in the 80’s and the Pope had to know much of it since he as Pope was being sued by the parents in the Gauthe case as was the papal nuncio and the diocese.

    5. The failure of bishops came through the spread of sociological and psychological falsehoods throughout the seminaries

      Any chance you could point to a specific set of troubled seminaries and/or the general time frame for when you believe these falsehoods took root?

  9. Maybe it time for men to start acting like MEN.

    It a small observation, from the parking lot.

    But it is amazing to see the girls who now carry the groceries & drive the car, while the guy just ambles along, almost like a puppy.

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