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Catholic males and worship

By Lara Pickford-Gordon


At the inauguration of The National Catholic Men’s Ministry on March 19, 2019—the Solemnity of St Joseph— at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Port of Spain, a poll was conducted asking males of different ages, why men were absent from church.

According to their responses, church is seen as something for females, it looked too feminine, men pull away from God when faced with challenges, church was not appealing like other activities, and work and relationships are given priority. “They might think they don’t need God in their lives to make it better” a young respondent said.

A census conducted for the Archdiocese during four weekends in Lent (March 4 to March 26, 2023) indicates a 19 per cent drop in Mass attendance, representing about 7,600 parishioners post Covid-19 pandemic. The information captured did not include a breakdown by sex, however, the prevailing visibility has been predominantly female at Masses.

The machismo which young males learn with statements like “big boys don’t cry”, has invertedly fuelled self-sufficiency where men “learn to count on themselves and not on God”, psychologist, Original Pain Therapist Nicholas Voisin stated in an interview.

This lesson, he commented, has been learned so well that men begin believing what they have achieved is through their own efforts and “force of will”.  He questioned how men who think this way will relate to God who is supposed to provide for their needs.

They will ask: “Where is this God you speak of, as I do not know Him. He has not been in my life.” Voisin said, “They are blind to the actions of God in their lives as they have not been taught how to see. They think they have no first-hand experience of God.”

Attitudes to Mass attendance and worship are not divorced from the social factors which Voisin has mentioned previously. The self-centred and materialistic culture has led men to emphasise money-making and “hustling” which he said cause them to lose sight of the true purpose of being of service to others.

Voisin said: “To a young man, liming, courting women, playing a video game, or earning some money is more beneficial in the short term than spending time in church singing songs and eating a piece of bread. They must ardently engage in the wealth accumulation that they have been told by society will bring them love, happiness and fulfilment.” Church attendance will not measure up as success by this standard. Voisin said: “What then would be the incentive to participate?”


Male faith models missing

The breakdown of family structures and sons raised primarily by women has resulted in absent male faith models for them to emulate. Voisin said, “While we do indeed have a significant number of sainted men, they may as well be fictional characters in these young men’s lives, as there is little opportunity for them to learn about their very human struggles, nor apply the wisdom to their own lives.”

Their prayer life and attendance at church will be influenced by their mother for a time but when this wanes, they gravitate to “something more exciting and relevant in today’s world”.

Voisin added, “As they get older the habit gets locked in and the kernel of faith remains dormant, and the older man is now uninterested in matters of Church and God. Sometimes closer to retirement and old age something changes, maybe prompted by the impending mortality, and some men try to nurture that long, dormant kernel of faith. Thankfully God is infinitely merciful, and it may not be too late.”

Voisin was asked to clarify his comment during the interview that church was not a welcoming space for men. He responded that there are challenges with the quality of catechesis in some places and faith formation is not encouraged as it should for boys and men.

He said male leadership is now a major issue and deemed “oppressive patriarchal structure”. “Healthy models in the society are separated from the homes, schools and groups where this is needed.”

To illustrate what he meant about the church being more welcoming, he said the music chosen for Mass was presented in octaves which men cannot achieve vocally and will not try.

“Women tend to pervade the administration of the parish processes and groups, and this may not be well suited to deliver uniquely masculine activities, nor to address their needs”, Voisin said.