Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 22, 2002
Author examines male spirituality
For Men Only: Strategies for Living Catholic, by Mitch Finley. Ligouri, Mo., Ligouri Publications, 1998, 128 pages.
Review by DEAN SARNECKI
Special to the WCR
It was fall of 1991. I was sitting in a class taught by Sister Teresita Kambeitz at Newman Theological College. I remember a discussion on faith development and gender differences. An article by Carol Gilligan was being discussed in the context of Kohlberg's studies on moral development and faith.
Gilligan determined that, while Kohlberg's studies did address important issues, the notion that males and females thought and developed morally the same was not true. As the course continued, Sister Teresita continued to demonstrate differences in male and female faith development that continue to intrigue me today.
As a male religious education teacher, I have learned that I must be aware of the
differences in gender in my classroom and incorporate what I know about these differences into my lessons.
I find that resources for female spirituality are quite common, but very few authors, and specifically men writing from a Catholic point of view, address this phenomena.
Mitch Finley in his award-winning book (Catholic Press Association - Best Book, Gender Issues 1999) For Men Only: Strategies for Living Catholic attempts to incorporate his knowledge of theology, psychology, sociology and personal experience to investigate male spirituality and Catholic identity.
What is Catholic spirituality for the contemporary man? This is the question that guides Finley in the book. For Finley, being male and Catholic present particular points of view and characteristics that are often overlooked by the Church and women active in the Church.
According to Finley we are living in a feminist era. Our society, our institutions and especially our Church are strongly influenced by feminism. While many look at the all-male clergy and the hierarchical authority structure of the Catholic Church as being an all-male bastion, this is opposite to the reality found in most parishes.
For much of history, while males have held the positions of power, it is the females that have been most actively involved in parish work and ministry.
Especially since Vatican II the Church, in an attempt to be inclusive, has feminized the liturgy and many of the structures and devotions that males previously could identify with. Finley believes we must be inclusive; not only sensitive to the needs of females, but attentive to the needs and spirituality of men as well.
Finley introduces many strategies to do this. He outlines the need for men to love God, to be in relationship with Jesus, to be attentive to prayer, to understand the Bible in the context of being Catholic (Finley particularly likes the masculine image of Jesus portrayed in the Gospel of Mark as one that could be attractive to men), and the role of the sacraments in a man's spirituality.
Most important however, is the male's relationship with family. This must be the centre of a man's life in a healthy spirituality. Finley addresses the need for men to be active in society, for as Catholics we are to be people of the world, not separated from the world, and to be involved with the parish but not at the expense of the family.
Together with his wife, the male is a role model to his children, a "sacrament" of sorts. Children will model what they live with and so the parents, including the men, must be models of faith.
A strong prayer life, loving relationship with God (and Jesus), a healthy balance of work, love, family commitment and parish and societal activity will demonstrate to their family and others a good strategy for living Catholic.
This book has much to say to Catholic men. Various chapters will be beneficial to all people - not just men; women would appreciate much of what Finley describes as healthy strategies for living Catholic.
I agree with some of the changes Finley suggests for Catholic parishes to be more "male friendly" and many priests and parish pastoral workers would find his suggestions, if not helpful, at least starting points for discussions on male/female roles in the parish and the evaluation of some programs.
Finley makes clear that he does not want to deal with the issue of the ordination of women and avoids the topic completely. There is some criticism that by focusing solely on male spirituality he is denying the feminine or the spirituality that men and women share.
Overall a very interesting read.
(Dean Sarnecki is chaplain and religious studies teacher at Archbishop Jordan Catholic High School in Sherwood Park.)