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By Marcus Leong, a writer at Clarifying Catholicism.

In my first semester in the United States after coming from Malaysia, I remember realizing how I had never, in my life, heard the words “feminine” or being a “feminist” so many times on so many occasions. I come from a very apolitical background, so I remember being confused how gender could be made into such a political issue. With so much, sometimes even too much, societal attention today on women’s rights, feminism and all things women, Western society has lost the sense of authentic masculinity and it is my conviction that our world today is in desperate need of just that: the restoration of true, authentic, Catholic masculinity is indispensable in our call to Christianize society.

I recently listened to a homily from Fr. John Hollowell, of the archdiocese of Indianapolis, in which he asserts how the Catholic Church teaches and affirms what various philosophers, especially Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, have taught and written about the natural law. The natural law is an essential theory that our postmodern culture today largely fails to accept. This natural law affirms that things are made with a nature, and if they deny their nature, disaster will ensue.

Men by nature are masculine, and the Catholic Church’s understanding of masculinity can be summed up in one word: sacrifice. Men are hardwired to sacrifice and to give ourselves for others. Think about our physical and biological makeup for a second. Our sexual organs are designed to perform an act of sacrifice. They are designed to enable us to empty ourselves and to give ourselves completely to the woman we love.

Masculinity is written in our hearts by virtue of being a male. However, we need to choose to put into action that which is written in our hearts. We need to utilize our intellect and will to act according to that which we are called to be. This has unfortunately become increasingly difficult in our society today, which lacks the presence of authentic masculine men. When we live in a culture that represses that which is written on our hearts, it is very difficult to live according to that which we are called to be. With a lack of authentically masculine role models, many young men fail to live a life of self-denial and self-sacrifice, but instead fall into two extremes.

According to Fr. John Hollowell, the two extremes and counterfeits of authentic masculinity are on the one hand domination, and on the other hand passivity and softness. Men who embody the characteristics of domination and arrogance, are those prone to committing acts of physical and sexual abuse, and are concerned primarily with their own pleasure. They are also those who do good works for the sake of being seen. They engage in acts of self-sacrifice, but without a genuine intention. Instead of being sincerely concerned about the person whom they are helping, they use them as a means to pump up their own chest.

The other counterfeits of authentic masculinity are those who are navel-gazers and serial complainers. They are soft, whiney and dissatisfied with everything in life. Instead of embracing their struggles with courage and confidence, they loathe themselves in self-pity and expect people to solve their problems for them. These two extremes have an important similarity: narcissism. Those in either extreme are concerned primarily with themselves, and fail to live lives of self-denial and self-sacrifice.

The ultimate masculine role model that we as men should look to, is the person of Jesus Christ. Christ did not inflate His own chest when His hands were stretched out on the cross; neither did He whine and complain. We need to heed closely to His words:

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow Me.”
~ Matthew 16:24

We are not the center of the world. We should be attached neither to our own fleeting emotions, nor to our opinions so as to fall into intellectual pride. We should be attached to God, and God alone. Being masculine isn’t about being muscular or good at sports, neither is it merely about being aggressive or assertive. It is about sacrifice.

Jesus Christ showed us what it means to be a true man. He laid down his life, so that others might live. He did so not for Himself, but out of love for all of humanity. Can we do the same?


This article was originally published on, a website committed to demystifying Catholic doctrine. Please be sure to check out their site, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter for more great content!

Marcus Leong is from Malaysia and enjoys discussing the differences and similarities between Catholic culture across the world. He is studying an International Economics and Finance Major at the Catholic University of America.

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6 thoughts on “Masculinity”

  1. Avatar
    STEVE Anthony ABRIL

    Marcus Leong you are ‘spot- on’ with your insight. GOD has truly Blessed you in your writing of this article.

  2. Avatar

    Your church teaches that women are inferior failed males, and only have the image of God through our connection to males; women in ourselves are just flesh, worthless and useless. Women are not and cannot be the Image of Christ. We must submit to our husbands forever for whatever he demands, because to do otherwise diminishes his position as ‘head of the household.’ We can complain to a priest, who will tell us to go back and submit harder. You state here that domination is not ‘authentic masculinity,’ but nowhere does your church or conservative politicians put ANY shoe leather into restricting that domination. Masculinity REQUIRES that men beat and abuse women; any male who is kind and gentle is not being masculine.

    1. Avatar

      Dear Karen, you have received a distorted view of Catholic teaching on the dignity of women. In fact, the Catholic Church honours a woman as “our tainted nature’s solitary boast” (William Wordsworth). She is the Queen of Heaven, the one human closest to God, being the Daughter of the Father, the Mother of the Son, and the Spouse and Temple of the Holy Spirit. From Mary we learn how to love God.

      As philosopher Alice von Hildebrand notes:
      ‘St. Teresa of Avila and St. Peter Alcantara say that many more women than men receive extraordinary mystical graces, and if you study the history of mysticism you will be amazed how many more women than men were mystics. Why? They are more receptive and you see, towards God we are all females. A saint becomes a male saint because he learned to be receptive to God’s grace. “Give it to me, O Lord, I cannot do it by myself”.’

      ‘Natural strength cannot compete with supernatural strength. This is why Mary, the blessed one, is “strong as an army ready for battle.” And yet, she is called “clemens, pia, dulcis Virgo Maria.”’

      ‘In his encyclical Marialis Cultus, Pope Paul VI comments:
      “The modern woman will note with pleasant surprise that Mary of Nazareth, while completely devoted to the will of God, was far from being a timidly submissive woman or one whose piety was repellent to others; on the contrary, she was a woman who did not hesitate to proclaim that God vindicates the humble and the oppressed, and removes the powerful people of the world from their privileged positions.”‘

      Philosopher Edith Stein teaches on the importance of women in governance:
      “The maternal attitude is essential, for example, in policy making. We can think of many examples of how the sensitivity of women and their person-oriented attitude is needed in all kinds of policy making in the various government departments. For example, the person-oriented attitude of women in drafting health care programs, which affect individual people, is absolutely nec-essary in an area as sensitive as the access to and affordability of medi-cal care. Moreover, whether in the department of education in areas such as school funding, which effect things such as after school care programs; or in the department of health and human services, which in-cludes foster care programs; and the department of homeland security with the sensitive and ever more complex issue of illegal immigration and the breakup of the family; or the department of housing and urban development that offers low income families the ability to rent afforda-ble apartments; and the department of transportation, which determines where bus stops will be placed. These are all but a few examples of places where the feminine genius and the marriage of reason and feeling are needed to remember the person and the concrete human condition.”

      It is Rwanda, which is 80% Catholic, which has a female majority in government:

      All Catholic women are part of the baptismal priesthood. Men alone are in the ministerial priesthood as they represent Christ the Bridegroom; the ordained ministry is at the service of the baptismal priesthood (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1120), i.e. the men are serving everyone else! The Pope is the Servant of the Servants of God. The church hierarchy is not meant to be about power, but humility and sacrifice. Women have a special and different role to play.

      “… the cross is a true sacrifice, as is the sacrifice of the altar which re-presents it. Thus, it remains linked not only to the darkness of the human heart but to the specific problem of male violence. Serving on the altar is actually a healthy form of humiliation for men and boys, for it constitutes a confession of their wicked hearts; God’s restriction of sacrifice to males in the Tabernacle, Temple, and beyond is a back-handed compliment.”

  3. Avatar

    I think the author needs to pay more attention to women to learn true examples of sacrifice. Does he really think men using their “sexual organs” for a short act driven by desire is even remotely the equivalent sacrifice of women, who face monthly menstrual cycles, nine months of pregnancy, morning sickness, the pain of child birth, nursing and, most often, primary responsibility for the early years (at a minimum) of child rearing? Feminism is not about making everything feminine. It asserts that characteristics such as sacrifice, courage, responsibility, duty, etc are neither masculine nor feminine. Both men and women are called to it, experience it and make choices to accept and/or embrace them, or not. The author’s lack of familiarity with feminism growing up really shows. Perhaps becoming better acquainted with it will assist him in his quest to understand “sacrifice.”

    1. Avatar

      Thank you for your comment, John. I do not think Marcus is saying that women do not sacrifice. Rather, men and women are called to sacrifice in different ways, according to our natures, and as reflected even in our bodies, how we give of ourselves to one another.

      “Male custodianship of the sacred is also linked to sacrifice. Although offering oneself as a sacrifice is equally incumbent on both sexes (Rom 12:1), men are the only ones in the Bible who offer physical immolations. Scripture doesn’t say why, but we may hazard a guess. Men after the Fall are the violent sex, more likely to have recourse to bloodshed as a means of obtaining what it wants. While this does not deny that women can also be violent, it does explain the causes of war, the population of our prisons, and the consumer demographic of video-game players.

      God’s strategy appears to have been to channel the postlapsarian male’s propensity for violence away from murder toward animal sacrifice as a way of helping him recognize his devious impulses and repent.”

      ‘This image from Virgil captures man’s desire to serve others first and place himself last. Will Durant, the historian who wrote The Story of Civilization, explains this virtue in a more whimsical way. He observes that, according to perennial wisdom, women are the slaves of children and men are the slaves of women. However, men themselves have no slaves to complete their tasks.

      Noble men, of course, are not literally the “slaves” of their wives or children, but they do not complain about suffering burdens or performing menial tasks, whether walking a colicky child during the early morning hours or driving children three hours to a swim meet competition that lasts five minutes. Strong men do not beg for slaves to do their work or whine about doing their duty. They value the privilege to serve women and children and others who depend upon them. This virtue of chivalry makes men honorable, knightly, and magnanimous as the famous Don Quixote demonstrated — the knight of the rueful countenance who vowed fidelity to his beloved Dulcinea and pledged the defense of widows and orphans regardless of the mortifications or defeats he suffered for his ideals.’

      ‘… women, by their very nature are more receptive than men. You see this in the mystery of the sexual sphere. The woman is receptive, which doesn’t mean passive. That was one of the dreadful confusions made by Aristotle, that he identified passivity and receptivity and then declared the male superior to the female, which is a pagan nonsense.

      The woman has a great advantage over the human male, she is receptive and religiously speaking, receptivity is a crucial virtue. The Holy Virgin taught us that when she said at the Annunciation “Be it done to me according to Thy Word”. She wasn’t doing, she said “be it done”. In other words she was receptive and her receptivity enabled the Holy Spirit to fecundate her and at that very moment the Son of God was made incarnate in her womb.

      St. Teresa of Avila and St. Peter Alcantara say that many more women than men receive extraordinary mystical graces, and if you study the history of mysticism you will be amazed how many more women than men were mystics. Why? They are more receptive and you see, towards God we are all females. A saint becomes a male saint because he learned to be receptive to God’s grace. “Give it to me, O Lord, I cannot do it by myself”.’

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