I was listening to a talk on a Lighthouse Media CD by Dr. Phillip Mango entitled Understanding the Opposite Sex. In this entertaining and informative talk Dr. Mango, a retired Marine from New Jersey now in psychology, shows how Theology of the Body (Pope St. John Paul II) and psychology can help heal our understanding of sexuality, gender, and relationships between the sexes.

What struck me the most deeply in his talk was his definition of femininity and masculinity. He said that women as feminine are made to actively receive the other, and men as masculine are made to actively initiate love and use their strength to protect and promote that love. Dr. Mango, building on the Theology of the Body, takes his definition of masculinity from the action of God the Father in the Bible. Over and over again in the Bible we see God the Father actively initiating love with His chosen people and with His Son, Jesus Christ, and then using His power to protect and promote that love even in the face of destruction, exile, and death.

As a priest in the Archdiocese of Denver I often hear about the “genius of women”, because the ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women) program was founded here. But I rarely hear about the “genius of men”. I think Dr. Mango’s definition of masculinity is one of the best I have come across, and is worthy of our consideration as men.

I began praying about this definition of masculinity soon after I listened to Dr. Mango’s talk, and I asked the Lord Jesus to help me to apply it to my life as a man of God and a Catholic priest. He led me to recognize a situation in our university ministry, specifically with one of our missionaries that seemed like a clear invitation to exercise my “masculine genius”.

One of our young female missionaries was struggling in her outreach and felt as if she were failing to be fruitful in her Bible studies and discipleship as far as numbers. I could see a creeping discouragement in the back of her mind and I decided that I would ask her if she would like to go door-to-door with me to the sorority houses. She gratefully accepted my invitation and a few days later we went to all of the sorority houses and invited the college girls to her Bible studies.

This may seem simple and insignificant, but I actually felt like more of a man after initiating a positive relationship and then using one of my strengths (my extroverted personality) to help a young female missionary to feel more confident and successful in her work of evangelization on our campus. I, as a man, actively initiated by offering her help rather than waiting for her to ask, and she, as a woman, actively received my offer and we made a great team.

How is God asking you as a man to initiate acts of love and service in the relationships in your life? If we have a relationship with God the Father our other relationships will benefit from our awareness and ability to live out our “masculine genius”, by initiating love and using our strength to protect and promote that love in the world.

  • Luis Gutierrez
  • Julie

    As a scientist and faithful Catholic, I do not see the appeal in the Theology of the Body for many reasons and your article illustrates why. To lift a quote: “I, as a man, actively initiated by offering her help rather than waiting for her to ask, and she, as a woman, actively received my offer and we made a great team” So what happens in business when one man offers his help to a corporate team and other men accept it? Must those men who accept help see them selves as being effeminate? Or is there a way to not “actively” receive help. On what basis, other than the human morphology of intercourse, is it masculine to actively initiate love and feminine to receive it. To cite the bible as the basis is flawed in its incompleteness. The Biblical image of God the Father is analogical; God doesn’t have a sex, God was never a Father in the masculine sense – unless you believe in Mormon theology. Do you consider Judith in the Bible to be behaving in an inappropriate masculine way when she initiated and plotted her own course of action to save her people, rejecting those of the male leaders? While not denying that there men and women tend to have differences, I know of no single characteristic beyond the physical procreative aspects of sex that are exclusively binary – that is, only men have them or only women have them. There are nurturing men and physically strong women….While men tend to be faster and bigger than women, there are slow, small men and women who are bigger and faster than them. I would appreciate knowing why it is so essential to define so narrowly what is masculine? I have struggled for many years to accept the Theology of the Body and just find after more and more study that the men and women I know do not function within such narrow constraints. I would appreciate a serious answer that doesn’t assume I’m some man-hating feminist.

    • Fr. Ryan

      Julie, thanks for the comment. I agree with your observations about different kinds of men and women. I wrote this article to try to show how our sexuality is not limited to sexual intercourse, but can be expressed in a non-erotic way as well. The Theology of the Body has helped me to see how masculinity and femininity can be expressed in many areas of our humanity. I also agree with you that as humans there are times when men must receive and women must initiate, but I would remind you that you are reading a post on a website aimed at speaking to men, and we do focus our scope to primarily bright masculine colors. I don’t think you’re a man hater, and I think your aversion to the Theology of the Body may be a sign that God is working on your heart in the are of sexuality. I encourage you to keep thinking and praying about it.

    • JP

      Have you read it (Theology of the Body)? If you did, the questions and problems you present would be answered by the genius of Pope St. John Paul II.