Patriarchy… Scary word isn’t it?

As a man who loves discussing this topic, I still have to talk myself up to do so because I am afraid of the outcome. In reality, I often have fascinating conversations about this topic with both men and women alike. Though this is by no means an easy topic to navigate, it seems that the root of the problem is simple: Why is one gender, in this case male, seen as superior over its counterpart?

Jesus and the Church, Bridegroom and Bride

Usually, the fact that I am Catholic comes up somewhere in conversations about this topic. (Boy, does that make this an even more fun conversation!) As our society continues to fuel the fire on the idea that all men have always wanted and will always want to be superior, we look for comfort in the places we know as safe havens.

But what happens when the Church and its people seem to embrace the same patterns we see in society? Where do we go for that comfort? How does this make any sense? If the God of the universe sent His only Son for our sake and He established the Church for our good, how could He think of the Church, His Bride, as less than Himself?

Spoiler alert: He doesn’t.

The reality is that our Church, the Bride of Christ, is a perfect institution established by Jesus Himself. However, it is made up of many broken members (myself included… or, myself especially) that may make it seem like the Church, as a whole, is a broken institution. Often we get caught up in the idea that because its members sometimes misuse their free will, the Church as a whole is broken; or even worse, the Church endorses the actions of its broken members.

Our beautiful Catholic Church does not praise or exalt men over women. Even if we sometimes feel that way, if we look deeper, we can see the reality of the complementarity between Christ and His Bride, which we are called to reflect in all of our human relationships. Christ is the head of the Church, not in a way that is dominating over her, but “as headwaters of a river, the source of energy and strength, in a marriage,” as Emma Jared said so beautifully.

Moreover, He gave Himself as a living sacrifice for her — the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate example of love — again, so that we may reflect this love back to the world.


Christ established the Church so that in her, the sacrifice could be freely given to all those who believed. This is not done to showcase how much greater the male is compared to the female, but because He deemed only His Bride, the Church, worthy of holding this purest sacrifice within her bosom. He deemed her worthy of lasting throughout time in the most pure form of complementarity known to man. This relationship is founded on a love so pure that it does not hinder the other; rather, it magnifies the gifts in each other to bring forth the Bread of Life.

Our Church also highlights the beauty of women through the many different examples of leadership. We have the exaltation of our most blessed mother, Mary, as the Queen of Heaven and Earth. You know the one who strikes the devil in the head and defeats him, the one assumed, body and soul, into heaven, the one carried into the heavens by cherubim and seraphim. Yeah, that one and only lady appears throughout time to help, intercede, and pray for us. She is exalted above all other earthly creatures, yet she beautifully displays her complementarity to the Son, by pointing back to Him as the way. (You can see this with your own eyes in the Byzantine icon known as Hodegetria… how beautiful is that?!) The Queen of Heaven, in all of her femininity and perfect example, still reminds us that she is not the way; she is in perfect union with Jesus, who is the way.

This was all a foreign concept to me. As I mentioned in my last post, I grew up in a very patriarchal Latino culture where the standards of being a man included playing with trucks as a kid, learning to fix cars as a teenager, drinking beer, and bottling up (no pun intended) as many feelings as you could as an adult. The idea of patriarchy was subtly ingrained in the way we lived out our everyday life. That was just the way things were.

As an upperclassman in high school, I started learning more about authentic masculinity and developing better, more authentic friendships with men around me. The sports, video games, and dumb high-school-guy-jokes were nothing new. However, being able to talk about deeper concepts and experiences was certainly different, especially in relation to women — who they were to us and who we, as men, were called to be for them. Before this, I had never been able to have these discussions that didn’t somehow end with men or women seen as superior or inferior to the other.

For love’s sake

I stumbled upon a quote once that read:

“God made woman from a man’s rib. Not from his feet to be walked on. Not from his head to be superior, but from his side to be equal. Under the arm to protected and next to the heart to be loved.”

This quote is so relevant presently, in a time when society spends so much time trying to prove which gender is superior. In this moment, we are called to run back to our safe haven, the Church. Yes, I’m referring to that 2,000 plus-year-old-institution that has flawed members; the same one everyone refers to as antiquated and outdated. The same institution created by Christ, Himself. That very same institution calls us to look at love the way it is meant to be — complementary.

So maybe patriarchy is a scary word after all because it calls men to lead in the way of Christ, thus calling women to receive that leadership in the way of the Church. It calls us all to a love like the one between Jesus and His mother, Mary. It calls us to a love like the one exhibited by men and women entering into the Sacraments of Holy Orders or Matrimony.

Jesus tells us numerous times to not be afraid. Let us choose love over fear and move forward with courage to redefine what patriarchy for Christ actually looks like. Not as one gender asserting itself as superior over the other, but rather, remembering the true meaning of love — being willing to lessen yourself and lay down your life for one another.

Editor’s note:
In this blog, the term patriarchy is used in its most basic definition: “a system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is traced through the male line.” The Church does not operate according to a more nuanced version of the term, which defines it as a power structure designed to benefit men and neglect women. Instead, by the authentic masculinity modeled in Christ, she operates according to a radical structure of mercy in light of justice and sacrifice in light of power.

About the Author

Juan Aznaran

I think one of toughest things in life is being sarcastic and Catholic, so I am still trying to find the perfect balance. I am a die-hard Patriots fan despite people’s nice comments. I’m either listening to music, playing video games, hanging out with friends, playing with my puppy (Loki), watching New Girl or Friends, or all of the above. I have not figured out exactly what it means to be a man of God, but I have learned that real men do not stand, they kneel.

Want to write for Life Teen? Click Here to learn more.