At the Benedictine monastery at Clear Creek
, there are faithful who regularly attend the Hours and Mass there. I noticed there was a loose segregation by sex, nothing formal but it was enough for me to notice it. Also, on Sunday / Holy Day Mass, there would be a short homily. During the homily, the men would process around the cloister with monks while the women listened to the homily.
Of course, at a monastery there already is greater sex-segregation because the lay men are allowed limited access to the cloister, such as the refectory and grounds where women are not allowed.
Sex-segregation is a much more sane system. Obviously, we shouldn't be as crazy about it as the radical Muslims who would rape or behead a woman for being found where she is ought not to be or for showing even a flash of skin but it is better that we have a sense of gender differences than digress into social androgyny. Liturgy is the most sane place on earth, where we do ritually what we ought and behave in ways that highlight who we are (especially at a Solemn High Mass, there is so much meaning in every little action of the clergy).
For instance, most women wear pants and do not veil outside of Mass but most women at Mass wear dresses or long skirts and veil at Mass. Modesty, that is, acting and dressing with due mode
is extremely important at Mass, especially for the clergy but also for us as laymen. Part of this certainly could be the separation of the sexes (little kids excepted, of course) but it would seem to be difficult to start in a place where it has fallen out of custom. I couldn't really imagine Father standing up at a Sunday sermon and saying that all men need to be seated on the Gospel side and all women on the Epistle side. I've already seen people get up and walk out in a huff during a particularly biting sermon (such as the one on rock music)...
If the Muslims and the Orthodox Jews can have a sense of gender segregation out of modesty, we shouldn't be ashamed of doing it either.
To say that a man is an idealist is merely to say that he is a man; but, nevertheless, it might be possible to effect some valid distinction between one kind of idealist and another. One possible distinction, for instance, could be effected by saying that humanity is divided into conscious idealists and unconscious idealists. In a similar way, humanity is divided into conscious ritualists and unconscious ritualists. The curious thing is, in that example as in others, that it is the conscious ritualism which is comparatively simple, the unconscious ritual which is really heavy and complicated. The ritual which is comparatively rude and straightforward is the ritual which people call "ritualistic." It consists of plain things like bread and wine and fire, and men falling on their faces. But the ritual which is really complex, and many coloured, and elaborate, and needlessly formal, is the ritual which people enact without knowing it. It consists not of plain things like wine and fire, but of really peculiar, and local, and exceptional, and ingenious things—things like door-mats, and door-knockers, and electric bells, and silk hats, and white ties, and shiny cards, and confetti. The truth is that the modern man scarcely ever gets back to very old and simple things except when he is performing some religious mummery. The modern man can hardly get away from ritual except by entering a ritualistic church. In the case of these old and mystical formalities we can at least say that the ritual is not mere ritual; that the symbols employed are in most cases symbols which belong to a primary human poetry. The most ferocious opponent of the Christian ceremonials must admit that if Catholicism had not instituted the bread and wine, somebody else would most probably have done so. Any one with a poetical instinct will admit that to the ordinary human instinct bread symbolizes something which cannot very easily be symbolized otherwise; that wine, to the ordinary human instinct, symbolizes something which cannot very easily be symbolized otherwise. But white ties in the evening are ritual, and nothing else but ritual. No one would pretend that white ties in the evening are primary and poetical. Nobody would maintain that the ordinary human instinct would in any age or country tend to symbolize the idea of evening by a white necktie. Rather, the ordinary human instinct would, I imagine, tend to symbolize evening by cravats with some of the colours of the sunset, not white neckties, but tawny or crimson neckties—neckties of purple or olive, or some darkened gold. Mr. J. A. Kensit, for example, is under the impression that he is not a ritualist. But the daily life of Mr. J. A. Kensit, like that of any ordinary modern man, is, as a matter of fact, one continual and compressed catalogue of mystical mummery and flummery. To take one instance out of an inevitable hundred: I imagine that Mr. Kensit takes off his hat to a lady; and what can be more solemn and absurd, considered in the abstract, than, symbolizing the existence of the other sex by taking off a portion of your clothing and waving it in the air? This, I repeat, is not a natural and primitive symbol, like fire or food. A man might just as well have to take off his waistcoat to a lady; and if a man, by the social ritual of his civilization, had to take off his waistcoat to a lady, every chivalrous and sensible man would take off his waistcoat to a lady. In short, Mr. Kensit, and those who agree with him, may think, and quite sincerely think, that men give too much incense and ceremonial to their adoration of the other world. But nobody thinks that he can give too much incense and ceremonial to the adoration of this world. All men, then, are ritualists, but are either conscious or unconscious ritualists. The conscious ritualists are generally satisfied with a few very simple and elementary signs; the unconscious ritualists are not satisfied with anything short of the whole of human life, being almost insanely ritualistic. The first is called a ritualist because he invents and remembers one rite; the other is called an anti-ritualist because he obeys and forgets a thousand.