This month of March, Pope Benedict XVI issued a prayer request which was intriguing – it was about women. It was all the more intriguing for me since my eldest child – Hannah-Marie – is fast approaching her 16th birthday and has often complained about not being able to serve Mass as do her many younger brothers. The Pope’s prayer intention for March was: “That the whole world may recognize the contribution of women to the development of society.”
I thought it may be of benefit to ask some of the many prayerful and inspirational Catholic women I have been blessed to know to offer a short reflection on the Pope’s prayer intention. Here is what they had to say. I pray that you may be inspired by their words.
(The most important of those women to me – my wife Dianne – is missing form this list since she has time only to show me in her actions and love for our eight children what the contribution of women to society really is.)
Most of the women offering their reflections are well known to LifeSiteNews readers.
Gabrele Kuby, a famous Catholic author in Germany who has fought the culture war on the intellectual level, personally encouraged in her work by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) and known for her critique of Harry Potter, gender mainstreaming and the sexual revolution
Dr. Maria Wolfs (Kraw), a Toronto endocrinologist who has spoken on the abortifacient nature of contraceptive pills
Judie Brown, President of American Life League and a Member of the Pontifical Academy for Life
Mercedes Wilson, leader of one of the world’s largest natural family planning groups, former Guatemalan representative to the United Nations and a close personal friend of the late Pope John Paul II
Joanna Najfeld, a Polish pro-life leader and journalist
Stephanie Gray, the founder and President of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform and a stellar pro-life debater
Vicky Thorn, the Founder and Director of Project Rachel the organization which works toward healing women from abortion’s aftermath
Gwen Landolt, the Founder and Vice President of REAL Women Canada
Sister Mary Catherine of the Sisters of Our Lady Immaculate in Ontario Canada
Christine Vollmer, head of Venezuela’s Alliance for the Family and a founding member of the Pontifical Academy for Life
Kathleen Gilbert, LifeSiteNews.com US Bureau Chief
There are two very different social situations of women in this world where our essential contribution to the development is not recognized.
1) In societies, mostly Muslim, where the God given human equality of men and women created in the image of God is not realized and women are in many ways suppressed by men and confined to roles where they can not freely contribute their talents to society.
2) In Western countries, shaped by radical feminism and gender ideology, women are increasingly confined to the masculine role of employment. Our essential and irreplaceable gift of motherhood, of giving life to children, building a stable family environment with our husbands and forming our children to become loving, responsible and capable human beings, is not valued by society and made increasingly difficult to fulfill.
Whatever our education and job, in our hearts we want to give ourselves so that life can prosper. May the prayer of the Holy Father and the Chruch be fulfilled in both situations.
What is the contribution of women to society that we are called to recognize? Rather than focusing on the negative influences which have infected society in a misguided effort to free women from the evils of oppression and discrimination, the Holy Father is calling us to recognize the positive gifts that women bring to the world around them.
Through her generosity, a woman calls forth the gift of self from others around her, helping build up a civilization of love. A woman’s sensitivity recognizes in the weak and vulnerable of society their inherent dignity and worth. Nurturing those around her in spiritual, emotional and physical ways, she allows God’s life-giving love to transform society at its very core.
Her gifts serve to compliment those of a man, establishing a partnership that allows their gifts to multiply exponentially. Rather than diminish or dominate him, she edifies and calls forth the strength of a man, encouraging him to live fully his vocation as priest, husband, father, and protector.
Let us therefore join the Church in prayer this month, expressing our gratitude to God for the authentic gift of women in society. May Our Lady intercede for all women, that in imitation of her, they may live fully the graces that God has given them in the gift of their femininity.
Over the years I have come to realize that among the greatest gifts the Lord has given to me, the most miraculous is my womanhood. By concentrating on the Blessed Mother and her FIAT it has become abundantly clear to me that women are specially chosen by God to be His nurturers in so many ways. Women bring a soft yet constant strength to the family, to the culture and to the Lord no matter what our vocation.
One of my most cherished insights from Pope John Paul II is that “Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts. They see them independently of various ideological or political systems. They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them. In this way the basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty-not merely physical, but above all spiritual-which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women.”
As I travel all over the world and meet women from all walks of life, I never cease to be amazed at the untiring sacrifice that women offer to their whole family, particularly her children. Her love and dedication to them is, in a way, a reflection of the love of God for humanity. His Holiness John Paul II once told me that Jesus always had a special love for women, because He recognized their loyalty to Him and appeared to them first after He Resurrected.
Satan hates Mary, Mother of God, for bringing Jesus into this world. That’s why he hates all women and everything feminine. This explains why true womanhood, especially motherhood, is under such attack today.
Women contribute to the development of society primarily as wives and mothers, not as career women. The role of wives and mothers is so often underestimated and taken for granted. It is even denied and ridiculed by radical feminist ideologues who usurp for themselves the right to speak on behalf of women.
The idea that women contribute to society only if they mimic men is simply offensive to billions of women heroically fulfilling their vocations as wives or mothers, without whose selfless efforts societies would simply not exist. Feminists keep telling these heroic women that their lives don’t matter unless they pursue a career outside of home. How idiotic is that. How ungrateful.
We need to pray so the world doesn’t buy into this lie, so we never forget how much we all owe to women heroically fulfilling their call to marriage and motherhood.
As I think about our Holy Father’s intention for this month, I think about the women I know who have contributed to the development of society. In particular, I think of my own mother who tirelessly and sacrificially loved my sister and me, who was very present in our lives and yet also juggled working as a nurse and volunteering for pro-life and at our schools. As my mom reveled in the joy of motherhood, she strove to help other women embrace motherhood—she served at the local pregnancy centre, counseling scared girls and helping single mothers. I also think of my three best friends who, as doctors, intelligently and compassionately minister to the wounded and sick. And I think of my dear friend I’m currently staying with as I’m “on the road” on a speaking tour, and I think of her hospitality, her warmth, and her servant’s heart in making my stay as pleasant and comfortable as possible.
Women, by our nature, are created to bring forth and nourish life. When a seedling is nourished, it grows into a mighty tree to provide shade and beauty for those around it. A woman’s nature of bringing forth and nourishing life doesn’t have to come in the physical form of biological motherhood, but can also come in the spiritual form of having a mother’s heart to all we encounter—compassion, empathy, receptivity, and warmth. When we do that, we positively contribute to the development of society, making it a place of virtue, self-sacrifice, patience, beauty, and love.
The contribution of women throughout the ages has been enormous but most often unrecognized and unappreciated, especially from a contemporary perspective. Because women can’t be priests, all other gifts freely given through history are ignored. It is the case that from the time of Jesus, women are the pragmatic responders. They see a need and develop a way to meet that need. Women have cared for the sick and educated the young when no one else was doing it. Women are the lynch pin in society. They have born children, fed the Lord, sustained family systems, been scientists, authors, artists, nurses, educators , cloistered women devoted to prayer and the list goes on. There is no corner of society that has not benefitted from the contribution of women. The prayer of the Holy Father calls attention to the unique contributions of women. It is worthwhile to reread the Dignity of Women and the Genius of Women, the documents of Blessed John Paul II to truly appreciate the scope of women’s contributions. It is time to name the truth!
Women are equal to and as capable as men, but women, like men, are unique. Part of women’s uniqueness comes from the great gift God has given them to be the heart of creation. Women carry the precious unborn child during its first early months in the womb, give birth and then nurture the child, giving to him/her the gift of unconditional love. This gift gives the child a sense of self-worth, belonging and safety, which carries and protects that child throughout his/her life. It provides not only comfort, but also a strong armour to protect their children when difficulties, inevitable in every life, occur.
Women share another unique gift for humanity – that is, intuition and sensitivity. In general, women are able to quickly sense the pain and discomfort of others and are unhesitating in reaching out to lessen that pain. Seldom do women turn away from those in need: they care too much to do so.
Women’s intelligence and capability, together with their intuition and sensitivity can smooth the path for others, whether in the home, industry, the courts, halls of learning, offices, hospitals or the factories. Women belong in all places, according to their interests, needs and talents.
Women may not have the physical prowess of men, but women provide a different, equally important strength and contribution, which reaches out to everyone, in all walks of life, and assists them in their life’s journey.
Sr. Mary Catherine
Flipping through the pages of history, one cannot help but notice women’s handiwork in every aspect of society, especially in the Church. The silent tears and love of many a St. Monica for her children have brought to fruition great souls that ardently loved God and built up His Kingdom here on earth. The love and prayers of many a Clotilda for their husbands have brought about great conversions and have even led whole nations to the practice of the Faith. The passionate love and zeal of the many St. Catherine of Siena’s for God and men have provided countless souls with spiritual and physical relief and have been an inspiration to great men in the Church. The writings of the St. Teresa of Avila’s have filled the minds of countless souls with truth and beauty. Finally, the quiet prayers and sacrifices of many a St. Therese of Lisieux have appeased the justice of God and have obtained graces for many souls. And still today numerous women continue to unite their voices with this chorus that has been sung throughout all of history, under the direction and guidance of the greatest women of all time, the Blessed Mother.
The Holy Father is asking the Holy Spirit to inspire mankind once again with an understanding of the beauty and importance of the unique and proven contribution of women to the development of civilization and of every child born.
The versatility, fortitude, tenderness, and capacity to understand human situations which are the particular gifts of the female brain have been overlooked by a culture which only glorifies the masculine and the material. And so also the “feminine genius” as Blessed John Paul would call it.
The Holy and Blessed Virgin Mary, as the essence and epitome of womanliness, considered for centuries the example for women, must once again be our inspiration and our aid.
Pope Benedict has hit upon a beautiful truth with this statement - notwithstanding those who might scratch their heads and wonder if it was a kowtow to the feminist masses. It wasn’t. The truth is, at the heart of Christian civilization stands the full-blossoming of woman as its crowning glory and even, in a way, its defining characteristic.
A world in which women have the freedom to enrich the world with their unique ability to truly humanize relationships, a world that protects them from repression, marginalization, or redefinition by the myriad forces that would snuff out this delicate humanization in the warpath of greed and power, is the mark of a truly Christian society.
I pray that, by joining in Pope Benedict’s intention, we may receive from God the grace once more to honor and exalt woman as she bears in her arms the ultimate symbol of her personalizing, fruitful love: her own child.