Letters From a Young Catholic

My reflections as a Catholic young adult passionate about the Faith, seeking to grow in knowledge and understanding of God and discerning the will of the Lord in my life.

Friday, September 29, 2006

What does it mean to be a Catholic woman?

"What does it mean to be a Catholic woman? I think I have been purposely overlooking some rather serious issues in an effort to not be labeled a feminist(no- I'm not about to start campaigning for women priests)."

When I came across this statement on the blog of a young Catholic woman today I first of all wanted to invite her out for tea, but since she apparently lives several thousand kilometers away from me, that probably won't be possible. The question she asks is an important one though and one that we should all take some time to reflect upon.

For all young Catholic women (or in fact, Catholic women of any age. . . for that matter, women in general) I would highly recommend the following readings to help guide you in your reflections as you ponder this important question: "What does it mean to be a Catholic woman?"

First and foremost, take the time to read Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity of Women) by Pope John Paul II. Read it slowly. Read it over again and again. Here you will find the crucial answers to this question of what it means to be a Catholic woman.

"A woman's dignity is closely connected with the love which she receives by the very reason of her femininity; it is likewise connected with the love which she gives in return. The truth about the person and about love is thus confirmed. With regard to the truth about the person, we must turn again to the Second Vatican Council: "Man, who is the only creature on earth that God willed for its own sake, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self".59 This applies to every human being, as a person created in God's image, whether man or woman. This ontological affirmation also indicates the ethical dimension of a person's vocation. Woman can only find herself by giving love to others." (Mulieris Dignitatem, 30.)

In addition to Mulieris Dignitatem I'd recommend reading Feminine, Free, & Faithful. This book was leant to me last year by a seminarian friend of mine (why a seminarian has a book on what it means to be a Catholic woman. . . don't ask me. . . although I guess perhaps he was expanding his horizons in preparation for pastoral care!). At first I was scared of it. I must admit, I have a fear of anything that may seem to be connected to "feminism" because my experience of feminism has been utterly incompatible with my experience of my feminity. This book, written by a contempary Catholic female philosopher points to an authentic feminism, one which recognizes the beauty of gender difference and grants true freedom to women.

Another small book I'd recommend reading is The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice Von Hildebrand. "Women historically have been denigrated as lower than men or viewed as privileged. Dr. Alice von Hildebrand characterizes the difference between such views as based on whether man's vision is secularistic or steeped in the supernatural. She shows that feminism's attempts to gain equality with men by imitation of men is unnatural, foolish, destructive, and self-defeating. The Blessed Mother's role in the Incarnation points to the true privilege of being a woman. Both virginity and maternity meet in Mary who exhibits the feminine gifts of purity, receptivity to God's word, and life-giving nurturance at their highest."

Here are some further quotes to reflect upon from John Saward in an essay called "Thanks for the Feminine" which I actually read yesterday!

"We live at a time when the grace of being a woman has never been more ungratefully spurned, not just by the unthinking sons of Adam, but also by the foolish daughters of Eve. Modern feminism, in its secular but especially its allegedly 'Christian' form, has turned its back on the true genius of womanhood to pursue a programme of male-imitation. By demanding to be and to do all that men are and do, the feminists cravenly proclaim that the male is the sole measure of the human."

"It is as a woman, as Virgin and Mother, that Mary represents the whole human race, indeed all creation, when she says Yes to the Incarnation of God's son in her womb."