This article I wrote was originally printed in The Courier (May Issue), the official diocesan paper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Winona, MN. Reprinted here in honor of Mother's Day! (Obviously, from a specifically Catholic Christian perspective. ;-)
On his very
first day as pontiff, Pope Francis desired to visit St. Mary Major, a Basilica
dedicated to Our Lady. He gently laid a bouquet of flowers before an icon of
Our Blessed Mother, prayed and lead everyone in a hymn. As he was leaving the
Basilica, he greeted those who worked there. One man asked if he would bless
their son, not yet born. His wife, five months pregnant, stood beside him. Pope
Francis stopped the hand shaking to offer a special blessing for the unborn
during these first few months of his pontificate, we have seen the Holy Father
go out of his way to bless mothers. Just last month, Pope Francis blessed the
unborn baby of former Miss USA, Ali Landry (featured below). His actions
reaffirm the gift God has blessed women with, the gift of the capacity to bear
life, to bring forth new human persons into the world.
gift that God gave to woman has been recently undermined in our culture. It is
a hidden, slow erosion, like waves lapping up on the shore, slowly taking more
and more of the value of motherhood away. We can see women separated from their
gift of child bearing through abortion, contraception, and the pressure to make
“more of themselves” through a career over family. Yet, it is not just physical
motherhood. Women are also undermined by the push to set aside their natural,
motherly instincts (to nurture, cooperate, guard, and protect) and take on more
manly traits in order to find success. Yet, these pieces are the effect of the
erosion not the ultimate cause of it.
ideology that men and women are basically the same began this erosion. This
idea surfaced from a need to find equality between the sexes. “Equality” is a
very trendy word right now and yet not well defined. In mathematical terms, equality
means the “same.” Each number on either side of the equal sign must have the
same value. Some people like to translate this to mean that equality of the
sexes means “sameness.” In order to be equal, then, we must make both genders
the same. In this line of thought, therefore, when they are “forced” to be different,
this must make them unequal and that cannot be tolerated. Women needed to be “freed”
of the inequality that their gender created – and therefore be “freed” from
their motherhood. If women were able to escape from the “burden” of children,
they could be just as successful and “equal” as men. Hormonal contraceptives
(ie. “the pill”), promised women the ability to rid them of the burden of their
This is not
the Christian view of equality. We believe that God created all men and women
equally, but uniquely. Every single individual is endowed with special gifts
unique to him or her. Does this make him or her better or worse than the next
person? Not at all! It makes them uniquely themselves and able to offer that
gift of their unique self to society. In the same way, God created men and
women differently. He created them equally; they both have the same value, the
same dignity as a person. In His great goodness, He also created them
complementary. Each one has unique gifts to offer to society that make them not
less nor greater but that much more special!
equality of men and women should be sought through the elevation of each of
their unique gifts not through the destruction of one for the other. The more
we elevate motherhood, the more we praise every woman for whether she is a
physical mother or not, the inherent stamp of that mothering nature upon her
being affects all of who she is.
Paul II saw motherhood and fatherhood as the way in which women and men live out
their woman-ness and man-ness in the world in a physical or spiritual way. For
women, he would say, her womanhood is who she is but her motherhood is how she lives out her
womanhood in the world.
undermine women’s gender, using chemicals and medical interventions to separate
her physically from her capacity to bear children, we detach her from who she
is as woman! This is another reason that the Church recommends working with a woman’s body to plan a family and
space children using natural methods (check out the NFP section of the Office of Life page
on the diocesan website for more information. The natural methods are highly
scientific, 99% successful and fully organic).
is not at all against women having careers and considers a strong feminine
presence in society to be important. Yet, there is a distinction here; a strong
feminine presence in society does not mean women
who are desperately trying to fit into the male model of success. We need women
who bring their beautiful feminine and motherly nature to society in everything
that they do.
We look to
Mary especially in this month for mothers to give us the ideal model for women.
It is her “yes” to God and her willingness to cooperate with Him, nurture Him
and give Him back up to the world in complete selflessness that shows the power
of her womanhood lived out in motherhood.
In a world
that often undermines the value of motherhood, seeing our Holy Father, Pope
Francis make a point to honor our Blessed Mother and women, speaks loudly of
the call we all have to affirm the beauty of motherhood.
your friendly new feminist,
Well, that’s my view of it and I welcome yours! (Please comment below! And please use initials or first name or even pseudonym instead of simply “anonymous” so we can have some way to distinguish each person in the discussion. Thank You!)