Spiritual Heirloom

Hello, my name is Elizabeth and I’m repressed. I’m a Catholic woman, after all.

The Bright Maidens movement blossomed out of refuting this very concept. The original conversation between the Bright Maidens was a revolutionary chat ending with “How dare they tell us we’re stifled!? We’ll show them!”

We bought ink by the barrel, *ahem* pixels by the terabyte, and decided to share with the world that Catholicism preserves the Truth and the Truth doesn’t discriminate.

Those who dare to call me repressed (oh, you’d better watch out now!) tell me I am a part of a faith that wants to tie an apron around my waist, keep me from preaching or leading a parish, prevent me from seeking independence from pregnancy, and stay put in the kitchen, silent and subservient.

A) If you try putting me in the kitchen, you’re only punishing yourself.
B) No one is going to be able to silence me. I have no intention of becoming silent.
C) The Church’s teachings do not “condemn” women to these seemingly inescapable futures.

Tappie

My grandmother, Tappie, is one of the best examples of why Catholic women living by the teachings of the Church are not in want of breathing room or freedom.

There were more women than men at the foot of the Cross. Jesus revealed Himself to the woman at the well as the Messiah before He said it to others. And Mary Magdalene was the first person to see and speak to our risen Lord on the third day, Easter Sunday.

The colloquial connotation for “feminism” has nothing to do with it. Just like the apostles were ordinary men with great faith who spread and fostered a sprawling Church, these women were faithful and wholehearted followers of whom they knew to be the Son of God.

Tappie was the strongest woman I’ve ever known and was not oppressed simply by being born a female. Until Tappie’s death in April of this year, my grandmother was a mother to my mom. The old stereotype about evil mothers-in-law never made sense to me because the example I grew up watching was one of Love, albeit a firecracker, spunky Love.

The one-liner queen of the East Coast, Tappie’s wit flicked tension out of any room. God only knows where she found that wit because her father was an abusive man with whom her mother remained faithful, even when his tempers and lust got the better of him.

Searching for a more faithful Love, Tappie found and married my grandfather in her late twenties and began a life with many challenges. There were times when Tappie made $10 for groceries last a week for her four person family.

At one point, Tappie had to step into the protector role to keep her children safe and well-Loved by packing up her two sons and their suitcases. She moved hundreds of miles away with her sons and began a life that inspired my grandfather to be worthy of her.

By the grace of God, my grandfather redeemed himself, that dark phase of their life did not last long, and the spouses reunited. I’m convinced her strength in that moment, which could only be motivated by God due to the lack of support from friends and family, is what turned the situation around.

The importance of a Catholic education for her sons superseded Tappie’s desire for comfort or little luxuries, so she saved pennies to pay for Catholic grade school and high school.

Tappie had a strong devotion to Saint Jude, prayed like God was sitting next to her for her hourly prayer appointment, and thanked Him for her good fortune at Mass regularly.

I watched her sacrifice and do work for others my entire life. At the end of her life, when she could do little for herself and I contrasted her helplessness with her formerly active lifestyle, I saw that she was even stronger than I once believed.

Today 

Mothers traditionally filled the role as teacher for their children. Therefore popes had their starts under the tutelage of their mothers. Mary taught Jesus about God and how to pray.

Women are cornerstones in every single parish I’ve ever visited, teaching, organizing, and selflessly giving to maintain the breathing life of the parish.

So, what was that you were saying about women having no influence on the Church?

My grandmother was abnormally vocal, stubborn, and decisive for her era. She alone debunks the submissive stereotype for Catholic women, but her example also raises the awareness for the vast impact women have on the Church.

She chose her role as a mother and was determined to raise her children in the Catholic faith, even when trials in her path made the easier, secular option more appealing.

Her husband was in awe of her, though they were partners. This woman was the foundation for my father’s childhood. She is the foundation for my adulthood.

Elizabeth Hillgrove

Elizabeth Hillgrove

Elizabeth Hillgrove is a young cradle Catholic who grew up in a tight-knit, if not absurdly close family in the tiny Catholic world of Virginia. After a few divots and detours into apathy, embarrassment, and a vested political interest, Jesus Christ jump-started her faith life. Elizabeth has researched her way into a passion for bringing the simple, fulfilling Truth to youth and young adults, especially females. A recovering tomboy, Elizabeth will challenge you on the field, in the pool, on a trek up a mountain, or in the art studio. Game on. She is one of the three Bright Maidens and her website is Startling the Day.

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3 thoughts on “Spiritual Heirloom”

  1. I have also heard of the claims that the Church encourages women to be submissive. As a teenage girl, I was shocked that such things could be said and I turned to someone to explain to me the importance of women. He stated it as follows, “Why do you think Jesus came as a man? It is not because there is a superior gender. Men and women are simply different because they were designed to complement each other. Women, by design, are already inclined to sacrifice their needs for another (whether that is for a child, spouse, etc.). On the other hand, this sense of sacrifice does not come as easily for men. Jesus coming to earth as a man provided an example of sacrifice in manhood to all men.”
    That just really blew my mind. (This is, of course, not to say that men or women are better.)

  2. Perinatal Loss Nurse

    What a blessing that you had Tappie in your life. I had one grandmother and we were very close, but she and my grandfather abandonned outward expression of thier faith after their kids were raised…I wish I had known that part of her.

    I am a convert and feel so much honor and respect for my place as a woman in the Church…I dont feel “repressed” at all and I cant figure out what people are referring to when they make that accusation.

    I can “minister” to the sick and dying as a mother and nurse which are powerful vocations. The fact that the Church instructs me to get a Priest to do an Annointing is a good reminder that it takes the whole body to care for each other.

    How wonderful that she busted through the “submisive Catholic woman” stereotype for you…what a wonderful example !! I’m sure you miss her…may she pray for each of us today !

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