Wonderfully Made

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The Catholic Church loves women! I know that statement mystifies and angers some people in our society. If you are such a person, I encourage you to read on with an open, charitable mind as I explain how I, a Catholic mother of five, have experienced firsthand the love of the Church for my feminine genius. The first most basic principle of my following statements is this: The Catholic Church loves women, respects their unique contributions to society, and can lead the way in elevating humanity to a higher degree of respect for God’s Creation through proclaiming woman’s beauty.

First of all, for those of you who are not convinced but are lingering around to see if I can make a point; how do I know the Church loves women? Aside from being a Catholic woman and having experienced the gifts of the sacraments and their accompanying grace given to me by the Church, I see examples of this love in the writings of our popes concerning the dignity of women, programs within the Church that support widows and orphans, in how the Church fights to maintain the standard of monogamous marriage (which greatly benefits women), international Catholic programs that work to support women in Third World countries, in the numerous accounts of women elevated to Sainthood, and in how the Church promotes the education and empowerment of women in understanding her own body and her unique spiritual contributions to the world.

Photo by J&J Brusie Photography and Jacquelyn Kippenbrock

 I have grown up secure in God’s love for me as a woman because of the Church’s treatment of me.  I have honestly never met a Catholic woman who grew up in the Church feeling oppressed. I love Christ through the Church He established here on earth and I know He loves me because of how His Church ministers to me and tells me how wonderfully made I am.

But (and I HATE to throw in any sort of caveat after a proclamation like that about the Church’s love) I do think that the Church can do a better job reaching out into the secular world with it’s Good News about woman’s abilities. Writing that sentence was almost painful because I love this Church so dearly and have learned about my strength and beauty from Her teachings. However, if I am to look honestly at the world around me, I must admit that our Church has not excelled at reminding woman of the Truth of her natural beauty.

What we as Church can improve on is reaching out to the world  and proclaiming that God has bestowed upon women abilities that are unique to only females. We can work to return a complementarity to the sexes by showcasing the beauty of woman. There are things about our bodies and spirits that can never be replicated by men and that without them being practiced the world loses the harmony of the sexes that displays the fullness of the Nature of God. Through Theology of the Body and programs such as ENDOW, we are beginning to reach more women with the teachings of the Feminine Virtues and helping women to embrace and practice the Truth of our feminine spirit. However, the human person is not merely comprised of spirit. Our souls are enshrined in a body, and as Catholics we are acutely aware of the fact that our bodies are required in living out our faith. Our bodies take part in worship in tangible ways (kneeling, standing, singing, serving, dancing, etc.), and so is it true that our bodies are required to live out the fullness of God’s plan for our Femininity.

This means that we need to look at the things unique to the female body (ovulation, gestation, and lactation) and develop the language and methods necessary to communicate to society at large that these are beautiful parts of being created a woman. It is a Truth women long to hear, and something we will recognize when we hear faint whispers of it in the world. Our longing for the Truth of our Creation will attract us to the source proclaiming it. We can see this interior longing for Truth in the growth of birth communities and of professions that support these Feminine Abilities. Unfortunately the Church as a whole has been largely silent on these issues in the past, and the results for our world have been devastating.

Imagine if the Church had talked more openly and often about how beautiful the gift of fertility is to humanity prior to the attacks of the sexual revolution. I believe if couples had understood that natural fertility was a gift from God for women to live out her feminine nature and not a restrictive burden placed unfairly on women perhaps the acceptance or artificial birth control would not have been so rampant. Or what if the Church had openly proclaimed childbirth as a natural and empowering experience for mother and child to bond before the fears of puerperal fever and the promises of pain-free births sent many mothers running for medicated, hospitalized births? Would we have been able to avoid the horrors of the Twilight Sleep birth era? Or what if the Church had stood up in the face of the infant formula boom and told mothers they were encouraged to breastfeed at Mass? Could we have avoided the breastfeeding rate dipping to only 24% in the 1970s? Would these things have made a difference in women feeling appreciated and accepted as females in the Church? Could we have avoided the tumultuous times we are experiencing now as some women try to grasp at roles ordained by God for males? I think so.

And I think the Church is slowly beginning to understand the needs of women to fully integrate their spiritual contributions with their physical abilities. There are programs in the Church that are beginning to address the need of women to embrace the abilities of their bodies as related to physical motherhood. Below are some resources that have come out of the heart of the Church to meet these needs (This is by no means a comprehensive list, just groups I dig. If you know of one that I should have included, please post it in the combox. We need to get the word out about good Catholic support for women!) As you can see we’re making progress, but let us not grow complacent or think these groups can handle the demands of women to embrace their Feminine Abilities on their own. Women deserve the support of the Church to live out their unique calling as mothers and females. Do your part to help by telling the women in your life that they are indeed Wonderfully Made!

La Leche League International (started by 7 Catholic mamas all nursing their babes at a Church picnic)

Catholic Nursing Mother’s League (Started in 2006 and inspired largely by my next resource…)

“Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood” by Sheila Kippley

NaPro Technology

Couple to Couple League

Living the Sacrament: A Catholic NFP Community (started and run by my very own BFF)

Breath of Life Birth Center (Largo, FL: Not sure if this is Catholic, but it certainly reeks of NewFeminism!)

Holy Family Services Birth Center (LOVE this one!)

Prayers for Pregnancy, Childbirth, Safe Delivery

Rite of Blessing for Child in the Womb

And I can’t end this post without a plug for my very own Project aimed at uniting all these wonderful services under one roof, The Guiding Star Project! Let’s pray for Guiding Stars to reach not only the women of our Church, but all women with the Truth of how amazing they are.

Leah Jacobson

Leah Jacobson

Leah Jacobson, foundress of The Guiding Star Project, is dedicated to creating a Culture of Life through the implementation of Guiding Star Centers nationwide. These centers will promote New Feminism and Natural Law and are the next stage for the pro-women and pro-life movements to collaborate in a holistic, comprehensive approach.

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21 thoughts on “Wonderfully Made”

  1. Avatar

    Imagine if the Church had talked more openly and often about how beautiful the gift of fertility is to humanity prior to the attacks of the sexual revolution.

    The Church did talk openly and often about that. How much more do you want?

    Females led the sexual revolution and mocked the Church; so much for all that “feminine genius”, eh?

    1. Avatar

      I guess I have to disagree with your claim that the Church as a whole talked about fertility openly and often in a positive light prior to the sexual revolution. It DID talk about the issues surrounding fertility, but the language and the tone at the time lacked a certain appreciation for the beauty of these gifts. It was more fear based and focused on restrictions versus the beauty of these things in proper context. Of course there were exceptions in individual priests and Popes, but in my reading I’ve never across anything as beautiful as Mulieris Dignitatem or JP2’s Letter to Women prior to the 1930s. I imagine if these had been well absorbed and understood prior to the sexual revolution, history would have looked much differently.

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    It seems that it would be much better if women were able to express their feminine genius without talking about it so much. The more they talk about it, the less convincing it is that it is really there. Show me your genius don’t tell me about it, I’d like to say to so many women. It has been common, at least in the past, to refer to those who talk about their own genius as megalomaniacs. This is too harsh a label for the many Catholic women who expound on their own feminine genius; still, it is very difficult to see the humility of the saints in such talk of oneself.

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    Bucky,
    Women often talk about an issue to process and internalize. It’s one of those male/female differences a lot of couples have a hard time learning early on in a marriage! The image of womanhood put forth by JPII, BVI, the Vatican II Fathers, etc. is seriously counter-cultural. It is hard to truly embrace something that goes so against the grain. We talk to convince ourselves of the Truth.
    Leah, great article. Thank you!

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      Thanks for your response Elizabeth. It seems like you are saying that we should interpret a statement differently if it comes from a woman compared to the same statement coming from a man. If, for instance, a man were to talk about his “masculine genius” we might rightly suspect him of megalomania, but a woman talking about her feminine genius is most likely processing and internalizing Truth.

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        Bucky,
        I’m saying that men and women tend to process information differently. Most men I know (I emphasize most, not all) silently reflect on difficult information, and “surface” when they feel like they have a solid grasp on the subject. Most women I know (not all) will talk about something until they understand it. I know it’s annoying to hear “blah blah blah feminine genius,” and some women are all talk and no action, but most of us just need to have a good conversation before we begin the hard work to which God has called us.
        Personally, I love to hear men talk about their particular strengths and weaknesses…their “masculine genius.” It gives me a better understanding of who they are.

  4. Avatar

    “What about altar servers? On July 27, 2001 the Congregation for Divine Worship’s Letter on Altar Servers states that “no priest is obligated to have female servers, even in dioceses where this is permitted.” Why is this, since girls are as smart and capable as boys? Because many boys, myself included, first received their calling to the priesthood as altar boys, and when girls are allowed to serve, some boys fall away and lose interest.” The Diocese of Lincoln Nebraska website
    http://www.dioceseoflincoln.org/SouthernNeRegister/seed/seed052110.aspx

    Sure doesn’t sound like the RC Church loves and appreciates girls or women…misogyny in disguise!

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      Phil,

      That paragraph from the Southern Nebraska Register seems to refute what you’re saying right within in.

      “Why is this, since girls are as smart and capable as boys?”

      I don’t see any hatred there. Girls are acknowledged equal to boys. But they are not equated to boys, which is what people are actually angry about. There is a strong societal push to ignore any natural differences between the sexes. My arguments about women being different, but complementary to men are threatening in a world where gender equality has been reduced to the goal of genderless. Women are just as good as men, not better or worse, but we’re different. That is how God designed it.

      Without the unique contributions of women, the Fullness of God’s Nature cannot be understood. “He made them, male and female.” Not male and imitations of male. Women are needed to balance out man’s qualities.

      By encouraging little girls to be altar servers and women to be priests you are effectively working to erase the female influence in our world by fitting them into roles ordained for men. You’re removing their ability to contribute in the roles they were naturally made to excel at. The voice of Woman becomes genderless and muted as she must eschew her very nature to fit these roles that are unnatural to her. Now that sounds like misogyny to me.

      1. Avatar

        My quote was not from the Southern Nebraska Register…it was from the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska….please look at the beginning of the URL.

        You state that “By encouraging little girls to be altar servers and women to be priests you are effectively working to erase the female influence in our world by fitting them into roles ordained for men. ”

        I will leave alone the priesthood debate and focus on your comment on girls as altar servers which seems quite out of sync with the RC Church position:

        Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.

        “Q: What is the Church\´s position on the use of female altar servers? May all of the servers be female, or must at least one be male? Do you feel that the use of female altar servers detracts from the building of vocations among young males? — M.C.S.N., Catonsville, Maryland

        A: Female altar servers are permitted in all but two U.S. dioceses. They are also common in most English-speaking countries, and in Western Europe. The situation is patchier in the rest of the world, going from total absence to the occasional diocese that allows them.

        From the point of view of liturgical law, an official interpretation of Canon 230, Paragraph 2, of the Code of Canon law on the possibility of delegating certain liturgical offices led to a 1994 letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments clarifying that girls may serve at the altar. But bishops are not bound to permit them to do so, nor could the episcopal conference limit the bishop\´s faculty to decide for himself.”

        Also the Pope uses female altar servers: Pope Benedict XVI has used female altar servers in Papal masses in London (2010), Berlin and Freiburg (2011). Today only one Roman Catholic diocese in America, the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska does not permit female altar servers

        Again, the one diocese I originally quoted is the only one to prohibit the practice…certainly your argument is inconsistent with the Pope’s practice? Just sayin”

  5. Avatar

    LOL! Yes, Bucky I can understand where you’re coming from. Every time I write about New Feminism I can almost hear the collective eyeroll of the men reading. But, as Elizabeth noted, women do process things externally and in a collective community. And to be honest, I’m not writing to men. My aim is not to convince men of our Feminine Genius but to convince women of it. Today’s woman has lost sense of self because of the cultural expectations and assumptions placed upon her. I want to reach out and remind women that there is goodness in her natural being.

    And I find it terribly funny that you insinuated women who want to acknowledge God’s genius in creating us megalomaniacs. New Feminists also think men are a beautiful example of God’s genius. But it seems some men do not need to be reminded of that. 😉

      1. Avatar

        I can see what you and Elizabeth mean by processing and internalizing a concept by talking it through, and how, generally speaking, this differs from the way men internalize or prove a concept. If this is the case it seems to me then that women might do well to perform this process of understanding more privately, perhaps with their husband or a trusted friend, not because there is anything wrong with the way women understand things, but because it is almost certainly assured that their thoughts will be misunderstood, both by men and women, when presenting them publicly. If your speech is not to be understood as making a positive statement about truth (or even if it is to be understood sometimes that way and sometimes not) but rather an understanding process and “internalizing” by “talking it through,” it seems to me that it is necessary for the person listening to know you pretty intimately, or at least well enough so as to be able to distinguish between which speech is a positive statement of truth and which speech is merely processing of truth, to distinguish between those things that should be “taken seriously” and those things that shouldn’t be.

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    Ok Phil, geesh! The Southern NE Register is the official diocesan newspaper of the Diocese of Lincoln. Same thing. What are you looking for here? A fight? I’m really not interested if that is all you want. I’m open to discussions with people who are interested in hearing my side and then responding with genuine questions or well formed differences in opinion.

    First you accuse the Churoh of hating little girls by not letting them serve at Mass (in one isolated diocese), then you go on to show that the Pope lets them serve……ok??? Is it just me or did you refute your own argument? I am feeling like maybe you are baiting traps and hoping to catch me in my own words. If you just want to hear me say I’m wrong, I can save you the time of having to google articles and look for sources to back up your arguments. I’m wrong about a lot of things. But I KNOW for a FACT that the Church loves women just as much as She loves men.

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    I respect your belief, I simply do not share it nor find evidence for it. I an 65, I was an insider in the RC Church for many years, happily now married for 30 and for the past 14 taking care of a totally disabled son who is 27, every minute of every day. And yes, you were contradictory and yes I like to bring out contradiction…altar girls are not ok, they are ok.

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      I don’t believe I ever said altar girls are not ok. If you read that somewhere between the lines, let me be clearer. It’s fine for girls to serve as in its not a matter of grave concern, but it makes little sense to encourage it.

      There are roles that are ordained for men, fatherhood and the priesthood specifically. Women trying to fill these roles must suppress their feminine qualities to meet the needs of these positions. Altar serving has always been a training ground for the priesthood, so while it is not closed for young women to take part, it makes very little sense to encourage it as they will never move into the role of priest.

  8. Avatar

    Thanks for the article, Leah. In an American culture that accepts the degradation of women (and even promotes it), it is a breath of fresh air for me to read about the joy of femininity.
    Also, for the record, I live in the Diocese of Lincoln. I have been blessed to be raised in a diocese that is so strong. I love how traditional our diocese is. I have never heard complaints from girls about wanting to be altar girls (not that that means there have never been any, it’s just not in my experience). Most devout young girls and women that I know are, to quote a previous blog post, happy to “be the bride” at Mass.
    Again, thank you for this reminder.

    1. Avatar

      Though I am from a diocese that, though otherwise quite traditional, does allow female alter servers, I also never felt at all interested in doing so. Even as a child I loved the visual of boy servers as a means of encouraging and discerning a religious vocation. As I didn’t have brothers, it was the most visual way I saw young men being trained as spiritual leaders whether it be to their family or congregation etc etc. Instead my memories of service are of my mother caring for and ironing the Mass linens, preparing meals for the priests or working with the Christian Mothers organization to pray for our deceased and provide food and service for funerals. She was and is a beautiful example to me of a woman who deeply loves the Catholic Church and is loved in return.

      There is such a beauty in the Church’s vision for women and I’m so very thankful to begin sharing that beauty with my own daughters.

      Beautiful, Leah!

  9. Avatar

    I just want to say, WOW, Leah Jacobson, I am so inspired by how you handled the few negative comments with grace, humor, and humility. If only we could ALL be so Christ-like. As a woman, wife, and mother, starting the journey to come into full communion with the RCC, I am so thankful for articles like this, and women like you! I love being a woman and everything that encompasses, and I cherish how much love and respect women are given in the RCC. Coming from a evangelical backround, I didn’t always feel like being a woman was much of a gift, but now I see how beautifully God created us and it brings me joy to finally embrace all that it means.

    Thank you again, look forward to reading more from you.
    God bless!
    Emily

  10. Avatar

    Nice article. Did you know that Sheila Kippley who wrote the Breastfeeding book that you mentioned is at nfpandmore.org? Please promote her NFP site and Catholic links at NFPInternational

    1. Avatar

      Thanks AC! Yes, I’ve been following the Kippleys for years. Certainly a work worth mentioning! CCL, Ecological Breastfeeding, and NFPandmore.org do come from their love of the Church indeed.

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