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.
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…)
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!)
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.