This month we’re talking about womanhood, so eloquently defined by Merriam-Webster as the state or condition of being a woman, or the distinguishing character or qualities of a woman. I’d like to think that with my own lived experience of being one that I’ve learned at least a little about this topic.
I know that women were created in the image of God with the capacity to mirror the Trinity in our complementarity to men written into our being.
I know that while women are fundamentally different than men, we are equal in dignity and value.
I know that our culture in general often tells women that to be treated equally to men we have to be the same (which is impossible).
I know that I have the great privilege of the capacity to bear life, whether or not that manifests itself in biological children or not.
Women are the ones who stood by the foot of the cross as Jesus died for our sins. Did you know that? Most of the apostles (except John) deserted Jesus, but our Blessed Mother and other women are noted to have remained. Women were the first to witness Jesus having risen. Women are respected and honored within the Catholic Church, and if you’ve ever questioned that, Saint John Paul the Great may just change your mind with his Letter to Women.
Being a Catholic woman to me means embracing both my strengths and weaknesses. It means that I can be a strong woman while also recognizing my littleness when it comes to God. He has entrusted to women the great task of being both the vulnerable and fierce bearers of life to the world. We’re generally good at being attuned to the needs of others, and how much the world would be changed if we could truly fathom and more fully use that gift for good.
The great Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that “To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood. When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, and goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.”
That’s a powerful role we have in shaping our world. This can be used for incredible good when we build other people up. But we also have the ability to tear others down in terrible and humiliating ways, which is something to guard ourselves against and seek forgiveness for when we fail.
Another person with much to say on the role of women is our patron Edith Stein.
“The woman’s soul is fashioned as a shelter in which other souls may unfold.” she said. And how true is this. How many times do we see encouraging words brighten someone’s day and bring them to life? Or the daily work of raising children bearing fruit as they grow into adults?
“Finally,” our patron says, “woman’s intrinsic value can work in every place and thereby institute grace, completely independent of the profession which she practices and whether it concurs with her singularity or not. Everywhere she meets with a human being, she will find opportunity to sustain, to counsel, to help. If the factory worker or the office employee would only pay attention to the spirits of the person who work with her in the same room, she would prevail upon trouble-laden hearts to be opened to her through a friendly word, a sympathetic questions; she will find out where the shoe is pinching and will be able to provide relief. Everywhere the need exists for maternal sympathy and help, and thus we are able to recapitulate in the one word motherliness that which we have developed as the characteristic value of woman. Only, the motherliness must be that which does not remain within the narrow circle of blood relations or of personal friends; but in accordance with the model of the Mother of Mercy, it must have its root in universal divine love for all who are there, belabored and burdened.”
So may we all as women of faith enter our everyday lives owning the tremendous influence we have in our role building people up and bringing life to a better future. May we be clothed in the strength and dignity God has gifted us with, and laugh at the days to come, which we know He is holding in the palm of His hand.
Want to know more about what womanhood looks like? Check our Caitlyn’s list of 20 Biblical Women Who Fully Embody Womanhood.