Often times, especially in our modern era that is highly influenced by various bad strains of feminism and secular culture, the Church is incorrectly seen with hostility as being “an Old Boy’s Club”, one that is hostile to women and indifferent to their needs. Unfortunately, this view has its root in a train of thought that dates back to the Enlightenment period, a train of thought that is hostile to the Church, attacking her as an institution that is useless, archaic, intolerant of those who have not accepted her faith, and hostile to modernity. It is a narrow and selfish view that has the maxim, “Might makes right,” at its core. This is because in our day and age, most people who accept the modern secular, and feminist, view point think only about themselves, tucked away neatly in a disguise of a drive for total and absolute equality; an equality purporting to tolerate all people, but yet steadfastly refuses to tolerate Christ and His teachings. If one would only open their eyes, they would see that the Church does not view equality in the sense of the secular world, but rather espouses a view of men and women that is precious in the eyes of God.
One of the best ways to see this comes from a close reading of the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians, in which he discusses the dynamic of the nuptial relationship between man and woman and compares it to the mystical relationship between Jesus Christ the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Bride. (In fact, this reading is prescribed for the celebration of the Mystery of Matrimony – unfortunately, in some circles, this reading is discarded because it is seen as “sexist.”) Christ as the Head of the Church, loves His spouse in a total and unconditional way. He freely gives His entire being to the Church, sacrificing Himself on the Cross for His bride, the Church, out of pure love. He cares for the Church, providing for her needs and protecting her. In return for His mystical love, the Church, out of an equal love and devotion to her bridegroom, submits herself to Christ, giving herself fully to Him just as He gave himself to her. And Paul notes that this nuptial relationship is a mystery, not as something to be investigated, dissected, and solved, but rather as something for deep reflection that will stir the love of God in us all.
So, does this mean that women should drop everything they have gained, stop voting, stop working, return to the home and slave away all day washing dishes, ironing laundry, and watching soap operas all day long? We would respond with a resounding, NO! The Catholic Church highly values the contributions women have made, and continue to make in today’s day and world. However, the Catholic Church also realizes that men and women have unique and distinct natures that give them specific gifts that are unique to the members of each sex. One such unique gift that remains specific to man is the priesthood and ministry of holy orders, for Christ was a man and so were his apostles. Just as Christ is the God-Man made incarnate, the mystical bridegroom, so too are our bishops, priests, deacons, and men in holy orders are the icon of Christ, the living images of Him. To demand that a woman become a priest or receive orders just because it is only “fair” is to do a grave injustice in many different ways. To expect an ordination of a woman to the priesthood is to seriously distort the nuptial image of Christ and His Church and to openly discard the notion of God as Father.
Just as men image Christ, it can be said that women image Mary, in her glory. Mary could be seen as the ultimate image of femininity, for she submitted herself totally to God’s plan of salvation and assented to carry within her God Himself. Unfortunately, most today would refuse this high honor – an excellent example of this lies in the movie, “The Terminator,” where Sarah Connor vehemently refused to take any part in saving mankind’s future and wanted nothing to do with her future son or her destiny. Sarah Connor was the exact opposite of Mary. Mary freely submitted herself to God with love, and thus she stands as an example for all men and women. But did her status as a woman mean that she was less than human? Some would argue in the affirmative, given she lived in a time when it appeared that women had no status. But this is not necessarily true. Women did have much power in their lives and exercised great control over men. In many cultures of that era, and down to our present day even, the queen-mother and the queen had a lot of power over the subjects for she was the gateway to the king, and the king would almost never refuse a request either from his queen or his mother. Mary, as the queen-mother, is often referred to as a co-redemptrix, because she answers our prayers and in turn lifts them up to her son, Jesus Christ, who never refuses a request or prayer from His Mother.
So what does this mean for women? In today’s Church, there was never a greater need for the women in our Church to help out in so many ways. Yes, women have always filled a great need and have helped out in innumerable ways, from Mother Theresa in helping the poor, to St. Macrina who was highly influential over her brother St. Basil the Great in assisting him, to the lady who helps out making pierogies, to the woman who cares for her children, etc. Especially in this day and age, women have so many chances to use the gifts that God has given to them in our Church. We are in need of religious sisters who have the call from God to live out their lives in chastity and be models of service to our people, whether it be educating our young or caring for the poor and sick. There are many ways a woman can help, especially in keeping our parishes running from day to day. And most importantly, our men need the caring guidance of women in our lives, for God created woman from man to be a helper, not as a slave, but as one who compliments her man and makes things complete.
Perhaps God is calling you to service in the Church, maybe as a religious sister, or perhaps as a laywoman helping out the Church in numerous and invaluable ways. Know that we are praying for you in your discernment, and that you have our support. May God bless you and keep you always, and we pray that you too will answer His call, answering as Mary did in joy and humility, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my saviour . . .” (Luke 1:46)