I was inspired to write this blog after watching the movie, “Mona Lisa Smile.” For those who have not seen it, Mona Lisa Smile is set in the 1950′s, starring Julia Roberts as a radical art professor teaching Wellesley College girls to question their traditional roles as women, even to go against the grain. The movie portrays very well the 1950s, when women were expected to be housewives, no questions asked. Sure, they may go to school, become educated, but any desires of theirs to pursue their own dreams were to be cast aside to fill the roles that they were “born to fill,” in the way of being housewives, and raising a family. The biggest problem is, they were expected not to question this. I loved this movie as it really vouched for women to do what they dream, and not stay boxed in by what society tells them. If one wants to be a housewife, that is great, but one is not limited to that – the choice is yours to make. This however aroused the concern in me about how people can go to the extreme of feminism, and so I wanted to write tonight about true feminism is in the eyes of the Catholic Church. In this same vain, I also wish to speak about true masculinity as well, because masculinity and femininity go hand in hand.
True femininity and masculinity can be found in the complementarity of men and women. Men have certain roles they can and have been given to fulfill by God, and likewise with women. There are certain things that only men can offer, and certain things that only women can offer. This true femininity and masculinity and can only be found within the Catholic Church, the bearer of all truth. This is a very large topic, one of which I would recommend all to read Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, but I wish at this time to share with you a quote from scripture which gives a good starting point.
Ephesians 5 (Douay-Rheims Bible)
22 Let women be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord: 23 Because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. He is the saviour of his body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so also let the wives be to their husbands in all things.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it: 26 That he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life: 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any; such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish. 28 So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife, loveth himself. 29 For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, as also Christ doth the church: 30 Because we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh. 32 This is a great sacrament; but I speak in Christ and in the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular love his wife as himself: and let the wife fear her husband.
I feel that the above scripture passage really summarizes our roles as men and women in complementing each other. Women are called to be obedient to their husbands as to the Lord, and men to love and serve their wives as Christ did the Church. God created male and female, in His own image, to be helpmates for one another, and were given the command to “fill the earth and subdue it,” – a task given to be done together, as a couple, complementing each other.
A perfect example of this true femininity is the Blessed Mother. She is the example par excellence of what our femininity should look like, in all her Marian Virtues.
- Most Pure (Mt. 1:18, 20, 23; Lk 1:27,34)
- Most Prudent (Lk 2:19, 51)
- Most Humble (Lk 1:48)
- Most Faithful (Lk 1:45; Jn 2:5)
- Most Devout (Lk 1:46-7; Acts 1:14)
- Most Obedient (Lk 1:38; 2:21-2, 27)
- Most Poor (Lk 2:7)
- Most Patient (Jn 19:25)
- Most Merciful (Lk 1:39, 56)
- Most Sorrowful (Lk 2:35)
Pope John Paul II wrote, in his letter to women, that “The Church sees in Mary the highest expression of the “feminine genius” and she finds in her a source of constant inspiration. Mary called herself the “handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38). Through obedience to the Word of God she accepted her lofty yet not easy vocation as wife and mother in the family of Nazareth. Putting herself at God’s service, she also put herself at the service of others: a service of love. Precisely through this service Mary was able to experience in her life a mysterious, but authentic “reign”. It is not by chance that she is invoked as “Queen of heaven and earth”. The entire community of believers thus invokes her; many nations and peoples call upon her as their “Queen”. For her, “to reign” is to serve! Her service is “to reign!” (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_29061995_women_en.html).
Women, this is what our femininity is really all about – service and obedience to God in light of our identity in Him. Don’t strive or seek after the femininity that the world offers, but seek after being a true, holy, and virtuous woman. Look to the Blessed Mother for your inspiration and model. Men, help the women in your lives to be the type of women that have been called to be. We must all look to Mary and she will lead us to her son, for we find our true identity in God.