Growing up, I heard all sorts of things about women and the church. Much of it was not positive. And I honestly did not understand why.
As a cradle Catholic, I always felt well loved and well respected within the Catholic Church. Even before I learned the Church’s exact teaching on the dignity of women, I intuitively knew that God loved me. And as a little girl, I knew that if God loved me, than I was important. There was nothing more to say.
Many people argue that the Church thinks women are subordinate to men, because we cannot be priests. But to me, it is simply a matter of calling. God has other plans for me, and those plans are not inferior to men’s call to the priesthood.
What God has planned for women is rather exciting to ponder! And as I grew and read and learned exactly what the Church teaches on the dignity of women, it confirmed that He, indeed, has a special role for me and all women in His Church.
A special role in Salvation History
In her book Jesus Approaches, Elizabeth Kelly discusses how women were and are necessary for Salvation History. God chose to come into this world through a woman. He entrusted Himself to Mary, a simple peasant woman, and He elevated her to the role of Mother of God and Queen of Heaven and Earth. The entire Church honors her in the most reverent way.
While He walked the earth, Jesus befriended women at a time when we were considered second-class citizens (or worse). Women approached Jesus, spoke with Him, touched Him. Women were no longer unseen because of their gender; with Jesus, they were recognized for the sanctity of their personhood. Jesus saw them as precious daughters of His Father, and He wanted to know them by name and by heart.
In addition, women intimately witnessed two of the most important events in history—the Incarnation and the Resurrection. These moments changed the world forever, and yet, for the most part, they were quiet and witnessed by only a select few, including women.
So, what is the role of women in the Catholic Church?
If I could sum it up in one word, which I cannot, I would say that the role of women is one of entrustment. As God entrusted Jesus to Mary, as Jesus entrusted Mary Magdalene to spread the good news of the Resurrection to the Apostles, God also entrusts the care of His children, His Church, and His world to women. As Vatican II states, we are to “aid humanity in not falling.”
“The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of women is being acknowledged in its fullness, the hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women imbued with a spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling.” (Second Vatican Council)
Women bring something to the church that men simply cannot bring: motherhood, entrustment, generosity, compassion, and other qualities referred to by the Church as “the feminine genius.” But we do not need to make the differences between women and men a thick, brick wall that divides us. Rather, our differences ought to complement, unify, and bring forth life.
“Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts … In this way the basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty—not merely physical, but above all spiritual—which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women.” (St. John Paul the II’s Letter to Women)
Women, you are needed!
In a sense, the world and the church depend on us in big ways. We need to be working everywhere in our charisms—the unique gifts the Holy Spirit has given us for the good of the Church—to bring truth, beauty, life, love, and goodness to our broken world. Women are called to use our God-given gifts to make a difference in the Church and the world around us.
“The world needs us—it needs you, needs me, needs us to be the people we were created to be… This is an era that desperately needs a faithful Christian woman, not a perfect woman, not a woman who has never failed nor fallen, but a woman who has fallen in love with the truth, a woman in love with Jesus… Jesus is not waiting for you to be perfect; he is waiting for you to say yes.” (Jesus Approaches, p. ix)
How do you say yes to God’s exclusive invitation to you, as woman, as disciple, as beloved?
The post is part of the monthly Catholic Women’s Blog Hop. To read more thought-provoking articles on the role of women in the Church, please click HERE.