My grade school education was provided by a mix of 70’s style Sisters (in their knee-length blue skirts and simple habits) and lay women (some clearly representing new age feminism). Like many schools of the time, we learned the faith blended in with current culture. Madonna flooded our ears and flashed across the MTV screen inspiring the abandonment of modesty and submission.
Single mothers were becoming more prevalent and Church teachings less relevant. By extension, contraception promised independence; whereas, chastity was viewed as repressive. And Roe vs. Wade provided the back-up security measure while Humanae Vitae got buried in controversy.
Modernity and freedom seemed tied to rebelliousness and pride. Reverence faded from fashion. Coupled with Vatican II confusion, the role of women inside and outside of the Church became skewed.
Subordination Becomes A Dirty Word
Not surprisingly, many female lectors and parishioners began to stumble over the Ephesian instruction,
Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.
Of course, had they listened beyond the word “subordinate” (in some versions it reads submit or subject) to the verses describing a husband’s sacrificial role, they might have embraced the beauty contained in their part as women.
As women roared into a generation of new ideas and ideology, tossing their bras in the bonfire of feminism, they traded part of their true identity for a false freedom. Where once they were cherished as whole persons, now they could be separated into parts. Their partners could take what they wanted to and leave the rest behind (think, fertility).
Untying The Aprons Strings
Surely there was good to come from untying the knotted apron strings and stepping outside of the kitchen doors, but there is an internal wisdom unique to womanhood that got cast aside with the frying pan. Where once mother was the heart of the home, the proud and needed homemaker, now children returned home to empty houses and TV-sitters. Fathers cast-off their responsibilities with greater ease now that mother could be expected to shoulder the full weight of parenthood and provisions.
In line with our first fore-mother Eve, the modern woman was intrigued by the hissing, serpent promises of power, knowledge and self-reliance if only she would swallow the forbidden contraceptives. Of course, in this case she wasn’t encouraged to enjoy any fruit, but to toss aside her very own fruitfulness.
Ah yes, if she could unbridle herself from her fertility, than she’d be free to soar beyond her grandmother’s wildest dreams. She could be more like man, unshackled of the blessings of her womb. Happiness was only a career step higher, a one night stand away.
Mary Gets It Right
While Humanae Vitae prophesied the weeds that would grow from such unfruitful seeds, too many remain ignorant or obstinate to the truths foretold. So much more than is the gift we have in our Blessed Mother that she has the power to correct these errors.
In my own life, it was she who aided my conviction, her example that called me back from the misguided path I was stumbling down. I’ve written before about my conversion experience and about the vow I made to Jesus through her hands. It was a vow to surrender my fertility to Jesus with total abandon and trust if only she would promise to align my heart with His. But that is simply part of my personal experience and Mary has so much more to offer to all of her daughters.
She’s been referred to as the new Eve, because Our Lady said yes where Eve said no. Mary received the gift God offered without question or constraint, whereas Eve grabbed for more than her allotted portion. Mary trusted, while Eve doubted. The young, unwed, Jewish girl accepted the challenge with humility and surrender, as opposed to Eve’s willingness to breach the bond of communion.
Mary was an Ephesians woman, she silently withstood Joseph’s initial plans to quietly relinquish her. She placed herself, heavy with child, upon a lowly donkey and let her husband lead her across rough terrain. And when her husband couldn’t secure a room at the inn, she dutifully accepted what he had to give to her, a stable and a manger instead of the private room and a cradle. Then again, she would pick up and take her newborn to unfamiliar territory when Joseph said they must flee.
Pregnant myself right now, it seems difficult to imagine her position and to see myself in it. Standing by a doubting husband without arguing my case, thrusting my big, uncomfortable self into less than ideal situations without whining, placing my newborn and myself at the mercy of my husband’s dreams without second guessing, certainly my remnants of modern feminism would strike up a cord of rebellion.
But God knew well the challenges that would come, yes He even knew the modern woman with her thirst for self-importance and separate identity. He gave Mother Mary to women of every age and generation, her wisdom and motherly witness are as relevant now as they have ever been.
For her part, Mary relied on God for all things, trusted in His Word and placed herself totally at His disposal. Like a chalice, she was the open vessel into which God poured His own lifeblood. She was receptive to God’s Will, not grasping or wanting, but receiving. Her identity was reflective. Her fulfillment found in mirroring her Creator and in shining the light of her Son.
The Body Speaks The Truth
Woman’s body speaks this truth. We are made to receive, literally. Our womb, like the chalice, accepts and distributes the blood of new life. Our natural inclination is maternal in that we most often seek to nurture and instruct others rather than gain for our own satisfactions alone.
Contraception lured us into believing we could betray our role as receptors with no consequence. We could pop a pill and obstruct the seed from taking root within us. However, true love, agape, is written on our hearts and in our female bodies, we cannot suppress our true nature or substitute our real identity.
Divorce, abortion, depression, pornography, addiction, sexual abuse and the poverty of single mothers are symptoms of the barren seed of modern feminism. In seeking self-importance rather than reflective- identity, we separated ourselves from the source of all joy and goodness. God’s grace cannot flow into a sealed chalice.
Jesus, Himself, gave us his mother from the cross. In the midst of His Passion, He sought to leave her to humanity. Because He knew how much we desperately needed her humble example, her simple, complete faith in order that we might receive the gift of salvation He was pouring out for us.
Mother Mary is the answer to modern feminism, as she is the correction to the error of Eve. Like a mother, she loves her children and wants only our happiness, true happiness that can only be found in union with God and His Will.
Women, we must behold our Mother, the one to whom we were promised by Christ. And she will teach us to embrace our femininity, to relish the gift of our role as subordinates.