The myth that Catholicism is a religion of misogynistic, bigoted old men is one that colored my worldview for many years. My introduction to reality was quite an eye opener! It is not always easy to dispel hardened stereotypes and my own healing came slowly for the most part. But there was one week in my life that changed my perspective significantly...
I was preparing to attend a weekend retreat for college students. Actually, I was working on the team that was putting on a retreat college students. When we were blocking out the retreat and dividing responsibilities, I found myself assigned to the task of leading a discussion for the women on the topic of "Vocation". One of the resources that I intended to use was Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem-(On the Dignity and Vocation of Women). I had not yet read it, however, and spent the next week in a constant state of wonder and joy at this exposition on what John Paul called the "feminine genius".
I had already given my heart to Christ prior to this study. I had also discovered Him most nearly and dearly in the heart of the Catholic faith. But that was just the framework really...He had hardly begun on the details as I was about to discover.
So, what did I discover? That my whole understanding of what it means to be a woman was largely formed by a secular vision. I realized for the first time that my efforts at growing in feminine virtue were stunted by my very lack of understanding of the goal. What does it mean to be feminine? What does Jesus want for my womanhood? How does this effect my life goals? How does this affect everything I do, say, feel, desire and strive for?
I think this was the first time in my life where I felt unsullied gratitude and joy at the gift of my femininity. I had never read anything so beautiful and so powerful about myself before.
It changed my perspective on my role in life. It changed the abysmally low level of my self-esteem. And in a rubber-meets-the-road kind of way...It saved my marriage. Because for the first time in my life, I truly began to see that real power, real joy and real love come through a life of service...In imitation of Christ...For love of neighbor and ourselves...With peace and true freedom.
I knew the Church loved women (I mean, we HAVE to love everyone as Christians, right?). But little did I know the extent to which the role of women is honored and cherished. The Lord gives us so many gifts that the world would seek to tarnish and hide. My gratitude to the late John Paul and to the Lord for reaching me through this work goes beyond words.
And how did the college-aged young women respond? Much the same way. Jaws dropped. Tears fell. Healing began and hearts began to blossom under the new understanding of who God made them to be! The secular vision could not stand in the light of that beautiful truth.
I recently stumbled across this T-Shirt from Totally Catholic (below) and just couldn't hold back from blogging about it. The words of the late John Paul II have brought a measure of peace to my life that I cannot deny saved me from many mistakes and misery. The description under the shirt reads this way:
Taken from John Paul II's apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem-(On the Dignity and Vocation of Women). We are trying to promote this incredible letter to women. The "Genius of Women" has played an essential role in human society throughout history, perfected in the Virgin Mary. Step aside modern day feminism, the "Feminine Genius" has and always will be the true dignity and vocation of all women.
And the shirt reads:
"In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive.
-John Paul II"
Catholic or not, I think every Christian will find their womanhood honored, uplifted and transformed through study of this letter.