On the Vocation and Dignity of Women

Mary and Jesus

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…. Well, it’s also great time to stay indoors and read when the temperature soars.

I recently picked up a book written by Anne Costa. It’s titled “Embracing Edith Stein” with a subtitle “Wisdom For Women from St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.” I must say I enjoyed reading it very much. Not only does the book introduces me to the life and works of the much quoted Edith Stein, it also gives the female reader many opportunities to reflect on her own vocation. The many traits of femininity that are often perceived as weaknesses or as the “undesirables” are actually pointed out as important when we discover and embrace our feminine vocation. Anne also offers her own practical tip on dealing with emotions that get in the way of our work. I also love how Anne quoted from Pope John Paul II’s Mulieris Dignatatem that persistence (a much nicer term for “nagging”) is a good thing when you look at how the Canaanite woman begged Jesus for the healing of her daughter in Matthew 15. Jesus was moved by the woman’s persistence and openness!

The best thing that I got from reading Anne’s book was the fact that she made references to the writing of Pope John Paul II on the dignity of women: Mulieris Dignatatem in 1988 and Letter to Women in 1995.

http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1988/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_19880815_mulieris-dignitatem.html

http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/letters/1995/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_29061995_women.html

I remember getting my family home computer in 1997 and the world wide web was just starting to take off. Prior to that, computers for work were mostly connected to private networks or institutions. The habit of reading online for most people was just not developed until the last decade. Anyway, the point is that I am not sure how one would be able to know and have a copy of the documents back in 1988 or 1995. What a delight it is to be able to find these documents and many other online nowadays!

I find the information in these particular documents enlightening! They give a clear picture of the important vocation of women, the “equality” between men and women that God intended in the creation of humans. Statements in the book of Genesis are explained in  context, revealing the truth about the oneness and unity of God, about God’s covenant with humanity. I particularly enjoyed reading the explanation of Ephesians 5:22-23 “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife…” This line is often read with discomfort and frowned by so many. I think one will see the beauty of this line, knowing the context, the metaphor, when reading Mulieris Dignatatem. The explanation of women as “helper” (cf. Gen 2:18) for men in the Letter to Women also lets one understand about the mutual help between men and women, the complementary nature between men and women, and, therefore, how human finds its full realization. These documents made me appreciate that fact that Catholics not only have the WORD but also our Church Teachings!

For all the Catholic women out there, I will end with a quote from the end of paragraph 22 in Mulieris Dignatatem. I hope you will be intrigued to read it.

The Bible convinces us of the fact that one can have no adequate hermeneutic of man, or of what is “human”, without appropriate reference to what is “feminine”. There is an analogy in God’s salvific economy: if we wish to understand it fully in relation to the whole of human history, we cannot omit, in the perspective of our faith, the mystery of “woman”: virgin-mother-spouse.”

Happy Reading!