by Fr. Chrysostom Baer, O.Praem.
As several of my priest confreres have heard ad nauseam already, I just finished an online theology course tangentially related to my more serious canon law studies. Early on in the class, the required readings used a term which I wasn’t sure I understood and wasn’t defined, so I endeavored to keep an open mind and figure out what they meant when they said “Catholic feminism.”
I thought it must be an investigation into the feminine genius in the context of the Catholic faith. That is, let’s look at the greatest women who have ever lived and see how they’ve contributed to the life of the Church: their influence and teachings, their holiness and wisdom, devotion to them and so on. Of course, the most influential woman in human history is the Blessed Virgin Mary, so Catholic feminism must in the first place mean examining Marian dogmas—her Divine Maternity, Immaculate Conception, Perpetual Virginity, Assumption into heaven, Co-redemption, Universal Mediation of Graces—then making the historical survey of her various apparitions from Saragossa to Tepeyac to Lourdes and Fatima and Kibeho. Then there are the famous writings on the Blessed Virgin by St. Bernard, St. Alphonsus, St. Louis de Montfort, just to throw out the big names. So first of all Catholic feminism means Mariology.
But we can’t forget the other incredible Catholic women who have influenced Church history over the last twenty centuries: martyrs and virgins, virgin martyrs, doctors of the Church and religious, contemplatives and active, wives and widows, mothers and queens. They prayed and wept until we got a St. Augustine, they wandered the desert in penance, they called the Roman Pontiff back from France, they evangelized the nations by hiding in a convent. Truly, they are the warmth of the Church’s heart, her glory and pride, and she delights to extol them. There’s an endless canon of women saints, but over them all soars the Blessed Virgin Mary. And Bob’s your uncle, that’s Catholic feminism.
Turns out, that’s not what they meant. As the class progressed, it became clear that Catholic feminism is a term contrived by the discontent and sad to make themselves feel justified in being more discontent and sad. They meant by Catholic feminism that women should become more influential and have authoritative positions in Church administration, that women should even be ordained at least to the diaconate, and ultimately that women should have more power.
Yeah…I like my definition better. But if power is what it’s all about, Our Lady of Guadalupe is the statement of supreme power. The serene look in her eyes says, “I’m going to use forever an image that can’t exist beyond thirty years. I’m going to draw millions upon millions from all over America and make them bow down before my Son, Whom they do not know. I’m going to take some of the worst people in history and make them some of the best people in history. All without moving from this spot. I don’t move; I make others move. I make peasants and princes and prelates fall to their knees. I make demons squirm and angels thrill. I make God do what I want. Mom has all the power.”
I think we’d all be a lot happier with this kind of Catholic feminism. Every man with half a brain wants this woman running his life.
Queen Esther was a uniquely pleasing person to behold. We hear this repeatedly throughout her story and, ultimately, are told that she “found grace and favor in the eyes of all who saw her.”
The first Sunday of Lent offers one of the shortest texts for a Gospel in the whole liturgical year. It is only sixty-four words. St. Mark’s account of the Temptation in the Desert takes just two verses and is about as succinct as one can be. Now, I am not the evangelist Mark. So don’t expect a short sermon. Settle in. And listen in.
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