Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Catholic Woman Voter

"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".

Blessed John Paul II used those prolific words in 1988 in the opening paragraph of his encyclical Mulieris Dignitatem—speaking on the dignity and vocation of women. He knew the power a Catholic woman held when she was “imbued” with a spirit of the Gospel. Over and over again Blessed John Paul II wrote about the gifts, talents, and nature of the “feminine genius.” Whenever I read his words, I am struck by his excitement. His belief in what Catholic women can accomplish feels palpable.

And we live in a time where we have certainly seen the great and far-reaching power of Catholic women. We have witnessed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ powerful attack on life through the HHS mandate. We have heard Nancy Pelosi in her role as Speaker of the House proclaim the grandeur of the most pro-abort president ever to step foot in the Oval Office. Other famous Catholic women fill out the current administration’s ranks as well, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. (To understand the Obama anti-life agenda please research his vote as an Illinois senator against the Born Alive act).

But are these powerful Catholic women “imbued” with the spirit of the Gospel that JPII referred to in that opening paragraph of Mulieris Dignitatem? Are they powerful in a way that they will aid humanity in not falling—or are they contributing to the fall?

Are you and I also contributing to the fall—or are we aiding humanity in not falling?

I think to better answer these questions we have to return to our Gospel roots; we have to understand its spirit and its teachings because this is what it all hinges upon, according to Bl. JPII. It can’t be a coincidence that in a few short weeks, Catholic woman voters will be able to wield a tremendous amount of power; a power to aid humanity in not falling.

I went on an interview recently for a position in a Catholic company. One of the questions asked was about “social justice.” For some reason the question felt like a trap but I responded the best way I knew how: I said that I am faithful to the Magisterium and to Church teaching.

I didn’t get the job—but I did get a new insight into what may be the problem we face as Catholic women voters. As women it is in our nature to care for the needy, our hearts ache for justice and equity among all. We often feel and sense things in a way much deeper—or different—than our male counterparts.

Social justice and social teaching are on our radars—and rightly so. Either term reaches out to women because we care deeply about the needs of others. The only caveat? We cannot—and should not—put them above the teaching of Mother Church on abortion—that it is intrinsically evil. 

Yet, we do have Church teachings on our responsibilities to society—and they are very clear. It is part of our call to feed the hungry, house the homeless, visit the sick.

So what is the “spirit of the Gospel” to which Bl. John Paul II refers, then, for those of us interested in helping mankind not fall?

Is it social justice?

Is it human dignity and the right to life?

This is where we must turn to Church teaching for a clear answer—and is where we will find one, whether we like it or not. Whether we agree or not.

No matter how we parse it, we cannot use any term or phrase in a way that it supersedes our first obligation to honor life from conception to death. In fact, I believe the reality is such that if we honor life in this way (from conception to natural death), social justice will be a normal extension of that commitment to life. And I believe the opposite is true as well: if we do not honor life from conception to death, it won’t be long before we no longer value “social justice” in any way, shape or form.

As Catholic Christians we understand a “hierarchy” of sins. We know the difference between venial and mortal sins. So when the Church invokes such language as “intrinsic evil” when referring to abortion, we are supposed to sit up and take note. It can’t be thrown in the same pile as a lack of social justice or the ways we may be failing some of our brothers and sisters.

There is a lot at stake in this election and the words Bl. John Paul II used to begin his encyclical on the dignity and vocation of women should strike a chord with any woman who reads them. It was his personal invitation and call to holiness to Catholic women everywhere. His faith was such that he most certainly believed that we would understand the stakes and then when faced with them we would choose to aid humanity in not falling.

Nothing more, nothing less: aid humanity in not falling.

It is a tremendous responsibility to be a Catholic woman voter this year. It seems to be the time Bl. John Paul wrote of with certainty and insight, guided by the Holy Spirit, so that we would rise confidently and compassionately to the challenge that was before us and, imbued with the Gospel, do our part to aiding humanity in not falling.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Girls Just Want to Have Fun!

A gorgeous jacket caught my eye as I was flipping through an issue of a fashion magazine, trying to find the “perfect” haircut—you know, just cute enough to say I am still “fashionable” yet not too cute as to say “I’m 54 years-old trying to look 30.” The jacket was what I would call “car length.” It was covered in an animal print.

I loved it!

At that point, having lost my focus on trying to find a picture of a perfect haircut to take to my stylist, I intently surveyed the different animal print products—from handbags to pants to shoes—each seeming a bit wild and yet quite appealing. Of course at my age I couldn’t fathom donning a full-on animal print ensemble—or maybe I was never at the correct age to wear such an outfit—but there was still something attractive about an animal print accessory, and most especially that coat!

It just seemed “fun.”

Sometimes, as Christian women, we forget that we are called to have fun. In our day-to-day living in which we embrace our roles as wives and mothers and sisters and care-givers, we forget that there ought to be joy in our journey. Often that joy is a quiet one, maybe it settles upon our spirit during Eucharistic Adoration or it may be found in caring for a sick family member or even in serving food to the homeless; but other times joy is that sheer pleasure of being alive. It is that recognition that God made us uniquely female and that we have an ability to experience our world in a very feminine, fun way.

Time spent with our friends tends to reflect who we are: those who have been created different but equal to men. In the space of a lunch together we can laugh, cry, pray and laugh some more. We have the capacity to contemplate the things of the world while being able to loving tend to a scraped knee.

Some of us can bake and sew—this gal has not been given those particular talents—while others may be able to organize school plays or board meetings.

Through it all, with everything that rests upon our shoulders, it is good to remember that we are called to have fun.

When my third son was a youngster I remember that he used to skip everywhere he went. I got such a kick out of watching him skipping to his bike, skipping down the hall to his bedroom and skipping through the grocery aisles. For me, seeing him skip around reflected his innate ability to have fun—his great joy at being alive and very much in the moment.

Ah, youth!

Looking at that animal print jacket in the magazine, I was reminded of my son’s skipping; I was reminded that my journey, too, is meant to be fun. As Christian women we have to be cautious to not get too bogged down in our duties at matriarchs wherein the fun of being alive sort of slowly vanishes.

Fun isn’t just for the young but, as they say, for the young at heart.

None of my friends can understand why I am so anxious for cooler temperatures to arrive. But it will all become clear when they see the fun coat I have to wear!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Five Friends A Woman Needs

Recently God brought into my life a woman who I now call “friend.” I spent some time with her recently where we enjoyed a cup of tea and chatting. As I left I was buoyed by our visit. It got me to thinking how perfectly she fit into my life and reflect on the question: What sort of friends does a woman “need” in her life?

I know lots of women: the mothers of all the friends of my sons; women with whom I’ve worked and those with whom I’ve worshipped. There are women neighbors and there are women relatives. I’ve been blessed by meeting women at speaking engagements who have touched my heart.

But friends?

I have but a few.

I remember once being told that at the end of your life, if you can count on one hand your true friends, you will have been very lucky.

I guess that was the secular way of saying you have been very blessed.

At 54 years old, I see that I have been very blessed.

If we’ve got one hand to work off of, I believe these are the five friends each woman needs:

1. A woman needs a friend with whom she can pray. Not just words over a meal but the sort of prayers that erupt from the depths of the heart and soul.

2. A woman needs a friend with whom she can laugh. Not just a chuckle but a belly laugh—or better yet, the giggle of a little girl released and loved.

3. A woman needs a friend with whom she can cry. Not just tears that rim the eyes but the painful cry that seems to have no end but is met with kindness and compassion.

4. A woman needs a friend to whom she can expose her weakest self and still be loved. Not just the superficial “I’m not perfect” stuff but the real, true self who has been to the edge and back.

5. A woman needs a friend for whom no judgment exists. Not just in offering non-judgmental words to a dilemma but someone who simply could not see her friend through any eyes other than the eyes of Christ.

The thing about these five friends is that God gives them to us when we need them, if only we ask. Like my new friend. We may not be on the phone everyday but somehow I know she is just a phone call away.

There are seasons in which friends come and go.

And that’s okay.

I had a friend from my teen years that I’ve tried to connect with here and there even though we have nothing in common—other than having gone to middle school together. I liked the idea of saying we had been friends for 40 some years; but I’ve since realized that friendships aren’t marked by the length of time but by time they are in our lives.