Women: called to be an answer
On August 15 this year, Catholics around the world celebrated the Feast of the Assumption. It also marked the 30th Anniversary of Saint Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter to Women; Mulieris Dignitatem: On the Vocation and the Dignity of Women.
While John Paul II’s insights were written 30 years ago they remain as relevant as ever, if not more so.
More than any of his predecessors John Paul II spoke and wrote very publicly about the value and the dignity of women. Elected as Pope shortly after the peak of the sexual revolution and feminist liberation movement, John Paul II was deeply aware of the challenges facing women in the modern world and he sought to affirm their deep and inherent value.
While recognising these challenges, he also saw the need to communicate the age-old truths of the Church in new and engaging ways. One of the ways he chose to engage women was to extend an invitation to them to reflect upon on what it means to be created as a woman in light of God’s original plan.
He begins Mulieris Dignitatem with a closing statement from the Council Fathers at the end of the Second Vatican Council.
“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”.
This forms the essence of what John Paul II wished to communicate; a desire that women would play a central and irreplaceable role in the world. He called on all women to embrace their giftedness, or what he called their genius, and offer that as a gift to the world.
Using the Blessed Mother as the ultimate example of womanhood John Paul II unpacked a vision for womanhood which was grounded in God’s original plan for humanity as well as exploring the gifts and qualities which are unique to womanhood. He encouraged women to unapologetically engage with these qualities and instead of trying to be like men, he encouraged them to embrace the unique spiritual qualities of womanhood, qualities which he called the feminine genius.
It is these qualities which need to be fostered, nurtured and encouraged, without them he said the world will be impoverished.
As we reflect on the Feast of the Assumption let us draw from the reflections Saint John Paul II offered for both men and woman.
CAPTION: Karen Doyle has produced a video dealing with Mulieris Dignitatem “A Catholic Women’s Resource”. She has also authored “Beloved Daughter: A Catholic Women’s Prayer Journal.”