Monday, December 1, 2014

Discerning Women

My post for today is on the first Monday of the Month. I had been doing it on First Fridays, the day of devotion for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I’ve been attending mass on that day for a long time, but am planning a shift toward Monday devotion and will try to attend mass at least one Monday a month. Monday is devoted to the Holy Ghost and souls in Purgatory (you can see a list of devotions here). 

In my last post, I mentioned the Extraordinary Synod of the Family, called by Pope Francis and held in October. Pope Francis has called Catholic Bishops to give input about the family and work on the problems related to it. They are going to have another meeting next year in which there may be some revisions of the current status of teaching. The Pope is looking for input from the general Catholic membership also. Since the Pope and others have used the Holy Family as a model for families, I’d like to comment about that for my December post.

For a long time the Church leadership has insisted that all married couples seek to “develop a mentality of openness to life,” which to them means having a marriage in which every sexual act would potentially lead to children. Concerning the Holy Family, the Catholic Church holds that Mary was a virgin throughout her whole life and Jesus was her only child. In order for that to be true, Mary and Joseph had no sexual relations and apparently felt no compulsion to have more children.

Last month I talked about Christ saying that his true family are those who do God’s will. Ironically the example of the Holy Family, instead of backing the Magisterium's apparent interpretation, more clearly shows that God called Mary directly and personally (through an angel) to do His will. God did not consult first with Mary’s religious leaders, her parents, or even her husband-to-be. And Mary answered directly to God (through an angel) without first consulting with her religious leaders, her parents, or even her husband-to-be. She had to discern (I believe with God’s help) that the angel was a good one, since not all angels are. Mary didn’t know if, in her acceptance, Joseph would still marry her or if her parents would reject her or if the Jewish leaders would try to have her stoned. 

I don't understand how our Church leadership can be sincere in using Mary as an example to promote child-bearing. Of course, Jesus Christ was quite a child, but no amount of child-bearing could make another woman into Mary or another child equal to Christ.

John Paul II, in his Apostolic letter Mulieris dignitatem, also extensively cites Mary’s life. He says virginity and motherhood are complimentary, but it is a little hard to understand that in a practical way. He talks about consecrated virgins caring for others, such as the poor, which certainly is often the case. This is a form of mothering though it is not to biological children. However, perhaps a young woman does not feel the call to religious vocation but does discern that God calls her to be, for example, a doctor. Then she spends her youth in becoming educated and starts to practice. If she later falls in love with a man, she will probably discern that she still has that original calling to be a doctor. She then also needs to discern if this man is compatible as a life partner, and by “compatible” I mean someone who respects the woman in all her facets. Women and men both need to realize they first must seek God, then, if so inclined, seek a human partner.

Marriage is present in other religions, so to be married is not necessarily to evangelize for Christianity. Though lasting marriage is very important, it seems to be one aspect of Christ’s larger message. The priority of the Church is evangelization. The central point of Christianity is to believe Jesus Christ is one of the persons of the Trinity of God who came to Earth, lived a sinless life and died in atonement of the sins of humanity. We are also to proclaim such to others in the best way we can. It is vital for each of us to believe in Him and to continue to proclaim His divinity and inform persons that they also need to have this faith for the salvation of their souls and an everlasting life with God in heaven.

Most of us have long lives, and if a married Christian woman truly discerns that God is calling her to motherhood, the Church should support her and her family in every way they can. But if a married Catholic woman discerns that God is calling her to promote His kingdom using gifts other than motherhood, then the Church should also support her and her husband in every way they can. These women with other callings would indeed be wonderful assets to the Church’s mission. Not every career woman is selfishly out for herself in the way she is often portrayed. She might be giving to others in very important physical and spiritual ways. (And this is possible for married women without abortifacients, but NFP is just not sufficient. Women can be irregular and can't always plan for the wedding night.) The Church leadership is a long way off from this ideal of supporting women. This contributes greatly to the fact that American, European, and now Latin American women, and men along with them, have left the Church.

There was another conference on the family in November—this one ecumenical. Pope Francis said this about complementarities between spouses in a family, with a link to an article about the conference here at Vatican News:
The Holy Father began his address by dwelling on the word “complementarity”: “a precious word, with multiple meanings.” Although complementarity can refer “situations where one of two things adds to, completes, or fulfills a lack in the other” it also means much more than that. Christians, he said, “find its deepest meaning in the first Letter to the Corinthians where Saint Paul tells us that the Spirit has endowed each of us with different gifts so that-just as the human body's members work together for the good of the whole-everyone's gifts can work together for the benefit of each.”
Complementarity, the Pope said, “is at the root of marriage and family.” Although there are tensions in families, the family also provides the framework in which those tensions can be resolved.” He said that complementarity should not be confused with a simplistic notion that “all the roles and relations of the sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern.” Rather, “complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children.”
Pope Francis has been encouraging discernment. Of course we all need the right foundation. Then the Church leaders and members should learn when to discern together and when individuals should be trusted to discern God's will for themselves. We need to pray that we can listen to God as well as Mary, the mother of Jesus, did so many years ago.
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May you have a blessed Christmas. I hope you have time (3:44) to play the video at the top of the page. The song is "Joy." Music by Cindy Morgan, Lights by eShepherds of Light. I saw it  here at the Vimeo website.