Yesterday, the global community celebrated International Women’s Day. A day aimed at celebrating “women’s achievements” and calling for “greater equality” for woman around the world. If you ‘Googled’ the term – international women’s day, you found yourself drowning in articles and pages from the mainstream media on what they thought was the most important aspects of the day. I didn’t read every article, but the one thing that was missing from the ones I did read – the dignity of women. There were all these initiatives, programs, and hashtags, but not much on the importance of the dignity of women.
Let’s be honest, this is our modern culture. Instead of focusing on the importance of the human person and the innate dignity we each have, it’s easier to just develop a program, create a mission statement, or quote someone of importance, give it a hashtag, and move along.
Knowing the importance of the dignity and vocation of women, Pope St. John Paul II in 1988 wrote the document, Mulieris Dignitatem. At the heart of this document is not just any woman, but the woman – God’s greatest creation of all, the finest example of femininity, and the true feminist – the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Here are ten quotes from the Polish Pope and Saint focusing on the dignity and vocation of women –
1. “In our times the question of “women’s rights” has taken on new significance in the broad context of the rights of the human person…In the name of liberation from male “domination,” women must not appropriate to themselves male characteristics contrary to their own feminine “originality.” There is a well-founded fear that if they take this path, women will not “reach fulfillment,” but instead will deform and lose what constitutes their essential richness. It is indeed an enormous richness”(#10).
2. “The personal resources of femininity are certainly no less than the resources of masculinity: they are merely different. Hence a woman, as well as a man, must understand her “fulfillment” as a person, her dignity and vocation, on the basis of these resources, according to the richness of the femininity which she received on the day of creation…”(#10).
3. “In all of Jesus’ teaching, as well as in his behavior, one can find nothing which reflects the discrimination against women prevalent in his day. On the contrary, his words and works always express the respect and honor due to women…Walking the Via Dolorosa to Golgotha, Jesus will say to the women: “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me” (Lk 23:28). This way of speaking to and about women, as well as his manner of treating them, clearly constitutes an “innovation” with respect to the prevailing custom at that time” (#13).
4. “The dignity and the vocation of women–as well as those of men–find their eternal source in the heart of God. And in the temporal conditions of human existence, they are closely connected with the “unity of the two.” Consequently each man must look within himself to see whether she who was entrusted to him as a sister in humanity, as a spouse, has not become in his heart an object of adultery; to see whether she who, in different ways, is the co-subject of his existence in the world, has not become for him an “object”: an object of pleasure, of exploitation” (#14).
5. “From the beginning of Christ’s mission, women show to him and to his mystery a special sensitivity which is characteristic of their femininity. It must also be said that this is especially confirmed in the Paschal Mystery, not only at the Cross but also at the dawn of the Resurrection…The Gospel of John (cf. also Mk 16:9) emphasizes the special role of Mary Magdalene…Hence she came to be called ‘the apostle of the Apostles’” (#16).
6. “Motherhood has been introduced into the order of the Covenant that God made with humanity in Jesus Christ. Each and every time that motherhood is repeated in human history, it is always related to the Covenant which God established with the human race through the motherhood of the Mother of God” (#19).
7. “In every age and in every country we find many “perfect” women (cf. Prov 31:10) who, despite persecution, difficulties and discrimination, have shared in the Church’s mission…the witness and the achievements of Christian women have had a significant impact on the life of the Church as well as of society…Holy women are an incarnation of the feminine ideal; they are also a model for all Christians” (#27).
8. “A woman’s dignity is closely connected with the love which she receives by the very reason of her femininity; it is likewise connected with the love which she gives in return” (#30).
9. “A woman is strong because of her awareness of this entrusting, strong because of the fact that God “entrusts the human being to her,” always and in every way, even in the situations of social discrimination in which she may find herself. This awareness and this fundamental vocation speak to women of the dignity which they receive from God himself, and this makes them “strong” and strengthens their vocation” (#30).
10. “The Church gives thanks for all the manifestations of the feminine “genius” which have appeared in the course of history, in the midst of all peoples and nations; she gives thanks for all the charisms which the Holy Spirit distributes to women in the history of the People of God, for all the victories which she owes to their faith, hope and charity: she gives thanks for all the fruits of feminine holiness”(#31).
Feel free to share this blog post or copy/paste the quotes to your social media outlets. For more on the dignity and vocation of women, please read the document, Christifideles Laici, specifically paragraph 49.
Let us pray this day, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for the women in our lives that have increased our sanctity and lead us, as Mary does each day, closer to Jesus Christ.