GLORY OF BEING A WOMAN
IT might seem strange to see an article by a male, celibate priest written about the glory of being a woman. The question immediately arises: What does he know about women?
PLEASE dont think Im
crazy when I answer: a lot. In my 55 years of priesthood I have walked
in the inner gardens of heart, mind and soul of many thousands of women. It has been an
experience, which has often made me lift my arms to God and say: Thank you, Lord, for the
gift of women. This deep reverence for women started with two mothers: my own and
THEN I learned that Jesus could have come into this world in a thousand different ways but His eternal Father chose a woman. Can there be a greater honor paid to women than that? I thought then and think now if God gives glory to a woman should we not do the same? I soon found out that Mary was not only Jesus mother but also my own Mother of Perpetual Help. I dont know how many times I have run to her for help and have received it. I remember especially that day when I was thinking of leaving the priesthood and I knelt before her altar and asked her what I should do. I never got her answer in words but I did get it in the conviction that I should remain a priest. That was some day!
AND then there was a woman on the other side of the picture a prostitute. It happened in Belem, Brazil, a city at the mouth of the Amazon River. The woman was dying and one of her co-workers came to the Rectory to get a priest to give her the last Sacraments. I did not know what I was getting into until we entered the Red Light district. I asked my driver if the dying woman was a prostitute and she said yes. When we arrived there were eight or nine women around the dying womans bed. She was sufficiently conscious to answer some questions. I gave her all the Sacraments and then asked the women to say the rosary with me. During the rosary the woman died. I stayed on and talked with the women about God and life and death. And they talked to me about their life in a house of prostitution. The experience was soul shaking. The pain that most of them suffered in their souls would make a statue weep. While I was listening to them, I kept going back to something our founder, St. Alphonsus, had said about prostitutes: That most of them are more sinned against than sinning. I certainly agreed.
AN interesting aside is that the prostitutes of a brothel near our parish church in Belem all came to the Novena services in honor of our Mother of Perpetual Help. We had 14 services each Tuesday and they came to the 8 AM service and sat right behind the nuns.
DO women suffer more than men? From my experience I have to say yes. Women live in a mans world and are often not respected for their contributions to that world. Women have a beautiful sensitivity that prepares many of them for motherhood but also opens them up to pain. I have noticed this sensitivity especially in teenage girls. Its a pain that frequently comes from doubts about self, from relationships with parents, boys, girl friends and life. In todays fast moving, highly sophisticated, sex-saturated world teenage girls have a hard row to hoe. The number of teenage girls suicides is heartrending.
IN many cultures of the world today, women do not enjoy the respect that is their due. We have recently seen that in Afghanistan girls were not even allowed to go to school. Such procedures are not calculated to produce respect for the feminine side of our being. And in our very own culture in this countrywomen were second-class citizens without the right to vote until the 1920s.
A curious factor is taking place among women who are graduating from some of our most prestigious law universities. They are graduating, often with highest honors, but some are not practicing law. When I asked one why not? she said. I have better things to do. Such as: I asked. She said: Raise a family. Her answer moved me. I bowed my head in reverence.
IT'S clear that womens value systems are certainly different from mens. Men are more interested in power and control. Women are interested in love and family. Power, control, love and family are all needed and make the world go around. But reverence and respect are frequently easily lost in the process.
THE Catholic Church is not exempt from criticism in this regard. Fortunately there may be change coming. V. Rev. Joseph Tobin, CssR, Rector Major of the Redemptorists, writes from Rome: I have no doubt the future Church will wear a lay face, both male and female.
IN an article on the Internet by Jerome Murray, Ph.D. on THE WEAKER SEX the author points out that women handle stress better than men. As a result they live longer. In every country of the world, women live longer than men. While men do well with tasks requiring courage and short term physical action, women have superior endurance when dealing with long-term pressures.
IN my perspective one of the greatest proofs of the glory of being a woman is babies, whether her own or those of others. Mothers will go through hell and high water for their babies. I remember quite vividly the account of a young mother in Minneapolis whose baby had been left in a burning building. She fought through a cordon of firemen to return to the building to save her baby. She ran through flames to enter the building. She never came out. Neither did her baby.
ONE of the most delightful sounds I have heard in my many years is the giggling of little girls. There is a beautiful innocence to those sounds that touch the heart. Their rapt attention to each others stories and yet their eagerness to tell their own is lovely to behold. No wonder Jesus said: Let the little children come unto me and of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.
GLORY be to God who gave us women and glory be to them for being women.
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