Pope Francis reached out to women in a powerful way during Holy Week.
First, there was his wonderful action on Holy Thursday when he washed the feet of two young women. He spoke of women as the first witnesses to Christ’s resurrection during his Easter vigil homily and then on Tuesday, he spoke again about Mary Magdalene.
Yesterday, he delivered a powerful reflection on unique role of women as mothers.
Feminists have thrown motherhood over in many ways. I have sympathy for the reasons they did this. Pregnancy and motherhood was used as an excuse to limit women and to discriminate against them. This is true in some respects even today. However, instead of demanding change in this regard, they ended up settling for the horrible quick fix of abortion. In this way abortion became an accommodation to and an extension of misogyny.
Motherhood has always been degraded, or I should say, it always has in my lifetime. Women themselves degrade motherhood. We try to deny the demands it places on us for fear that we will be given short shrift in other areas of our lives. What too often happens because of this denial is that we end up doing the all-important job of mothering our children less well than we should.
In truth, motherhood is uniquely female. We are the life-bearers of humanity. We are the nurturers and shapers of each succeeding generation of people. Women are equipped for this work by temperament and talent. Yet our society has gotten so turned on its head that we not only devalue motherhood, we challenge women who do it.
“You are wasting your life,” I was told when I was a stay-at-home mom. “Your kids are too dependent on you,” I heard when my toddlers clung to me in strange situations or ran to me when they skinned their knees. These sentiments are ubiquitous throughout our society.
Back when many mothers stayed home with their children every mother had a built-in support group, right there in her neighborhood. Now, stay at home moms are isolated islands, all alone in seas of empty houses while everyone else is off at work. What that means in practical terms is that stay at home moms have it harder now than they did in any generation before. They do not have the coffee klatches and the over-the-fence conversations that mothers in earlier generations had to sustain them emotionally during the long days alone with small children. Their husbands, who are poorly equipped for it, have to meet this need for human interaction and girl-talk all by themselves.
We have isolated our families with moves and chasing jobs so that many times the husband and wife are going it alone in a big city just as much as a pioneer family living in a soddy out on the prairie ever was. In a fractured society which has lost its sense of community, children need to be more tightly bonded to their mothers and their homes, not less. We live in a society that is hell bent (I meant that literally, by the way) on its on deconstruction and moral unraveling. Our media pushes it on us. Our schools teach it to our children.
Without families, without mothers and fathers, children will be raised by this dishonest, sick, larger culture. They will themselves become sick and dishonest.
It is not enough to shuttle our children from one lesson, one activity, to another. It most certainly is not enough to live in the “right” school district and dress them in the latest fashions. Children need their parents. They especially need their mothers. They don’t need chauffeurs. They need mothers who read to them, talk to them and are with them.
Pope Francis spoke of this during his reflection Wednesday. At one point, he departed from his prepared text to say, “Mothers, go forth with this witness to the living Christ.” I didn’t hear it, but I like to think that he was referring to the fact that women were the first messengers of the risen Christ when Mary Magdalene took the news of His resurrection to the disciples and that the pope is urging mothers everywhere to be the messengers of the risen Christ to their families, in particular their children.
The Holy Father gave a beautiful reflection on women and the value of mothers in the world.
Here is part of it from Vatican Radio, emphasis mine:
Today, however, I would like to dwell the second, on testimony in the form of the accounts that we find in the Gospels. First, we note that the first witnesses to this event were the women. At dawn, they go to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, and find the first sign: the empty tomb (Mk 16:1). This is followed by an encounter with a Messenger of God who proclaims: Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One, he is not here, he is risen (cf. vv. 5-6). The women are driven by love and know how to accept this proclamation with faith: they believe, and immediately transmit it, they do not keep it for themselves. They cannot contain the joy of knowing that Jesus is alive, the hope that fills their heart. This should also be the same in our lives. Let us feel the joy of being Christian! We believe in the Risen One who has conquered evil and death! Let us also have the courage to “go out” to bring this joy and light to all the places of our lives! The Resurrection of Christ is our greatest certainty, it is our most precious treasure! How can we not share this treasure, this beautiful certainty with others! It’s not just for us it’s to be transmitted, shared with others this is our testimony!
Another element. In the professions of faith of the New Testament, only men are remembered as witnesses of the Resurrection, the Apostles, but not the women. This is because, according to the Jewish Law of the time, women and children were not considered reliable, credible witnesses. In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role. Here we can see an argument in favor of the historicity of the Resurrection: if it were a invented, in the context of that time it would not have been linked to the testimony of women. Instead, the evangelists simply narrate what happened: the women were the first witnesses. This tells us that God does not choose according to human criteria: the first witnesses of the birth of Jesus are the shepherds, simple and humble people, the first witnesses of the Resurrection are women. This is beautiful, and this is the mission of women, of mothers and women, to give witness to their children and grandchildren that Christ is Risen! Mothers go forward with this witness! What matters to God is our heart, if we are open to Him, if we are like trusting children. But this also leads us to reflect on how in the Church and in the journey of faith, women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord, in following him and communicating his face, because the eyes of faith always need the simple and profound look of love. The Apostles and disciples find it harder to believe in the Risen Christ, not the women however! Peter runs to the tomb, but stops before the empty tomb; Thomas has to touch the wounds of the body of Jesus with his hands. In our journey of faith it is important to know and feel that God loves us, do not be afraid to love: faith is professed with the mouth and heart, with the word and love.
After the apparitions to women, there were others: Jesus becomes present in a new way: He is the Crucified One, but his body is glorious; He did not return to an earthly life, but a new condition. At first they did not recognize him, and only through his words and deeds were their eyes opened: the encounter with the Risen Lord transforms, it gives new strength to faith, an unshakable foundation. The Risen Christ also reveals Himself to us with many signs: Sacred Scripture, the Eucharist, the other Sacraments, charity, these gestures of love bring a ray of the Risen One.
Let us be enlightened by the Resurrection of Christ, let us be transformed by His power, so that through us the signs of death give way to signs of life in the world! I saw that there are many young people in the Square! Young boys and girls, to you I say bring forth this certainty the Lord is Alive and walks beside us on our life’s journey! Bring forth this hope, be anchored in this hope, the hope that comes from heaven! Be anchored and bring forth the hope! You witnesses of Christ bring forth hope to this world that is aged by wars and sin! Go forward young people! (Read the rest here.)