When I first started hearing about feminism, I was actually quite defensive of it. I didn’t agree with a lot of the opinions I thought I was “required” to have in order to be a feminist. I love my Catholic faith, and I was being told that as a Catholic I couldn’t be a feminist. I guess it was because only men can be priests, and the Old Testament of the Bible used to blame women for everything. Looking back, I realize that they were missing out on so much. The Catholic faith does not put women down, it raises them up.
The Catholic faith celebrates femininity and womanhood. It celebrates the inherent power that women have in their power to give life. Anyone can take life, but only women can give it. The Church celebrates this power and treasures it so much that it encourages women to save it until they are in a life-long, sacramentally bonded relationship in which to express it. I realize, this is very different than saying that the Church wants women to wait to have sex because sex is bad. Sex is great, and the Church knows it! But because we are encouraged to embrace this power, sex becomes powerful, and therefore meant for certain times. Now I realize that some will say that the Church shames those who don’t wait for marriage, but that isn’t my Church. That is a twisted version that sees people for what they do, rather than what they are. We are children of God, daughters of the King, princesses, if you may.
The power found in womanhood is displayed in the women saints that the Church lifts up and celebrates, giving us examples to follow. Most of these saints were not quiet, shy, well-behaved women. In fact, a lot of Saints became saints by breaking rules. Every woman that died because she would not renounce her faith during the Roman persecution is considered a role model for every woman of faith today. St. Joan of Arc led the French army in battle in 1429. 1429! Some of the most well-known female saints, went against social norms. St Teresia Benedicta (A.K.A. Edith Stein) was a feminist in the early 1900’s, who wrote about the dignity of women and the feminine genius. One of her most well known quotes is “The world doesn’t need what women have, it needs what women are.” These are the examples that the Church gives women to follow. Fierce, bold, brave, authentic women.
My favorite Pope, now a Saint, St. John Paul II wrote a “Letter to Women” in which he says, “Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.” The Pope, the figurehead of the Church, the presence of Christ on Earth, thanked women for simply existing. There have been lesser men, who don’t celebrate women to the extent that St. John Paul II did. However, these men are not the ones that become Saints, that are celebrated for generations. This is because they do not represent the true nature of the Church, that which loves women.
It is true that in the Old Testament has stories where women are stoned for ridiculous reasons. However, the Church obviously does not approve of this (really, is it even an argument?). Furthermore, also found in the Old Testament is one of the most empowering quotes from the Bible.”She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.” (Proverbs 31:25) SHE. She. She is strong, she is dignified, and she is fearless. This is how the Church sees women. These, again, are the women that the Church celebrates and lifts up as examples for us to follow.
As far as I can tell, this is not anti-feminist. This is Catholic feminism. This is the feminism where I found power, strength, belonging, and pride in being a woman. The greatest example of Catholic feminism is Mary, the Mother of God. The one person that the entirety of Christianity rests upon is a woman. Yes, Jesus Christ was very important for Christianity. However, God sent the Angel Gabriel to Mary to tell her that she had been chosen to be the Mother of God. He didn’t surprise her, He didn’t assume that she would be okay with it. Yes, even God asked for consent. Mary’s answer, “Let it be done to me according to your will,” set into motion God’s plan of salvation. Without her “yes” to God, all of Christianity would not exist. This is feminine power, feminine dignity, and feminine genius. This is Catholicism. This is my faith. And this is how I became a feminist.