If changing clothes is part of changing roles, I think women wear a lot of hats—and outfits–in a day. From mom-in-sweats to workplace wear to work out to soccer match casual. I’m not a mom but I’m used to changing clothes often for different roles in life.
Beyond the roles women find themselves in, there is much to be said about their inherent importance and dignity.
In the much publicized interview released last week in America magazine, Pope Francis again brought up the issue of women’s role in the Church and called for a new theology of women.
The pope said that deep questions need to be answered. But he distinguished between women’s importance as persons and their roles when he talked about the Blessed Mother:
Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity.
He echoed Bl. Pope John Paul II’s 25-year-old apostolic letter, Mulieris Dignitatem in which Bl. John Paul writes that women represent a particular value because they’re human persons and at the same time, that they’re particular persons because of their femininity. This he calls the “feminine genius”, notwithstanding capabilities, accomplishments—or roles:
“…The Church gives thanks for each and every woman: for mothers, for sisters, for wives; for women consecrated to God in virginity; for women dedicated to the many human beings who await the gratuitous love of another person; for women who watch over the human persons in the family, which is the fundamental sign of the human community; for women who work professionally, and who at times are burdened by a great social responsibility; for “perfect” women and for “weak” women…for all women as they have come forth from the heart of God in all the beauty and richness of their femininity; as they have been embraced by his eternal love…”
As strong and beautiful as the feminine genius is, it reaches its fullness together with the masculine genius, as the two are complementary, John Paul II writes.
…together with men, they are pilgrims on this earth, which is the temporal “homeland” of all people and is transformed sometimes into a “valley of tears”; as they assume, together with men, a common responsibility for the destiny of humanity according to daily necessities and according to that definitive destiny which the human family has in God himself, in the bosom of the ineffable Trinity.
Whatever women are doing, they offer their being to help the Church and the world, according to Deborah Savage, theology and philosophy professor at St. Paul Seminary who spoke recently in St. Paul on Mulieris Dignitatem at an event sponsored by the Siena Symposium, an interdisciplinary faculty group at the University of St. Thomas dedicated to rebuilding families and culture through scholarship and insights of the Catholic faith.
Are we, you and I, at the center of the salvific work that could be and should be taking place in our homes, our workplaces, our culture? Are we reflections of the supernatural reality that is the full expression of the feminine genius?
Even in this era of androgyny, not all outfits fit everyone, and some roles are suited for feminine or masculine genius. But there are many roles and the Church needs women’s unique gifts for this salvific work. According to Pope Francis:
“The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church. …We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church.”