The Role of Women in the Church
Sister Katherine Maria

The "role of women in the church" issue, in its demanding spirit of equality, is simply wrong! The concept of a struggle between men and women in their capacity to serve God is generated because we have confused the standards of the world which is a natural existence, with the standards of the Church which is a supernatural institution. The two spheres are diametrically opposed! Our Lord Himself illustrated this many times in Scripture. Over and over again Christ rebuked His disciples who were always yielding to natural ambition rather than supernatural. "Do you want to be first?" He asked, "Then be last. Do you want to rule?...then serve."

What is the role of women in the Church? What is the role of men in the Church? Is it to gain position, power, or a chance to display their natural ability? Father Frederick Faber summed up the answer to these questions by saying, "Holiness is the thing." Holiness is the role par excellence of a true follower of Christ, man or woman. It is the one thing lacking in the Church today on a grand scale. Where are our holy leaders and our saintly examples especially in these troubled times? If women (or men for that matter) desire a position in the structure of the Church more than personal holiness, then they miss the whole point of the Church.

The Church is not a modem or an outlet for self-gratification, it is rather the living safeguard of Christ's teaching. It is not an end in itself but a means to our true end in eternity. To reduce the divine institution of the Catholic Church and its mission to a bureaucratic structure filled with worldly achievements is to return to the days of the Pharisees.

There was no mincing of words when Jesus spoke to the multitudes and His disciples concerning the Pharisees. He admonished His followers not to imitate their ambition and denounced divers "woes" against them for their hypocrisy and blindness. "All their works they do to be seen by men...and they love the first places at feasts and the first chairs in the synagogues and salutations in the market place." How can anyone who intends to follow Christ betray these same ambitions, quibbling for his role in the Church? Should we not rather imitate Christ if we desire to serve Him? How is this possible if we disregard His words which we should imprint upon our hearts as a rule of life? He that is the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled: and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matt 9:23.11) Then Jesus added to this list of qualifications, the absolute fundamental insistence that: "If any man (or woman) will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For he (or she) that shall save his life shall lose it: and he (or she) that shall lose his life for My sake shall find it. For what does it profit a man (or woman) if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?" (Matt 16:24) Is it not obvious that promoting the role of the Church in society through self-abasement and personal holiness is the role Christ intended for His true followers?

The frustrated women headlining current media reviews with their demands for ordination are basically devoid of inner peace which is so essential to holiness. They hide their lust for notoriety behind a cry for equality, their desire for power is called liberation and their sense of pride "to be like unto God"- is called education. They are sadly unaware or have forgotten that a vocation is a life-affair of service compelled by a desire to imitate our Crucified Savior. They have lost all sense of what the priesthood means, or they would be ashamed of their demands. It is not a job or an ecclesiastical promotion- its attainment is not achieved by a "success-drive."

In previous years women responded to the call of a vocation by serving the sick in hospitals, teaching in schools, and mothering the orphans. Today almost every vestige of the old established religious orders is disappearing, as they close down one by one. Yet, at the same time, the remaining vocal elements are clamoring for ordination. The simple Gospel concept of sacrificing oneself, dying to oneself to become all for Jesus has been obliterated in the minds of the ambitious. The false god of Self-worth has blinded its victims and driven them into a frenzy of "rights" and demands.

The devil has many pomps and clever tricks to ensnare the unaware, or the selfish. But Truth cannot be obscured by sophistries for long, and Christ Himself, Who is Truth Eternal deemed it necessary to reveal the height of His triumph in the lowliness of His beginning, which took place at a simple fiat (let it be) of the Virgin Mary. Need we look for a more fulfilling role of woman in the Church than in the very Mother of God, the little girl of Nazareth who unselfishly yielded to the eternal plans of God the Father? "My soul does magnify the Lord," she said in the few words of hers recorded in Holy Scripture. (Luke 1:26) Her soul does not compete with God or man; it is like a convex crystal through which the power and love of God grow because it is not obscured by the film of self-importance. "And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior", she continued. Her rejoicing was not in herself or her position; she did not confuse the means with the end. She was absorbed in God and He became absorbed in her because He has regarded the humility of His handmaid.

Why all this fighting over the "role" of women in the Church? It is an already established fact, for anyone with spiritual insight, that Mary, our leading role model, is always within prayer reach to guide us in our quest for holiness, and holiness is our role in the Church. She, the frail "virgin-mother," is our mentor. She, unordained, un-college educated, alone amongst women, towers threateningly over the would-be triumph of the devil, and it is she who will crush his head with her heel, for it is through her and all that follow her example that "God has showed the might in His arm: He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their hearts, because He has exalted the humble." Let us follow her to participate in the role Christ has intended for us in the Church, and not make one to our own liking.

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Self Conquest Thoughts on the Way of Perfection

We must struggle daily to do the Will of God if we wish to attain Heaven; in this consists perfection.  Herein are presented some thoughts from the Saints and others, who sought the Will of God to a heroic degree, in order to give useful insights on how to continually strive towards our purpose in our daily life.
Humility: The virtue of humility is deemed by the saints the foundation and the safeguard of all the other virtues.  St. Augustine says that humility must accompany all our actions, must be with us everywhere; for as soon as we glory in our good works they are of no further value to our advancement in virtue.  There are many quotes from Our Lord and the Bible emphasizing the importance of humility.  Who will be great in God's eyes?  "At that hour the disciples came to Jesus saying,  'Who then is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?'  And Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in their midst, and said,  'Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.  Whoever, therefore, humbles himself as this little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.'"  (Matt. 18:1-4).  "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."  (James 4:6).  "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will exalt you."  (James 4:10).  "Learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart."  (Matt. 11:29).
Charity: St. Margaret Mary, who received from our Divine Lord many communications relative to Charity, was shown the soul of a deceased person who had to undergo but a light chastisement, and Our Lord told her that among all the good works which this person had performed in the world, He had taken into special consideration certain humiliations to which she had submitted in the world, because she had suffered them in the spirit of charity, not only without murmuring, but even without speaking of them.  Our Lord added that, as a reward, He had given her a mild and favorable judgment.  "Charity covereth a multitude of sins."  (1 Peter 4:8) St. Jane Frances, desiring that all actions of her daughters might proceed from a spirit of charity, had written upon the walls of the halls through which they most frequently passed the qualities which St. Paul gives to this sublime virtue:  "Charity is patient, is kind; charity envieth not; dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up; is not ambitious; seeketh not her own; is not provoked to anger; thinketh no evil."  If it happened that one of her spiritual daughters failed in charity, she sent her to read this sentence, which she called the mirror of the monastery.
Eternity, the Great Thought: "In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin."  (Ecclus. 7:40).  The honors, riches and pleasures of the world are transitory things.  Nothing is truly great but that which is eternal.  Even the most hardened sinners have often been converted from their wicked ways to a penitential life by the terror of these thundering truths:  Death, judgment, hell, eternity.  Keep in mind the eternal years.  "What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?"  (Mark 8:36).  "The best way to prepare for death is to spend every day of life as though it were the last.  Think of the end of worldly honor, wealth and pleasure and ask yourself:  And then?  And then?"   (St. Philip Neri).
Devotion to Mary: One of the greatest means of salvation is devotion to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary.  The saints are unanimous in saying that, "A devout client of Mary shall never perish."  St. Thomas Aquinas said that "many souls are now in Heaven through the prayers of Mary who otherwise would not be there."  St. Alphonsus de Liguori says that "devotion to Mary is morally necessary for our salvation."  St. Louis de Montfort said,  "I have no better way of knowing if a man is for God than if he likes to say the Hail Mary and the Rosary."  The Church teaches us to honor Mary as the patroness of a good death by means of the last words of the Angelic Salutation:  "Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death."  Whoever says this prayer piously, will die as happily as he will die holily.  A dying man once asked:  "Whence comes the joy which beams on your face at the moment when you see you are about to expire?"  "It is," he replied, "because having prayed so often during all the days of my life to the Blessed Virgin for a holy and a happy death, I cannot believe that she will refuse me a favor I have asked for so often."  Let us say the Hail Mary with equal attention and fervor, and we shall have the same consolation at our last hour.
Resignation to the Will of God: Like Our Lord, we must yield ourselves as living sacrifices to God, content, as far as our will goes, to accept health or illness, wealth or poverty, interior peace or the conflict with temptation.  God knows what is best, and He can and will provide the necessary means of sanctification for each of the souls that are so dear to Him, and this thought should help us to cast all our care on Him.
Prayer: "Prayer is nothing else than speaking to God; and to speak to God without concentrating our attention upon Him is a thing most odious to His Divine Majesty.  Being a good servant of God does not mean always being spiritually consoled, or always feeling sweet and calm, or never feeling repugnance or aversion to what is good.  If this were so, neither St. Paul nor St. Catherine of Siena could have served God well.  Surely sin, and sin only should cast us down and grieve us.  If we have sinned, when once our act of sorrow has been made, there ought to follow in its train joy and holy consolation."  (St. Francis de Sales).
False peace: "We may be misled in many ways by worldly peace.  For instance, some people have all they require for their needs, besides a large sum of money shut up in their safe as well; but as they avoid mortal sin, they think they have done their duty.  They enjoy their riches and give an occasional alms and never consider that their property is not their own, but that God has entrusted it to them as His stewards for the good of the poor, and that they will have to render a strict account of the time they kept it shut up on their money chests, if the poor have suffered on account of their hoarding and delay."  (St. Teresa of Avila)
Fear of offending God: "Have a holy fear of consciously doing anything that may grieve the Holy Spirit; a holy fear of going anywhere, entering into any engagements, amusements, societies, friendships, intimacies, which can come between God and your soul.  I have been often asked whether it is lawful to go to theater.  My answer has been always,  'I cannot forbid you.  If you ask what I advise, I say without hesitation, Do not go.  I would to God that those who can refrain from such things, as an offering to our Divine Redeemer, would refrain forever."  (Cardinal Manning, 1808-1892).
Mortification: "Mortification in eating is the alphabet of a spiritual life; and he who knows not how to subdue his gluttony will find it no easy matter to triumph over other vices which are much more difficult to conquer."  (St. Vincent de Paul).
Four graces: St. Alphonsus Liguori insists repeatedly that in all our devotions, at Mass, at Holy Communion, in all our visits to the Blessed Sacrament, we should pray for these four graces for ourselves, namely:  the forgiveness of our sins, the love of God, the love of prayer, and final perseverance.  When these graces are secured, our salvation is assured.
The Mercy of God: "I am a God of love... never doubt My readiness to forgive.  I am a Father full of compassion and never harsh.  Knowing human frailty and infirmity, My Heart stoops to poor sinners with infinite mercy.  I love those who after a first fall come to me for pardon.  I love them still more when they beg pardon for their second sin, and should this happen again, I do not say a million times but a million million times, I still love them and pardon them, and I will wash in my blood their last sin as fully as their first.  Does not a father love a sick child with special affection and greater care and solicitude?  So too, is the tenderness and compassion of My Heart for sinners.  Tell them that the mercy of My Heart is inexhaustible."  (Our Lord's words to Sr. Josefa Menendez, June 1, 1923). St. Gertrude once heard these words in a vision,  "My child, there are many more saved than thou thinkest; I condemn no one who does not willfully resist My grace."

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