Saturday, May 9, 2020

How the Catholic Church embraces the feminine

Dear Reader,

This is going to be one of those polarizing posts.  In fact, I would be surprised if this somehow answered to the masses (pun intended) - but I felt it was important to write about, because it’s probably one of the most common responses I’ve received/read about when I share about being Catholic:  
"But . . . the Church hates women."
Yikes! Where have we gone wrong, when that is the commonly held belief? I am hoping to write up an informative post, with resources, and links (as usual), but honestly as I began writing it I realized that down the road I'll probably even expand this post into a short eBook because really that's how dear to my heart this subject is!

bohemian catholic church pink embraces feminine square

But first here's a quick little overview before we dive in. In this post, I'm going to be talking about:

1.) Symbolism of the feminine within the Church, and the Sacrament of the Eucharist

2.) Symbolism of the Tabernacle and Veiling (Why some women veil, and why it isn't - and shouldn't - be a requirement . . . from someone who veils!)

3.) What Canon Law, Pope's and declarations have said about women

4.) What the Bible says, and why Eve was made from Adam's rib (versus head, or feet)

5.) Why NFP and Humanae Vitae are beneficial for women, not backwards

6.) How Catholic female Saints teach women that there is more than one way to be a holy, Catholic, woman. 

But first, pin this image for future reference:
catholic church bohemian embraces feminine feminism

When we talk about Catholics, one of the foremost images that seems to come to mind is the reverence for the Blessed Virgin Mary - or, "Mother Mary" as I like to call her. When discussing Catholicism, and this idea of the Church hating women, it's almost easy to respond, "Well what about Mary?" I mean, how can we be hating women, if we have such reverence for the Mother of God? And maybe that helps to encourage someone to take a step back to reflect on (or not, since it's also one of the biggest "issues" some have with The Church).

But as soon as we dive into male priests, oppressed "trad" women, and the downright "morbid" ceremony of the sacraments . . . well that’s where things seem to bump up against the grain once more.  And I really think that’s more because in general we don’t understand the symbolism, and the meaning, underneath the ceremony.  And honestly, there’s plenty of life long Catholics who don’t fully get it either!

So let's answer some of those questions, dig deep, and if anything, I hope this post shows how the Church embraces the feminine.
1.) Symbolism of the feminine within the Church, and the Sacrament of the Eucharist

Even though Catholics aren't the only ones who call their Church the "Bride of Christ", it can get a little lost if you haven't studied the Biblical basis for this [ LINK & LINK ].  To summarize the linked articles: Jesus Christ is referred as the "Bridegroom", while His established Church then becomes the "Bride".  This is why Ephesians 5 is such a great reference for a marriage covenant, because it is supposed to be based on what Jesus Christ has done for His Church (but more on that a little later). 

Once we understand that the established Church is seen as the feminine counterpart to Jesus Christ, we can then better appreciate the symbolism within the Sacraments that are offered.  Such as the Eucharist, where we are uniting with our Lord and Savior, not just in spirit but in body as well - the mass thus becomes the wedding feast.  Please read this wonderfully informed blog post with both Biblical and Sacred Tradition weaved together that expand beautifully on this sacred union.

2.) Symbolism of the Tabernacle and Veiling

Veiling is another one of those dividing issues within the Church.  Most women who veil do it as a sign of reverence because they identify with the Tabernacle.  The Tabernacle is the part of the altar that contains the Eucharist - the Eucharist (as shared above) is a life giving source for those receiving it.  So the tabernacle = the vessel i.e. containing a life source.  

So for some women, irregardless if they are physical or spiritual mothers, they veil because they recognize themselves as tabernacles, capable of life giving.  Which is sacred.  Therefore "women are sacred: something to be cherished, adored, and respected" [ LINK ].  Some veil to be like Mother Mary, and others because of the Biblical passage of (1 Corinthians 11:4-16).  But I personally veil because it is my way to declare silently that I am aware of who's presence I'm in, and acknowledging my femininity. 

Veiling has never been about submitting to men, but submitting to God, by recognizing the sacredness bestowed on women.  

However, every woman has the right to veil, or not veil, and should not be pressured in one direction or another!  Veiling is a calling, not a mandate.  And there are many ways to acknowledge God during mass, veiling is simply one of them - it does not earn your years off Purgatory because you veiled at mass (sarcasm to lighten the mood ;) ).

3.) What Canon Law, Pope's and declarations have said about women

I have no plans to gloss over history, and pretend that the Catholic Church has a great track record for women - since pretty much the whole world, over the course of time - have failed to see the equal worth, and dignity of women in one way or another (and sadly, this still happens today).  So please don't think I am sitting here trying to elevate the Church and pretend it is perfect!  But I do want to share some quotes, and Canon Law, and even things that Jesus has said - to show that the intent and what we are called to live each day, is a balance of respect, and dignity, and equality between the sexes.  Unfortunately, we are feeble and fickle by nature, so we often fail at this!  But I hope the following can help clarify the official position of The Church:

- Click this link to read a great article that sources numerous Canon Law's about what women can, and are called to do [ LINK ]
- Click this link, to read thirteen great quotes by Catholic laity, Saints, and even Popes (especially Saint John Paul the 2nd's "Letter to Women Excerpt" [ LINK ]
- And finally, click this link, to see how radical Jesus Christ really was when it came to women: "Jesus was a feminist" [ LINK ]

4.) What the Bible says, and why Eve was made from Adam's rib (versus head, or feet)

Okay, so here's where we get into the verses that make most of us women squirm . . . and yup, there are Christian (and Catholic) men, who twist these verses to be self serving and treat women like doormats. 
But to understand love, we must look at the cross.
Like Ephesians says, "Christ loved his bride so much, he laid down his life for her".  That self sacrificing, willing to die to self, to care for his family - that's what husbands are called to do.  And that's what makes it easy to call on women to submit to - not to physical, emotional, or sexual submission - but spiritual submission.  Leading the household in prayer, taking going to Church seriously, raising children in the wisdom of the Lord, etc.  Jesus did not beat women into submission, in fact (like the linked article just above went into in length) Jesus elevated women to equal dignity and worth.  So men, remember, be like Jesus - willing to die to self, self sacrificing, and a gentle leader -
because if you want a woman who submits, you have to be a man worth submitting to.
Which leads me to the other point.  Why was Eve made from Adam's rib?  Not from his head, to be above him, not from his feet, to be beneath him - but from his rib, to stand beside him.  When wives are submitting to their husbands, it's when they know that their husbands are leading their domestic church (i.e. their home) to Jesus.  It is not about dismissing the free will of their partners in life, or suggest that they cannot contribute to the decisions that affect their family.  Men and women are equal in the eyes of The Church, and in God's, both in dignity and worth! 

5.) Why NFP and Humanae Vitae are beneficial for women, not backwards

Quick disclaimer: there are certain conditions that require birth control.  And even the Church understands this.  

Though its position will always be "open to life" [ Humanae Vitae ], and that contraception (for the sole purpose of preventing pregnancy is not okay), there are some medical conditions that need to be treated with hormonal medications that may cause the unintended side effect of preventing pregnancy.  These are personal, medical issues, and if you have concerns about it, should discuss it with your doctor and your priest. 

What the Church officially encourages is the Natural Family Planning Method (NFP) - when there are NO medical issues that might require hormonal treatment - because it is designed for intimacy between a husband and a wife.  It is not about controlling a women or deciding for her how many children she has (a common response when women share this method).  In fact, there are a lot of non Catholic women who use NFP! 

I plan on writing a whole separate post about the benefits of NFP, and tracking cycles, but let's keep it brief for here: NFP is a great way to learn and listen to your natural, unaltered by medication, reproductive cycle.  And for myself, and frankly a lot of women, it's downright empowering to understand the natural design of things "down there".  Though sadly there are many reasons why our cycles are altered (either by lifestyle, hormones, or medical issues), and a culture of silence surrounding open discussion of these issues make most women fear and worry about even looking into these health issues - some which can be resolved without having to seek alternative treatment.

However, I will never be that person that dismisses modern medicine (I rely on it to keep me alive, since I deal with chronic health issues).  Suffice it to say, that though I believe hormonal treatment is over used before alternatives can be looked into, there are some reasons a women needs them and no one should be shamed for that.  And like I've said, The Church understands this, too.   

6.) How Catholic female Saints teach women there is more than one way to a holy, Catholic, woman.

Think a woman has to veil, and wear skirts all the time to be holy?  Well, St. Joan of Arc was literally burned at the stake for wearing pants, and she is one of the most revered Saints in The Church.  What about St. Gianna who was a doctor?  Or Blessed Zita who was an Empress?  Or, St Mary Magdalene who is bestowed with the honor of "Apostle to the Apostles"?? . . . the last point I'm trying to make is that each and every one of these women became Saints, and they prove that the Church recognizes that femininity is not a one size fits all.  We are women, but we are varied human beings, and the differences we bring to the table are what allows us to bring glory to His kingdom [ here is a beautiful blog post that explores this a little more :) ]

Okay, whew you made it to the bottom!   
At the end of the day, my goal is not to convert, but to inform and I hope this quote by Venerable Fulton Sheen resonates that, "There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be."  Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, I hope you continue to grow, learn, and feel loved ~ Amen ♥

Much love, 
Stock Photo Credit: Branimir Balogovic via

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