Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Papal Valentine to Faithful Women

I just had to include this from the Holy Father's catechesis at today's General Audience. The emboldened and underlining about St. Mary Magdalene and about relativizing St. Paul's words to the Corinthians are my added emphases. The picture of St. Mary Magdalene was painted by Abraham Janssens. She is our patroness, to whose intercession we daily commend ourselves- ora pro nobis.


VATICAN CITY, FEB 14, 2007 (VIS) - The role of women in the history of the Church was the theme chosen by Benedict XVI for his catechesis at today's general audience, which was held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 20,000 people.

"Jesus chose 12 men as fathers of the new Israel, 'to be with Him and to be sent out to proclaim the message'," said the Holy Father, "but ... among the disciples many women were also chosen. ... They played an active role within the context of Jesus mission. In the first place ... the Virgin Mary, who with her faith and her maternal care worked in a unique way for our redemption. ... Having become a disciple of her Son, ... she followed Him even to the foot of the cross where she received a maternal mission for all his disciples in all times."

After mentioning other women who appear in various parts of the Gospel - such as Susanna, and Lazarus' sisters Martha and Mary - the Pope pointed out that "the women, unlike the Twelve, did not abandon Jesus at the hour of His Passion. Outstanding among them was Mary Magdalene ... who was the first witness of the Resurrection and announced it to the others." Pope Benedict also recalled how St. Thomas Aquinas referred to Mary Magdalene as "the apostle of the apostles."

In the first Christian communities, Benedict XVI went on, "the female presence was anything but secondary." St. Paul "starts from the fundamental principle according to which among the baptized 'there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female'." Furthermore, "the Apostle admits that in the Christian community it is quite normal that there should be women who prophesy, in other words who pronounce openly under the influence of Holy Spirit for the edification of the community."

Therefore St. Paul's subsequent assertion that "women should be silent in the churches" must "be relativized," said the Pope, and he explained that "the problem ... of the relationship between these two apparently contradictory indications should be left to the exegetes."

"The history of Christianity would have developed quite differently without the generous contribution of many women," said the Pope and he recalled how John Paul II had written: "The Church gives thanks for each and every woman ... for all the manifestations of the feminine 'genius'."

"We share this appreciation, giving thanks to the Lord because He leads His Church, generation after generation, indiscriminately using men and women who know how to bring their faith to fruition ... for the good of the entire body of the Church.

1 comment:

  1. Peter Leithart, citing Rosenstock- Huessy, puts St. Paul's directives into their historical context, noting that:
    '"When Paul asked that women be silent in church he said it at a time and within a world in which the women - Jewish and Gentile alike - were expected to utter terrible wails and yells, to be Sibyls and Bacchants, to utter passionate cries at any funeral. The modern detractors of Paul usually have not the faintest idea what they attack. Paul made formal speech accessible to women by freeing them from the burden of pre-Christian ritual in which they strewed ashes on their heads, punctured their breasts and uttered long-drawn cries for days [think of contemporary Islamic funerals]. Paul was faced with passionate people who stammered and had fits under the new dispensation of freedom, who had been obsessed by spirits and by demons of their clan or family."

    Thus, Paul's instructions "laid the foundations of a new truth that women may from now on participate in the word as well as men." And Paul's instructions were heeded: "We no longer fear that we should hear hysterial cries in church. Women behave as respectably in religious gatherings as though they were men." The silence of women was a roadbloack against relapse into hysteria, and particularly the re-confinement of women to the "irrational" sphere of yells and wails. "Women keep silence," paradoxically, frees women to speak.'